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By Jacky Green, follow @jacks_green on twitter.
What a weekend!
An absolutely fabulous weekend for Keyflow riders in Scotland and in Haras du Pin as they flew the flag in Europe and went brilliantly with some fantastic results. With Autumn three day events just around the corner and in the closing stages of the summer campaign, our team of riders are peaking at just the right moment.
There are not many venues like Blair Atholl with its mountainous backdrop, picture perfect castle and a team that are so hospitable and welcoming. It’s an overnight drive and early on Tuesday morning Tim Price and Jesse Campbell rocked up to the event with Wesko and Kaapachino. Both riders were on something of a mission: Tim determined to continue the good form that Wesko had shown at Hartpury CIC*** with his runner up slot and Jesse to lay the ghosts of a rider fall cross country when in the lead here last year on Kaapachino.
The week started well with Wesko performing a great test for 44.2 to put him into 2nd place behind Bill Levett and Silk Stone by just point 4 and ahead of German Niklas Bschorer by point 2. Jesse Campbell posted a 46.6 to lie in 5th position and with a free day on Friday it was time for a bit of golf in between course walking!
Cruisey Cross Country
For both Kaapachino and Wesko the cross country went perfectly to plan. Tim’s ride through the first water was deemed to be the best of the day by the commentator and he was thrilled to bits with Wesko who came home inside the time and well within himself. Kaapachino, with his TB blood, found the hills and inclines very much to his taste and also cruised around within the time.
Fight to the Finish
Showjumping day was a nail biting fight to the end as Tim now held the lead by a mere point 2 over Niklas Bschorer with Bill Levett on the same score in third. Jesse Campbell jumped Kaapachino to hold his 4th spot despite a couple of poles, mostly due to his speedy cross country round as one of only four to make time the previous day. When both Bill and Niklas jumped clear there was no room for error for Tim and the fact that Wesko is such a good jumper must have further added to the pressure! But, good Kiwi boy that he is, Tim and Wesko held the crowds attention to the very last fence before clinching that clear and the super sweet taste of three star glory. Wesko and Tim have certainly stamped their form with the World Equestrian Games on the horizon in 2014.
Meanwhile, across the Channel, at the venue which will actually host next years WEG, Key riders Jonelle Richards, Sir Mark Todd and Rebecca Howard were at Haras du Pin for the CIC*** with a team of horses between them. French eventing is a funky, fun affair. They play loud music when a horse makes time cross country, the crowd claps and cheers and when run in reverse order the final few riders are encouraged to let caution go to the wind and ride as fast as possible for the win! It makes it exciting and it’s refreshing to get away from the Health and Safety culture sometimes as no one rides as fast cross country as the French do. Jonelle had a CIC* entry in the shape of Cloud Dancer, who had hastily re routed to France after the cancellation of his last CIC*which he needed to qualify for the Le Lion D’Angers 6 year old Champs in October. By Saturday she had ticked that box and was able to concentrate on her three star rides.
Sir Mark Todd had led the dressage on Leonidas with a polished display for a 40.4 and was right up there with Oloa on 48. Rebecca Howard and her Canadian Sport Horse Riddle Master had also done a great test for 47 while Jonelle’s inexperienced Classic Moet, at her first CIC*** was a little off the pace for a 56 and Mere Oak had a couple of mistakes to drag their mark down to 58. After viewing the cross country, which in true French fashion, was mostly still being built, it was widely agreed that the course was enormous and very ambitious for a CIC***! A tough combination early on with a keyhole to two very angled skinnies and the huge double of corners on a curving three strides appeared to be the toughest questions.
Showjumping Swaps the Order
Saturday dawned much cooler than the previous three days which was nice for the horses. The showjumping was big, technical and on undulating grass and had a big impact on the placings. Sir Mark dropped to 2nd with a rail on Leonidas and out of the top twenty with a couple more on Oloa. Jonelle shot up some 20 places with a clear on Mere Oak and despite 2 rails on Classic Moet moved up 6 places! Rebecca Howard climbed from 10th to 3rd with a lovely clear on Riddle Master and then it was all about the cross country.
Classic Cross Country
Sunday afternoon’s cross country was a typically French, very influential phase. Sir Mark went out as pathfinder on Oloa and with his usual flair made the course look very rideable. Oloa jumped back into the top 20 with a great round and a good final prep for Burghley. Jonelle and Mere Oak had a heart stopping moment when a long way off the final element of the first water necessitated a huge leap but Mere
Oak obliged, only to fall foul of the double of corners in the second water when a scramble over the first corner left them with no chance of presenting to the second. They came home well and next up was Rebecca Howard whose Riddle Master has a couple of 4 stars under his belt so was more experienced than the others. They achieved the perfect balance of a fast clear for just 6 time with the fact that it is under two weeks until Burghley cross country day in mind- they finished in 4th place. Sir Mark then ran Leonidas who was unlucky to pick up 20 penalties early on by jumping so boldly through the keyhole that Mark could not get the turn to the skinny B element before answering every other question and who still finished inside the top 25 . Classic Moet was given a fabulous ride by Jonelle, she went long at the first water in deference to this being the horses first start at this level and came home clear with just 5 time which rocketed them from 33rd to eventual 11th.