Olympic star Tom McEwen admitted his life has been “a whirlwind” since winning eventing team gold and individual silver medals for Britain at the Tokyo Olympics, as he prepares to take part in the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials next week (September 16th-19th).
Organised for the first time by The Jockey Club, Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is not only McEwen’s next big target but also the undoubted highlight of a spectacular autumn of equestrian sport.
And while the 30-year-old is still trying to comprehend the extra exposure his success in Tokyo has prompted, he hopes it will help attract more fans to the sport too.
He explained: “It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve been delighted and amazed at the attention locally and within the sport, which I probably wasn’t prepared for.
“It was a huge relief to us to win out there as we knew we were sitting on the best horses in the world, but we still had to prove it.”
All three of the equine stars that McEwen and his Olympic team-mates - Laura Collett and Oliver Townend - rode in Tokyo are graduates of the highly prestigious CCI4*-S class for eight and nine-year-old horses at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. And for the first time this class will take centre stage alongside the feature CCI4*-L in the main arena, for which the backdrop is Blenheim Palace itself.
Laura Collett, who won this class on her Tokyo gold medallist London 52 in 2018, welcomed the move and also the increased prize-money.
She said: “Blenheim Palace is a venue and event which is extremely close to my heart. I first rode here in the Pony Club showjumping competition, pigtails flying, as a child!
“It was the first big international horse trials I ever did, and I am so pleased that the young horse class is getting the attention and focus it really deserves.”
And Oliver Townend agreed, adding: “Having three things so close to my heart - racing, Blenheim Palace and its history, and eventing - rolled into one is so special.
“My reaction when I heard about The Jockey Club’s involvement was one of pure excitement, and I am really looking forward to riding at the event next week and seeing how The Jockey Club can bring our sport forward.”
While The Jockey Club’s long and distinguished history in horseracing is world-famous, this is its first venture into the wider spectrum of horse sport.
The Jockey Club’s Regional Managing Director, Ian Renton, is Event Director and he said: “In other countries internationally, racing and eventing are closely linked; less so in the UK, and it is fantastic to bridge the gap between the two at Blenheim Palace, which is an iconic venue.
“It is very exciting for us to get involved with massive international horse trials and for us to be able to apply The Jockey Club’s expertise and experience to such a thrilling sport.
“We are delighted with the way ticket sales are going - our expectations are being exceeded in that area - and we have a superb weekend of sport, entertainment and shopping ahead of us.”
To find out more and to buy tickets (under-18s are free when accompanied by an adult), visit www.bpiht.co.uk
The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials Facebook page is available at https://www.facebook.com/blenheimhorse