I love the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim quite unabashedly. I love the chance that we’re seeing the fledgling start of top-level careers for horses that could well go on to be absolute legends of the sport — after all, the class has an insane track record of producing five-star winners. I love the wide-eyed, starstruck horses who gradually grow into themselves through the week. I love the figuring-out process of a first-timer and the big sophomore-in-high-school vibes of the horses who are coming back for their second year. I love the developmental process. I love it all so much that I even rolled out of bed at 6.00 a.m. on Saturday to be there in time for just under 100 horses to begin showjumping at 8.00 a.m., before a full day of cross-country. Commitment? Insanity? Who knows.
Our WJIB today takes us back to that cold, dewy, early morning start. It might be quite mean to use an upright for this game — after all, they don’t exactly tend to pull beautiful bascules out of horses, especially eventers. But I’ve chosen it for two reasons: one, because it was one of the fences I could easily photograph without sacrificing proximity to a coffee machine, and two, because it was part of an interesting line on the course. It came just over halfway through, and after landing from this upright, riders had to execute a pretty sharp right-handed turn to an oxer, which they could get to on either an outside line around another fence, or a nifty inside one. Time was pretty easy to rack up out there; for some riders, the morning dew on the grass added a slip factor, and the whole arena’s pretty undulating, too, which meant that showjumping became influential — so influential, in fact, that first-phase leaders Tom McEwen and MHS Brown Jack were eliminated for having too many rails down. Sometimes, it’s too early for a plot twist, y’know?
So, with all this in mind, cast your eye over our selection of horses and riders to decide which you think made the best effort over the fence in order to, hopefully, negotiate the next question — and then scroll down to plug in your vote.
Now, it’s over to you, folks — cast your vote for the best of the bunch below:
EN’s coverage of Blenheim is presented by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn all about their full line of science-backed nutritional support products, including Neigh-Lox Advanced for digestive support.