Britain’s Piggy French jumped two spectacular clear rounds on 22 September to finish first and third in the principal CCI4*-L class at the 2019 SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials on Alison Swinburn and John and Chloe Perry’s Brookfield Inocent and Susanna Paybody’s Castletown Clover.
She had already showjumped clear on fifth-placed Castletown Clover when she entered the arena, to a tense hush, on Brookfield Inocent, knowing that she could not even be one second over time, let alone have a fence down, if she was to beat Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto, who had jumped a masterful clear round on Brookpark Vikenti.
“Everyone keeps saying how well I’ve been doing this season, but I still couldn’t jump a clear round when it matters,” said Piggy, who last won at Blenheim in 2011. “Now I’ve done two! I was wondering what I should do differently but in the end I just tried to stay in my bubble. Both horses were in amazing form.”
Piggy won Badminton earlier this season, finished second at Burghley two weeks ago and was part of Britain’s silver medal-winning team at the recent European Championships.
This is the second time in three years that Kazuma Tomoto has been runner-up at Blenheim, by the tiniest of margins, but he was sporting in defeat.
“Piggy is the best rider in the world so I knew I could never catch her,” he said, “but having results like this really does give me confidence for the Olympics in 2020.”
Australia’s Sammi Birch, whose clear round on Direct Tullyoran Cruise elevated her five places to ninth, could also have an Olympic possibility on her hands.
“I’ve only had the mare for six months and she’s a funny little thing – she can be really feisty, but she is a proper competition horse,” said Sammi. “I came here thinking a top-10 finish might be possible, so to be fourth is fantastic.”
New Zealander Andrew Nicholson also benefited from a clear, rising from 11th to fifth on the Spanish-bred As Is.
“He is amazing for an eight-year-old – I’ve never had one like him before. He’s so settled in his temperament as well as talented. I’m lucky to have him.”
Four-time Blenheim winner Pippa Funnell just hit the penultimate fence on the impressive Billy Walk On to drop from fourth to sixth place.
There were 14 clear showjumping rounds from the 57 finishers, but the time was tight and only eight were completely penalty-free. The top three horses – two of them Piggy French’s – finished on their dressage scores.
That concludes a highly successful SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials 2019, most of which was conducted in glorious sunshine.
Event Director Mandy Hervieu said: “We’ve had bumper crowds all weekend, fantastic weather and a really exciting competition. I am very proud of the volunteer team, who have worked their socks off to pull off an amazing event. The outside officials couldn’t praise enough the efforts of the different teams here in all areas, which is great to hear.”