It may have been his first trip to Australia, but that hasn’t stopped Oliver Townend claiming yet another international win. He was planning on celebrating, like he has every night he has been here! Riding Napoleon, Oli had 13.2 time but a clear jumping round, finishing on 58.1.
Napoleon hasn’t had the best form coming into this competition but that hadn’t put Oliver off. He had only sat on the horse three times before the event.
“It is always the plan to win. Sometimes the plan has to change, but I always aim to get the best out of the horse and if the horse is good enough and is ready for the event then it will win. He’s a nice horse and I wasn’t riding the form, I was riding the horse. He’s nice, he’s got a great brain and I thought that as long as I gave him my best and he gives me a bit back in return, then we would be all right. His form may not have looked too good, so I just decided that I 100% believed it was going to happen and whatever was necessary to do that it would do. I had to make it happen, but that is part of it.”
Australia obviously agrees with the man from Yorkshire. He has already got a great tan and was enjoying every minute. He was full of admiration for the course and the place. “It is a unique place in terms of the surroundings, the trees. You can never really get going as everything is very tight. It is difficuilt to get into a sharp rhythm as you are always on the turn or dodging the tree but it is a fabulous place and if the fences were in a flat arena then they wouldn’t be a problem; it is definitely the terrain and the surroundings that make this place difficult to ride. The man [Mike Etherington-Smith] is top class at what he does, I have faith in him and I think he did produce, as per usual, a very good, well-balanced, fair test that caused its problems.”
We were keen to hear whether he has any plans to come to New Zealand, and it does look positive. “I’d love to, but it is one step at a time. I’ve never been to Australia before or New Zealand and I would love to come to New Zealand, but I wouldn’t come without the tour guide and manager at home, Karen [Shuter]. When Karen feels it is possible for me to go, then I will go.” Karen is Oli’s business manager, so we hope that she brings him down under soon!
Samantha Felton had a good day, and was delighted with both her horses. She finished third on Ricker Ridge Pico Boo on a score of 63.6. The pair had 10.4 time faults. Megan Jones just pipped her at the post, with a faster cross-country: just 6.8 time to finish on 61.9 in second place. No three-star horses made the time and 12 horses jumped clear.
On Ricker Ridge Escada, Sam had 21 time faults and one run-out to finish on 112 in 11th place.
When we caught up with her, she was grinning from ear to ear. “It was amazing. I knew I just had to go out there and ride hard because it was quite a mentally draining course, there were so many twists and turns. I knew right from the first fence I had to have my adrenaline up and make sure that I was on form for every fence, to give myself the best possible chance of coming home clear. I think I did a good job of that, I was proud of myself and I was really proud of him. He [Pico Boo] just kept going the whole way, never once felt sluggish or said no, or dropped behind my leg. He was amazing. My watch didn’t work so I had no idea of where I was on time, but in a way it was good because I just went as fast as I thought was safe and as fast as I could on that ground.”
As for Ricker Ridge Escada, Sam was happy with him too. “He was the trail-blazer, the first one out. My rings broke at the first fence. I had the rings attached to the reins but not to the breastplate. I had to thread the ring through my left hand and ride with the ring still attached to the reins. So I had to ride with a ring and a rein for the majority of the course but they got away on me just before the second water and I couldn’t pick them up. I’m not too sure what happened at the rails [where he had a run-out at fence 19], someone afterwards said the light was quite different there and when I rode around later on Beckham [Pico Boo], I noticed that too. Also by that point I had lost the rings and they were flapping around his face so he may have been a little distracted and it was a little pokey fence in the dark. It was a shame, but he jumped amazingly everywhere else.”
Sam is heading home on Monday, leaving sister Nicola to travel back with one horse. “Ricker Ridge Escada is coming home as he is a little bit more high-maintenance. Beckham has such a nice laid-back attitude I have decided to leave him here in the trusted hands of Sam Lyle. He is going to stay and do a CCI3* at Wallaby Hill in Sydney, which is the weekend before Puhinui. I will go back for the week of Wallaby Hill. I’ll fly back for Puhinui; at the moment I think we have two in the two-star, a couple of one-stars and probably Toby [Escada] in the three-star.”