Oxfordshire, England—Sept. 15
Aoife Clark became the first Irish winner of the CCI*** at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials and she did it in the best possible style.
The runners-up, veteran Frenchman Jean Teulere on Matelot du Val and third-placed Clark Montgomery from the United States riding Loughan Glen both piled the pressure on Aoife by show jumping clear and left her with no margin for error.
But Clark had owner-breeder P.J. Hegarty’s exciting youngster Fenyas Elegance, a former showing winner at Dublin, jumping boldly and cleanly. Although the chestnut mare became progressively stronger as the course went on, Clark kept her head, punching the air with relief as she cleared the final fence.
“I had to try not to listen to the cheering, but she’s been a star this week and is usually a good jumper—she’s only had one rail down this year,” said Clark, whose sister-in-law Polly Stockton won Blenheim in 1998.
“She tends to be quite feisty and is disappointed if you try to control her too much,” Clark continued. Clark suffered a major disappointment earlier this year when she was unable to compete at the European Championships because her top horse, Master Crusoe, was injured. “This means a huge amount. It was a big disappointment that I couldn’t go to the European Championships but she is just the right age for the next championships and for the Olympics in Rio.”
Listen to an interview with Aoife Clark here.
Montgomery, who is currently based in England, couldn’t fault Loughan Glen’s performance. “I think I left the door open just a bit on the dressage day,” he said. he and Loughan Glen led after Day 1 of dressage with a score of 42.7, but were relegated to third on Day 2. “The two other FEI competitions I did this year, he was sub-40, and I think that if I could have done that, it would have been a totally different situation. So I just didn’t quite get there on Thursday afternoon. The guys are too good over here; they jump on an opportunity.
“That’s why we’re here and it will make me better and the horse better. Of course it is disappointing that we didn’t win, but at the same time, it’s exciting to see how good you have to get to win,” Montgomery continued.
Montgomry isn’t sure if his spring 2014 plans will include the Badminton CCI**** or the Rolex Kentucky CCI****. “I think it’s a long way away. I took him to Kentucky last year and he was in a very good position after dressage and then fell three from home. So, we kind of have a score to settle there. Eventually, I do want to go back there and I think he could do well there. Whether that’s next spring or not, we’ll see. We’ll see what David [O’Connor’s] plan is. We’ll definitely also be thinking bigger than next spring, too, with the WEG. We’ll think about what’s best to prepare for that.”
The U.S.’s Meghan O’Donoghue had three rails on Pirate, but it didn’t affect her placing. She won a pair of Ariat boots as the best first-timer at Blenheim, coming in 11th. Phillip Dutton and Ben had five rails down to end up 33rd. Jessica Phoenix of Canada had a single rail down to come in 10th on Pavarotti.
Gemma Tattersall finished fourth and was best British rider, on Philip and Iona Kerr’s Arctic Soul. “I certainly never expected to beat the likes of William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell,” said Tattersall. “I’m really chuffed. The horse is an absolute Ferrari across country, but it took me a while to get the brakes sorted out. He’s 17.1 hands and I’m only 5-foot, 5-inches at best. He finds the atmosphere of a busy arena difficult so I took him in at the last minute and cantered him straight to the first fence.”
Tattersall revealed that she is trying hard to get a syndicate together to buy the ex-racehorse by Luso. Her next goal is to ride him at Badminton in the Spring.
In an international line-up – seven nations were represented in the top 10 – Jonelle Richards was best Kiwi in sixth on Faerie Dianimo; Germany’s Kai Ruder was eighth on Gryffindor and Canada’s Jessica Phoenix was 10th on Pavarotti.
See full CCI**** results.