Nicola Wilson had the perfect send-off for next weekend’s European Championships when notching up her first Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials victory, in the prestigious CCI4*S for eight- and nine-year-old horses.

Nicola, 44, was riding James and Jo Lambert’s nine-year-old Coolparks Sarco (pictured above), an Irish Sport Horse produced by New Zealander Andrew Nicholson who announced his retirement from the top level of the sport during the event.

“I am pinching myself,” said Nicola, who won team gold and individual bronze medals at the 2017 European Championships. “It’s always a journey with every horse, and when it comes to a peak at the right time it is very special. It’s been such an exciting week.

“I was wondering if I should be doing this, as I am travelling to the Europeans [at Avenches in Switzerland] tomorrow, but I should have had more confidence in myself.”

With the highest-placed riders running in reverse order of merit, Piggy March’s fast cross-country round on Cooley Lancer, for only 1.2 time penalties, elevated her four places to the runner-up spot.

Caroline Harris enjoyed her best Blenheim placing to date, finishing third on Rebecca Stones’ home-bred Miss Pepperpot, also winner of the prize for the highest-placed mare.

“I think that was the toughest course I’ve ridden here,” said Caroline. “The mare was very strong. She has come back from a horrible fall, but it didn’t faze her at all — she was so straight and honest.”

Ros Canter, who is also bound for Switzerland, was last to go across country, but incurred 20 penalties for a run-out on Izilot DHI and finished in 27th place. Tom Jackson, the overnight runner-up on HH Moonwalk, also faulted and dropped to 33rd.

Nicola, who was also fourth on Hawk Eye, was full of praise for the event’s new management.

“The Jockey Club has done a phenomenal job. It’s so exciting to have them involved in our sport,” she said.

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