Spare a thought for poor old Blenheim Palace and its hard-working team behind the scenes. Just a week before it opened its grounds to host one of the world’s most prestigious three-day events, it was beleaguered by the greatest art heist the country has ever known – this month, anyway. The stolen object? A £4.8 million 18-carat gold toilet, designed by the Italian artist Maurizzio Catalan and named ‘America’. Excuse us while we hold an emergency meeting to name the portaloo nearest the media centre.
The crime does drum up rather a lot of questions: how do you steal a toilet without being spotted, for one? (As it turns out, the golden loo – anything but bog standard, amiright? – was plumbed in and open for use by the public. No one was guarding it because a) that’s a recipe for stage fright and b) yeah, as if anyone’s going to de-plumb the thing and run away giggling, clutching a gleaming throne with the ghost of someone’s breakfast lining the inside. Alas!
While we’d love to say that this week’s CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S competition will become a giant game of Cluedo (was it Francis Whittington, in the bathroom with a candlestick?!), two suspects – #1 and #2, you could say – have been flushed out. It’s nice to know the police had something to go on.
But moving onto the competition – and what a competition it is! A field of 87 horses and riders, flush (sorry, we will stop now) with the promise of fierce competition, came forward this afternoon before the ground jury of PollyAnn Huntington (AUS), Andrew Bennie (NZL), and Jane Holderness-Roddam (GBR).
US fans will have another jam-packed week to look forward to, with five horse-and-rider combinations (plus a bonus Canadian combo!) contesting the CCI4*-L and one – Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver – in the CCI4*-S.
Four horses were held through the course of the afternoon: Max Gordon‘s Redwood Clover, Daisy Berkeley‘s Ballinteskin Cooper S, and Cornelia Dorr‘s Sir Patico MH were all passed upon re-presentation.
Unfortunately, the competition ended before it began for Rebecca Nicholson and her own Uno II, who were not accepted after re-presenting from the hold box. 86 horses will proceed to dressage.
Country jewellers Hi Ho Silver were on hand to suss out the sartorial offerings on the strip, and they duly awarded two prizes for their best-dressed riders. Piggy French took the ladies’ prize, while Jack Pinkney – one of many male riders to channel a little bit of Peaky Blinders realness this season – scooped the gents’.
There was drama of a different sort for Ireland’s Robbie Kearns, who discovered he wasn’t quite as well-shod as his horse, Master McCormack. After losing a shoe on the strip, he bravely soldiered on, leaving one forlorn brogue behind.
Want to follow along from afar? We’ll be bringing you full reports on both classes every day, but for those of you who want the action in real-time, there’ll be live-streams for each arena on the Blenheim website.
Dressage gets underway tomorrow morning from 9.00 a.m. local time – that’s 4.00 a.m. Eastern, for you early risers – and we’ve got some considerable talent to keep an eye on throughout the day. Whether you’re tuning in for the whole show or you just want to keep an eye on our US representatives, here are the Thursday rides you shouldn’t miss:
- Andrew Nicholson and Andrea BT4 – 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST
- Jesse Campbell and Amsterdam II – 9.37 a.m. BST/4.37 a.m. EST
- Buck Davidson and Park Trader – 10.07 a.m. BST/5.07 a.m. EST
- Cathal Daniels and LEB Lias Jewel – 11.00 a.m. BST/6.00 a.m. EST
- Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z – 11.07 a.m. BST/6.07 a.m. EST
- Millie Dumas and Fabian II – 11.15 a.m. BST/6.15 a.m. EST
- Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser – 11.45 a.m. BST/6.45 a.m. EST
- Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo – 12.00 p.m. BST/7.00 a.m. EST
- Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent – 3.07 p.m. BST/10.07 a.m. EST
- Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie – 3.22 p.m. BST/10.22 a.m. EST
- Pippa Funnell and Billy the Biz – 3.52 p.m. BST/10.52 a.m. EST
- Bubby Upton and Cola III – 9.30 a.m. BST/4.30 a.m. EST
- Astier Nicolas and Babylon de Gamma – 9.37 a.m BST/4.37 a.m. EST
- Cathal Daniels and OLS King Aragon – 9.52 a.m. BST/4.52 a.m. EST
- William Fox-Pitt and Georgisaurus – 10.07 a.m. BST/5.07 a.m. EST
- Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver – 10.30 a.m. BST/5.30 a.m. EST
- Tom Carlile and Birmane – 2.30 p.m. BST/9.30 a.m. EST
If this seems like a hefty viewing list, welcome to Blenheim – one of the most popular events in the calendar, it attracts a plethora of the very best riders in the world, for whom it’s a crucial autumn fixture. So buckle up and prepare yourselves, folks – this week, we’ll have the privilege of watching top-class athletes compete for CCI4*-L glory, and we’ll see the birth of a new superstar in the CCI4*-S, too. Churchill would be proud (were it not for the proliferation of petty crime in his humble abode).
Until tomorrow, EN-ers – Go Eventing!