|Laura Collett & Rayef | Open Intermediate Winners on a score of 25.0 (Dressage 21.4!)|
Young Laura Collett illustrated that with all the stars aligned, and in the right circumstances she & Rayef are unassailable. With a dressage score any German would be envious of (a staggering 21.4) they led from the get go, winning their OI section by an equally staggering 13.3 point advantage finishing on a score of 25.0 ahead of the even younger Emily King (a surname that was to haunt me all day).
Salperton is hosted by Rayef’s owner, Jason Houghton, on the most wonderful undulating parkland of magnificent, clover rich pasture. Walker Logistics, another Patron of Laura’s were sponsors at the event, making this very much the Collett Eventing Team Show.
|Chris King Racing Home To Take 2nd In AI Section F On Idol Hero|
This being the heart of the Cotswolds, the course has plenty of steep inclines and descents on the way round, making it easy to bowl along on the forehand or run out of steam if not careful, but Laura & Rayef just sailed round, as did another of the leading Kings of this sport, Chris King. He rowed home one second over the optimum time looking every bit a NH jockey as he thundered past me on Idol Hero to finish second on a score of 28.9 behind yet another King, Kitty King, who won AI Section F on her dressage score of 27.9 aboard the fabulous little mare Zindante. By the way all of these King’s are unrelated, and with so many of them being announced (Mary [King] also made an appearance) I incorrectly tweeted earlier today that Chris had won this section. I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of these two horses and the Kings later this season (weather permitting).
|Chris Burton & Holstein Park Leilani | A Nice Quiet Run|
With only 5 weeks to the Olympics every weekend between now and then will pretty much be a mini Olympics as all the medal contenders warm up for the main event, Salperton was one such event. It’s interesting to see the different tactics taken on occasions like this. The Kiwis [they have yet to announce their final list], all seemed to be taking it easy on their potential team rides, as was Aussie Chris Burton, who notched up 24 time penalties on Holstein Park Leilani, compared to William Fox-Pitt who looked to be shifting up a gear when I saw him, and only racked up 10 time penalties on Lionheart.
|Andrew Nicholson | Like A Subaru In Cruise Control – Quick & Economical On Cross Country|
One man that rarely takes his time on the cross country is Andrew Nicholson, and once again, this time on Sirio, he was quick, neat & efficient round the course, picking up just 5.2 time penalties to finish Second in section C, and getting inside the time on Sintra BK to finish 8th in OI section E. Jimmy Wofford recently suggested that “Michael Jung and William Fox-Pitt are in a different league; the rest of the eventing world is panting after them”. I’d hasten to add Andrew Nicholson & Mark Todd in that league, along with Pippa Funnel, marginally separated only by horsepower, peaking fitness, and a discerning dressage judge. Possibly the only reason to leave Zara Phillips off the list would be lack of horse power, and she was here today looking every bit a world champion.
|Coral Keen | A Good Defensive Seat!|
The course rode incredibly well considering all the rain over the last week, and held up remarkably well. It was energy sapping and softer than you first imagined it might be, and there were plenty of tiring horses, but the landings and takes offs had been prepared by the ground crew, and fence judges all had rakes. I only spotted one fence combination that looked to be getting deep, and caused a few problems including a hairy moment for Coral Keen as her horse left the skin of both knees on the second element as they climbed over it.
Salperton Horse Trials will definitely become a permanent fixture in my calendar from now on, and a firm favourite. With many shared characteristics to those lost to Highclere’s demise and lovely flowing novice and intermediate tracks I hope my next visit will see my camera replaced by a horse. It has been simply great to watch some of the hungry amateurs and world’s best compete & have fun in such wonderful surroundings. Sadly, I suspect, for Sunday’s Novice the bell has tolled, it has been raining non-stop since the close of play today, so it’s bound to be cancelled (check the BE site & twitter feed for updates)
I’ll leave you with a gallery of photos from Intermediate day at Salperton to enjoy – in particular look out for the variety of facial expressions on riders faces! (“if everybody looked the same…..”)