New Zealand eventers are chasing valuable placings and points at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, the final round of the cash-rich Event Rider Masters Series.
Included in the starts lists is new mum Jonelle Price, who had baby Otis less than a month ago. Price will start Classic Moet in the ERM CIC3* and says she is looking forward to “a bit of normality”.
Price had a couple of quiet starts at Gatcombe last week, and was “pleasantly surprised at how easy” it all felt. Throughout her pregnancy she stayed fit through riding and gym work. “I had a very easy pregnancy and have come back feeling really fit and strong,” she said. “Pregnancy is a long old haul, so it is nice to be on the other side, have a little boy to show for it all and be back in the saddle.”
Price says she will take it a phase at a time at Blenheim. “I haven’t set out any real goals, but if I am in the hunt after two phases, I won’t be cantering around. The biggest problem for me is that both my mares have a bit of wind in their tails and think it is spring. Where most others are settled into the season, they think it is February, are bright-eyed and have spring fever!”
Joining her in the ERM class is Sir Mark Todd aboard Kiltubrid Rhapsody, Andrew Nicholson on Jet Set IV, Tim Price on Ascona M and Blyth Tait on Dassett Courage.
Todd, who has found most of his ERM form in the latter part of the season, is gunning for a podium finish to “hopefully” put him into the top three slots in the overall series. “Kiltubrid Rhapsody is in good form so I am hoping for a really strong performance from him,” he said.
Tim Price has a busy weekend ahead across two classes, with Ascona M in the ERM and Cooley Showtime and Kincooley Cruising in the CIC3* for eight and nine-year-olds. He had withdrawn Cekatinka from the CCI3* but hopes to re-route her to Boekelo. “I had a great time in France a few weeks ago with Ascona, and I think the ERM class will be fun for her,” he said. “The other two are both very nice young horses and are feeling great.”
While it is the last event in the ERM series, the big prize has already been won by Gemma Tattersall (GBR), but there is plenty of competition for the minor podium placings.
The CCI3* dressage got underway overnight, with Andrew Nicholson and Urma BK sitting in eighth spot on 46.6 penalty points. Kitty King (GBR) and Vendredi Biats lead on 38.6. Dan Jocelyn has also completed his dressage aboard Blackthorn Cruise, having scored 53.3 and are in 24th spot. The remaining half of the 85-strong field will do their dressage tonight. Still to come in the class are Nicholson with Swallow Springs and Byrnesgrove First Diamond.
New Zealand has a solid track record at Blenheim, and particularly in the CIC3* for eight and nine-year-olds where Jonelle Price had back to back victories, and both Nicholson and Todd have also notched wins. It has very much become a class that seems to uncover future stars. Five of the top 10 at the Rio Olympic Games were graduates, and three winners of the class in recent years have gone on to win at CCI4* level.
Nicholson has also won the CCI3* class before.
Blenheim Palace has attracted huge entries, with 15 nations represented throughout. Entries include 13 CCI4* winning riders and nine Olympic, world or European gold medallists.
Event director Mandy Hervieu said entries have been “absolutely outstanding” this year. “The stage is set for three very exciting competitions.” All riders are hoping the weather will come to the party, but there is rain in the forecast.
The horse details:
Sir Mark Todd on Kiltubrid Rhapsody owned by Dr Elizabeth Donald and Niki Ryan
Andrew Nicholson on Jet Set IV owned by Libby Sellar
Jonelle Price on Classic Moet owned by Trisha Rickards and Jonelle Price
Tim Price on Ascona M owned by Suzanne Houchin, Lucy and Ben Sangster and Sir Peter Vela
Blyth Tait on Dassett Courage owned by Thomas Barr, Sally Grant and Blyth Tait
Andrew Nicholson on Swallow Springs owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon
Dan Jocelyn on Blackthorn Cruise owned by Therese Miller and Panda Christie
Andrew Nicholson on Byrnesgrove First Diamond owned by Mary Channer and Andrew Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson on Urma BK owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon
Tim Price on Cooley Showtime owned by Suzanne Houchin, Lucy and Ben Sangster and Sir Peter Vela
Tim Price on Kincooley Cruising owned by John McGuinness and Susan Lamb
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ