Gemma Stevens (née Tattersall) is best of the Brits and feeling “back on form” after two class cross-country rounds in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim Horse Trials (15 to 18 September).
Gemma and Jalapeno III, owned by Chris Stone, held their provisional runner-up spot with a faultless clear round inside the time over David Evans’ beefed-up cross-country course to add nothing to their dressage mark of 26.3.
“She’s such a wonderful horse. When she gets to a place in one piece and on form, she is so competitive,” said Gemma, who finished fourth here with the Chilli Morning daughter last year.
“She won at Millstreet a few weeks back just so easily. She’s gone round three today in cruising, she was just on rails everywhere. She felt fantastic today and luckily I feel on good form again.
“The beginning of the year was tough with horses going wrong and losing Arctic Soul. I’ve managed to get back and feel back on form.”
The 14-year-old mare has been accident prone, fracturing a splint bone and splitting her spleen in separate incidents, both in the stable, in the past.
“It’s so nice to have her here, she’s quite a challenge to keep in one piece,” said Gemma, adding she feels the mare as a “really big three-day win in her”.
“When I first had her she was lazy across country, now she’s tuned into me and knows the speed to go. Her natural high cruising speed is so great. She cruises at the right speed, so it’s not an effort to her.”
Gemma also holds provisional eighth with Pru Dawes’ exiting 10-year-old grey Flash Cooley, who stepped up to CCI4*-L with ease, finishing strongly and six seconds inside the optimum time of 10 minutes and 37 seconds.
“It’s nice to have both horses go so well today and Flash Cooley doing his first CCI4*-L, his first time going that length of course, I’m so pleased that he finished so strongly,” she added.
Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K remain unbudged as the Blenheim Horse Trials overnight CCI4*-L leaders (24.6) – franking the place they established in the first-phase with a superb cross-country performance.
Pippa Funnell and her 2019 Burghley-winning ride MGH Grafton Street, who held equal second with Gemma and Jalapeno III after dressage, added 5.2 time-penalties to their score, dropping them to ninth.
“He needed to run round here, definitely, it’s good for him,” said Pippa, who has been trying out different bits with “Squirrel” and focusing on working on his rideability, which she was pleased with today.
“On the whole, I had a very good ride. I just interfered too much on a couple of [fences, including] that corner in the garden [fence 10, Boodles Jewellery Chests] as if he has a problem, it can be turning left to right-handed corners. And I had to make it happen in the water a bit.”
Sarah Bullimore and Corouet’s clear cross-country round inside the time means the pair have risen a place from fourth after dressage to third ahead of showjumping on 27.8.
Germany’s Dirk Schrade and Casino 80 are in fifth, flipping the order with Britain’s Bubby Upton and Jefferson 18. The two combinations are both on the same score of 29 – Bubby was ahead on collectives after dressage, but Dirk was closer to the optimum time today which means he nudges ahead.
“I was a little bit nervous before I went, just because of the unknown,” said Bubby, running the relatively inexperienced 11-year-old owned by Cheddington Equestrian with the “handbrake off” for the first time.
“I’ve never done a test like this on him. He did Chatsworth in the spring, which would have been the biggest test he has done and he was really green there. I’m so proud of how far he has come from, as he absolutely ate up the track out there [at Blenheim today]. There wasn’t a single moment where I thought ‘oh god’. I’m so proud of how he’s learnt to trust me and how we’ve developed as a partnership.
“He is an absolute superstar. He trots like a dressage horse, gallops like a thoroughbred and jumps like a jumper so I’m very lucky to ride him.
Felicity Collins on RSH Contend OR (29.5) and Lizzie Baugh with her homebred B Exclusive (29.6) have also climbed the leaderboard to sixth and seventh respectively with fast clears.
Tom Jackson rounds off the top 10 at this stage with Farndon, picking up 1.2 cross-country time-penalties.
“He was a new horse to us at the beginning of last season and he is very brave and bold, but was quite tricky to ride fast. He gets a bit rude and doesn’t like slowing down again after you’ve gone faster, so he just had a few time last year when we cruised round,” said Tom.
“This year we were coming with all the work we have been doing leading up to this to hopefully be there or there abouts on the time. I’m very happy with him.”
A total of 66 of the 85 cross-country starters completed, although one was eliminated for error of course, and there were 52 jumping clears. Faults were generally spread across the Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-L cross-country course, although the new water complex – the Jockey Club Log and Splash at fence 16 – and the AW Jenkinson Lumber Yard at fence 18 proved influential.
The showground stopped at noon for a two-minute silence to remember the late Queen Elizabeth II, followed by a rendition of the national anthem performed by Laura Wright. Riders are also wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for Her Majesty.
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Credit: Peter Nixon
Credit: Lucy Elder
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