Astier Nicolas leads the CCI4*-S after show jumping

  • Frenchman Astier Nicolas took the lead in the Land Rover Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4*-S aboard Babylon De Gamma – the stopwatch having been instrumental in the show jumping phase.

    Astier and the 11-year-old gelding – who were second in this class last year and won it in 2019 – achieved a cautious clear round and added 1.2 penalty times to their dressage. They enter the cross-country phase tomorrow (August 28) with a score of 27.2.

    The winding jumping track had a number of switchbacks and sharp turns, with few places to catch up at any time. Of the 44 combinations that jumped, only five came within the allotted 76 seconds.

    Astier told H&H he “didn’t like” his show jumping course but was “very happy” to take first place.

    “It was a bit short, but I don’t blame the weather – I blame my driving more, I think I could have saved some time,” he said.

    “Nowadays it’s fashionable to have tight times in show jumping, it makes things a bit complex when it’s not really big. It’s something we see more and more, so we have to get used to it and ride accordingly.

    Astier said Babylon De Gamma felt “good” at his first four-star back since undergoing hoof surgery last winter.

    “He was supposed to play badminton, but he didn’t come back fast enough. He did an intermediate and this is his first CCI4*,” he said.

    “I don’t know how cross country will go because he hasn’t had a season so he’s not as fit as before. We’ll see how he feels with the hills.”

    Tom McEwen and Brookfield Quality, who were in fifth place overnight, moved up to second after completing a clear jumping round and adding a 0.4 time penalty to their dressage of 27.8.

    “I did two OIs with him and that was by far the biggest course I jumped on him. [today]. Obviously Piggy did the most amazing job, but it’s pretty hard to keep up with someone so phenomenally talented,” Tom said. H&Hwho added that it took “a bit of time” to get used to the gelding in the show jumping phase.

    “The first half we were just finding the balance together and the second half went really well. Being a second in tight time around a decent track, I was delighted with him.

    Overnight leaders after dressage, Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class had an unlucky pole and 0.4 time penalty, to drop to fifth. Oliver is also third overnight on Swallow Springs, fourth on Tregilder, sixth on As Is and seventh on Crazy Du Loir.

    Yesterday (August 26) Oliver confirmed that Tregilder and As will not be taking part in the CCI4*-S cross-country stage at Blair Castle tomorrow, as they prepare for Burghley next weekend (September 1-4) . He said he will decide later in the evening after running the cross-country course whether the Ballaghmor class will be held tomorrow.

    Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro, who were third after dressage, had two hurdles in show jumping and also added 0.8 time faults to drop to 14th ahead of the Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4 final * -S cross – country phase.

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