Blenheim International- USA Challenging At Europe's Biggest 3*

Lauren Kieffer, DA Duras, heading for Blenheim
Credit : Lulu Kyriacou

Tuesday 12 September - 17h32 | Lulu Kyriacou

Blenheim International- USA Challenging At Europe's Biggest 3*

The Ssang Yong Blenheim International Horse Trials opens tomorrow in Oxfordshire, England in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, the famous and still lived in home of the Duke of Marlborough.  The event first ran in 1990 after  Chatsworth was lost to the calendar and it did not take long to establish itself as one of the world's great 3* events.  

 - Blenheim International- USA Challenging At Europe's Biggest 3*

Liz Halliday, challenging in every section
Credit : Lulu Kyriacou

Blenheim has hosted the European Championships and recently become the final round of the Event Rider Masters (ERM) CIC3* series. The course is generally fair but a proper test at the level and is almost never won by an outsider.  Horses with form and riders with experience do well here, it is not a place for first timers  to pull off a shock.

This year the event will have entries from 15 nations including  Japan, China and  South Africa jumping over a course which features several completely new fences.  There is a strong contingent from the USA, who have found this event a happy hunting ground with several American's on the honour roll, most recently Clarke Montgomery in 2015. The title has also been won by riders from Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand and Australia and although the British will be the tough to beat on home ground, there are enough top class combinations in the field to make sure they will have to work hard to keep the title at home. Especially as this year Blenheim have increased the prize money for the CCI section, making it the most valuable class of its level in the world.
In addition to the CCI3*, since 2009, Blenheim have run a CIC3* for eight and nine year old horses which gets more hotly contested each year. And last year they became the final round for the new Event Rider Masters series and will do so again this year, although Gemma Tattersall has already won the overall title with the round at Blenheim to spare.
So Who Will Win?
The British, of course, will be favourites.  On their home territory and flying high after the European Championships.  Possibly leading the charge is William Fox Pitt,  who has won both CCI and CIC 8/9 year old sections on several occasions.  He has chosen to ride Little Fire in this section and has two rides entered in the young horse section and if Gatcombe Park and Barbury Castle were anything to go by, Fox Pitt is clearly back to his best. Another multiple  winner in the field in Pippa Funnell  but this is her first international event after sustaining a heavy fall at Hickstead and is probably not going to add another Blenheim title to her list of achievements. Other Brits to watch include Gemma Tattersall on Pamero 4, Kitty King on Vendredi Biats, Laura Collect with Mr Bass and Zara Tindall on Fernhill Facetime. 

The American challenge is probably the best of the foreign entry.  Lauren Kieffer and Hannah Sue Burnett have just been placed at Burghley, Kim Severson has won before,  Doug Payne has jumped round the 4* Kentucky International. Liz Halliday Sharp is not long back from an injury herself but she has two rides in this section and both are capable of winning  and have been well placed at other internationals.
There are only two riders  from Germany but when one is Julia Krajewski  riding Chipmunk, it could still be a German win.  She has already won at CIC3* level at home on this horse this season and she is no stranger to winning at CCI3* either;  she is a previous winner at Boekelo in the Netherlands, probably the only 3* CCI more hotly contested than this one.

Of the rest of the world riders, Andrew Nicholson can never be written off and it is a long time since he won the CCI3* trophy.  But undoubtedly the horse with the most wishes of success on his back will  be Cooley Rouke's Drift, ridden by Ireland's Jonty Evans.  After a crowd funding campaign to keep the horse with Evans raised over half a million pounds, the horse now has several thousand 'owners' all of whom will be cheering him on, many of them in person!  

8/9 Year Old CIC3*
Many of the riders mentioned above have rides in this section but another one to note is new girl on the British team, Ros Canter, who generally rides a strong dressage to set herself up for the other two phases and has two rides in this section.  Australian hopes are represented by Olympians Shane Rose, Chris Burton   and Andrew Hoy but another rider back from recent injury is Australia's  Kevin McNab who was almost unstoppable last month at Millstreet where he won two sections and was placed on another horse, two of which he rides here.   2014 CCI winner Francis Whittington  wil be presenting two horses both with good form coming into the competition with Australian import Carlchen looking like a top prospect for the rider.
The overall title already belongs to Gemma Tattersall but she will be riding again never the less.  Opposing her, as well as those already mentioned,  above will be Oliver Townend fresh from winning at Burghley last week.  Sir Mark Todd is also riding and so are team mates Jonelle and Tim Price. This will be Jonelle's second event since the birth of the couple's daughter  and her first international but the Price's are both formidable opponents.

Full details of the event can be found here

 - Blenheim International- USA Challenging At Europe's Biggest 3*

Further reading...