Overnight leader Clark Montgomery remained in pole position at the end of the cross country at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.
The British-based American and Loughan Glen posted a classy clear, one of the 13 clear rounds inside the time and, with second-placed Sandra Auffarth and Ipso adding time penalties, he now has an even greater advantage going in to tomorrow’s final showjumping.
Australian Christopher Burton, fifth rider out in the early foggy start to the day, was the first home inside the time (by 10 seconds), and sat at the head of affairs for the most part of the day until overtaken by Montgomery. The German-bred Nobilis 18, acquired from German ace Michael Jung in 2013, is competing in his first three-star, three-day event, having won three of his four international starts with Christopher.
“He is a very good horse and making the step up to the level well,” said Burton. “If he gets to go to Rio all well and good, but if not he will make a good Burghley/Badminton horse.”
A fast clear also moved New Zealander Tim Price into the top three. The British-based Antipodean, who was second at Burghley two weeks ago, took the ride on Court Jester, another produced by Nick Gauntlett, at the beginning of the year and the pair won the CCI* at Barbury in July.
William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain was another of the class rounds of the day and the pair, contesting their first three-day since Luhmühlen last June, cruised round the course to move up into fourth place — the highest British-based combination.
“He is an experienced campaigner and a luxury to have him at this level,” said Fox-Pitt. “The jumps were never going to be an issue but I was anxious about the terrain, which is demanding here and, as he doesn’t have a top gear, I knew that, if I got behind the time, I would never make it up — but, as it was, he came home easily inside the time.”
But all eyes at Blenheim Horse Trials were on Montgomery, who was number 85 of the 101 starters, but the American and his Irish-bred Loughan Glen, another by the good sire Limmerick, never faulted and cruised their way round Eric Winters 28-fence course. They now sit with a comfortable lead of 8.2 penalties, meaning they have the luxury of two fences in hand in the showjumping.
“I couldn’t be more pleased, right from the start he was on the button and pretty spot on all the way,” said Montgomery, who has been based in the UK for three years and is now at Mark Phillips’ Aston Farm, outside Tetbury, with the aim of competing in Rio next year.
“We have had a successful year so far and yes if we pull it off this would be our biggest win, although having a fence or two in hand does take the pressure and make it easier.”
Course designer Eric Winter was impressed with the finals result at the end of the day.
“I did purposely lengthen the course by 30 seconds on the easiest part of the course to get more inside the time but there were also a lot of classy horses and it was a high quality field.”
Others to move up the board included Kitty King and Ceylor LAN 6th, Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V 7th, American Lauren Kieffer, who produced the save of the day, having been catapulted out of the saddle after the third element of the arena fence and then left hanging round Veronica’s neck for several strides, is now in eighth place, while Kristina Cook moved up from 22nd to 10th with a classy clear on Calvino.
Pippa Funnell was perhaps the biggest casualty of the day, choosing to retire when ninth-placed Billy The Biz glanced off the hedge coming out of the water after the return through the lake at fence 14.
Image: Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen by Adam Fanthorpe, courtesy of Blenheim Horse Trials