Photo credit Harriet Ashbridge.
An early start on Saturday morning with the 4S showjumping kicking off the day and Jonelle and McClaren (Mac) were in the main arena at 8.30 am to get things going. Mac jumped his usual immaculate clear round and Faerie Dianimo (Maggie May) emulated that with her trademark clear and as much pizazz as she could muster. Killbuny Andy was impressive to also post a clear round in his first shot at this level and good old Ringwood Sky Boy (Ozzie) didn’t let the side down either. The only pole to fall was from Ascona M (Ava) who was just a little too enthusiastic going into the double to drop her back feet on the in but all in all a very successful start to the day.
Next up was the 4L cross country and when Harry Meade racked up 39 seconds over the time it was clear that the ground was indeed holding as both Tim and Jonelle had said. They have had allot of rain in Millstreet and nothing like the super sunny days we have had in the UK over the past few days so the cold has meant the ground is still pretty boggy. Tim and Falco were 2nd out and if Falco has been criticised in the past for some drive by’s today he could hold his head up high at the finish as he worked his butt off for his clear round. It wouldn’t be his favourite ground, he found himself deep to and along way off at some of the combinations but he never stopped digging deep to keep fighting for it. He crossed the line just 2 seconds after than Harry which left him with a slender margin of just over 2 points in the lead.
Spartaco came out later in the class and in his first true 4 star long test found that he was running low on fuel around 3/4 of the way around. He belted through some brush arrowheads and kept on flogging and impressed most of all at the coffin where he jumped in short, just made the back of the ditch and then was a mile off the house out. Tim kicked and aimed for the long shot and Sparty was man enough to take it which was good cos the chip was going to be very messy! A 20 at the first of the double of corners looked as though they were going to have to call it a day but he rallied and jumped through on the second attempt and actually came home OK. You never really know if you have a true three day horse until you nearly bottom then and then there are those who fight and those who quit. Sparty showed he is a fighter and when Tim announced to Jonelle that he reminded him of a young Ozzie and he thought he would aim him for Pau it was like going back all those years to Blenheim and Ozzies debut 5 star in the form of Pau looking like a risky option! Tim was right then and we have no doubt he is right now. I guess Sparty basically got caught in his first rip tide but proved he was smart enough to get back to shore.
The 3L found themselves next out on track and Faerie Magnifico (George) is a very good cross country horse and he strode his way through the mud, despite his diminutive size to come home clear in time stopping the clock at 8.39. Ludwig Svennerstal in equal 1st did the same but stopped the clock at 8.41 which made him 2 secs closer to the optimum so they would be split into 1st and 2nd before the showjumping on Sunday. Curly Girl puts her all into cross country and when she is worried goes in strong and jumps very high so conditions were not at the best for her after her brave run in the mud at Lignieres last autumn and Jonelle decided to wait for some better ground for her next run at this level.
The 4S class was a straightforward one for Jonelle; she knew that she could afford to run Mac and Maggie May quick on the ground and she made time on both of them with two incredibly classy rounds. They moved up the ranks from 11th and 12th to 2nd and 3rd and came out of the event looking uber perky for Luhmuhlen. Maggie May goes there for the 5 star and Mac for the 4 star. They both jogged up great on Saturday eventing and were smugly happy about the day they both got to jump and run which is their favourite thing ever.
Not so straightforward for Tim however! Ozzie doesn’t really jump at home anymore so his jumping muscles needed the run but the ground wasn’t in his favour heading to Luhmuhlen at 18. Tim decided to hack around for 35 time and some decent cross country schooling over the beautifully presented track. Ava also heads to Luhmuhlen and with her time off due to injury and her propensity to go harder and faster when the going gets tough made it a fairly simple decision to withdraw her with her 5 star just two weeks away.
Sunday morning and without a rail in hand Falco was the favourite for the 4 star win by a long mile. But Harry Meade kept up the pressure with a clear and any eventer can always have a rail….but he didn’t and Tim won his 2nd 4*L in a matter of weeks. It was sad to see no victory cheers with a big crowd but Falco really earn’t and deserved this win and Tim has persisted in his belief in his rather erratic rise to the top as has his owner Sue Benson. I congratulate them both as it really has been a journey and akin to a paddle steamer travelling up the Nile with its pace and trajectory never truly aligning up until now.
Go Team Price. You throw a pandemic at them, Brexit, tricky horses, a complicated timetable, endless paperwork and they simply nail it. And, of course the village behind it… some team it is. And a couple of really beautiful kids!