Five-star eventing has come to Devon for the first time with the Chedington Bicton Park 5* Horse Trials, and anticipation is building for Britain’s first CCI5* in two years, with all 32 horses presented passing the first horse inspection.
Zara Tindall, the 2006 world champion, riding Class Affair, will kick off proceedings at 9am tomorrow morning by performing the ‘guinea-pig test’ in Bicton Park’s beautiful grass TopSpec Main Arena in front of an international ground jury comprising New Zealander Andrew Bennie as president, Britain’s Jane Tolley and Seppo Laine from Finland.
Then the trailblazing competitor, David Doel, one of the four two-horse riders, will ride the first competitive dressage test, at 9.30am.
Next in is Olympic team gold medallist and world number one Oliver Townend, who already has a CCI5* win under his belt this year, at Kentucky in April. His first ride is the experienced MHS King Joules.
Devon-based Irishman Padraig McCarthy, the world silver medallist, is also double handed, with HHS Noble Call his first ride. The McCarthys are renowned for producing horses, including MGH Grafton Street, the 2019 Burghley winner and second mount of Pippa Funnell.
Pippa, winner of the last CCI5*-L in Britain, Burghley in 2019, has already won a prize: she was judged the best-dressed female rider at the first horse inspection, taking home £250 from Hi Ho Silver. The smartest man was 22-year-old Harry Mutch, who also received £250 from Hiho Silver. New Zealander James Avery’s Mr Sneezy was judged the best turned out horse, with Frankie Murrell deservedly receiving the groom’s prize from Smart Grooming.
Rider experience ranges from 52-year-old William Fox-Pitt, winner of five of the world’s six CCI5* events, to 2019 Badminton winner Piggy March and world number two Tim Price from New Zealand to 21-year-old Felicity Collins, who will be aiming for a first five-star completion with RSH Contend Or, and CCI5* first-timer Sarah Dowley, who works in frontline healthcare in Ireland.
“It has been an honour for Bicton to host the only five-star competition in the UK this year,” said Event Director Andrew Fell. “We’re looking forward to three days of competition which we’re sure will be enjoyable, challenging and live up to the expectations of a prestigious five-star competition.
“It’s a big thank you to everyone that has supported us in the build-up, especially the main stakeholders of our sport, who were instrumental in getting this event off the starting blocks, and our fantastic family of sponsors, without whom this would not be possible.”
Tickets are available on the gate (www.bicton-arena.co.uk) and the competition will be livestreamed on Horse & Country (https://horseandcountry.tv/pay-per-view/eliteeventing). For start times and live scores, follow www.eventingscores.co.uk.
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