1. The two most nail-biting show jumping rounds I can remember both involved Tim Price. The first was the crushing disappointment at Kentucky in 2015 on Wesko. A pole down cost him $56,000 and gave ficherRocanna her first four star. The Dutch are madly enthusiastic about sport generally, but when they haven’t ever had a winner of their home event since it started in 1971, you can imagine the tension as Bayro and Tim Lips are still in second place after two phases. They jump clear. The stadium erupts. Pressure is on.
Dutch Tim gives Kiwi Tim a high five (more of a sideways five really) as they pass each other on the chute. Every Dutch person is willing every pole to come down. Tim Price is sitting on one of the most exciting mares in the sport in Cekatinka but we have seen what pressure can do. Also, it’s her first CCI3. It was easy, it was calm and it was clear. The Dutch applauded graciously but who knows how long it will be before they get that close again. It felt like one of the eventing moments that you will remember for years.
2. There is no doubt at EquiRatings HQ that eventing is won in the dressage and can only be lost in the other two phases. Dressage is the most influential phase. There was a time, particularly at CCI3 & CCI4* level that riders were happy and felt in with a chance if they were in the forties here. Sanne De Jong and Enjoy scored 50.0 in the first phase here and it left them in 58th place.
Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery and Alexis Goury had an almost perfect competition, adding just two seconds in the cross country to their dressage score. They started on a 45.3, finished on 46.1 and still only made it third place. ‘Driving for show, putting for dough’ is what they say in golf. Dressage is where the dough is right now for us.
3. Chris Burton will be disappointed not to win here. He really doesn’t care about being the fastest, he cares about the win and the next run. We have shown how the rhythm he gets his horses into in cross country is the key driver behind some of his key wins at this level.
Cooley Lands was the only horse in the Blenheim 8&9yo class to make the time and he repeated the trick here in the longer format. Starting from a 52.1 meant they were in 69th after the dressage and you can’t win on that anymore. I went down to watch the trot up on Sunday and he looked great. He show jumped clear as expected.
4. Good to see Astier Nicolas back after being on one leg for the summer. Vinci de la Vigne looks a nice horse – he is double clear jumping now in his only two three stars (last time was at Barbury with Tom Carlile). He is only 8 and still a long way to go but Nicole Brown is telling us he is the next Mr Bass. There is only one Mr Bass I told her. And he was clear inside the time here last year.
While we are on Astier, I wonder if Babylon De Gamma might make an appearance in the 6yo class at Le Lion? A fast grey stallion that did a 30s dressage last time out. Next Upsilon maybe, Nicole?
5. Deniro Z is starting to make enough of a fuss to get considered for the US team at WEG. Liz Halliday-Sharp will play it down so I will play it up. This was his CCI3* debut at Boekelo. He has won four internationals in the last 12 months but more impressive for me, added just 10.4 time pens here. We know Liz can get a low test out of them all but it looks to be that this one has enough about him to shine in every phase. They are qualified now…let’s see what happens in Spring!
6. The focus is rightly on Cekatinka at the moment so let’s look at another. Grovine de Reve and Dan Jocelyn stood out. They are not together that long, Rodney Powell had him as an 8yo last year. As part of that Nations cup team, he was under a bit of pressure in every phase and each them they stepped up. Their 45.3 in the dressage was Dan’s best in a CCI3* since Special Advocate (Blenheim, 2012 – 48.4). I can forgive the time penalties based on fitness. An exciting pair for me and happy for Dan to be back on winning teams.
7. Smart Time and Dani Evans were the best of the Brits. 43.6 and added just 5.6 time. They haven’t been out much this season, an OI at Bicton, the Advanced at Wellington and then into a wet Boekelo against the rising stars. They finished 5th – same position as when he was here as an 11yo but 3 marks better this time.
8. The stables on the Saturday night at any wet CCI3* or 4* is a mad place. Riders, owners, team managers all waiting for updates from vets, physios and grooms. We didn’t get to see Don Geniro on Sunday which is a shame but Alex’s update on social media looked positive. With the mud, and the wet cross country, and dealing with 1 in every 2 riders not getting a clear jumping round, the grooms were the stars of Saturday night and Sunday morning. Sparkles Watson won a prize for keeping Sam, Ardagh Highlight and Imperial Sky presentable which makes us all happy.
9. One thing I enjoy about the numbers is that you get to spot the big performances and improvers that might fall under the radar of others because they don’t win. Ireland’s Declan Cullen and Seavaghan Ash fit the profile. Eight-year-old, skewbald, only once out of Ireland to go to Weston and recent struggles in the SJ phase so I wasn’t really expecting much. After an ok dressage of 53, and a clear jumping round XC (on a day when only 50% got home clear) he had to face the SJ.
They have added 36 pens across their last two internationals. Declan spent the whole lunch walking lines, talking to Ian Fearon, walking another line, talking, walking, checking. Two poles fell. Still a good round on recent form. They ended up finishing 30th but a victory for hard work.
10. It is as good as they say! This was my first Boekelo. Of all the events I have been to, this is where the riders felt most relaxed. There is a party for the riders on the Tuesday night, there is another one for everyone on the Thursday. There is a big huge steakhouse just down the road for when you need calm. Each table is another gathering of happy riders and teams.
Boekelo have put in a new arena which made a difference to both the dressage scores and the clear round rate on Sunday. The organisers have time for everyone and are generally trying to make sure horses, riders and sponsors enjoy themselves. It lives up the hype.