Not only does the Longines FEI European Championship 2015 at Blair Castle boast a Scottish Event Director Alec Lochore and cross country Course Designer, Ian Stark OBE, it now has a Scottish athlete in the British squad, preparing to fight for medal glory.
Wills Oakden, 25, based in Newburgh, Fife, has been called up to ride Mr David Kenwright and Sylvia Douglas's British bred 12-year-old mare, Greystone Midnight Melody. It will be a journey of less than 40 miles for Wills to make to his first senior Team GBR appearance at Blair Castle in two weeks time. Blair Castle is a favourite for Oakden, coming away with Team Gold in the Young Rider European Championships in 2011 and finishing 2nd in the Scottish Open Championship last year.
“I can't believe it to be honest. It never crossed my mind that this would happen – I didn't even expect to be on the reserve list, so the last few days have been something of a whirlwind. It's been a real team effort to get this far and things have just come together at the right time.
“Obviously I'm hugely disappointed for Tom [Jackson, whose horse has been withdrawn]. I've trained with him through the British Equestrian Federation World Class Programme and know him well – he's a really nice guy.
“For myself and my owners I am, of course, extremely excited. They bred 'Molly' - to be able to give them back something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They were among my first owners and have been a long standing, massive support to me; I used to ride Molly's sire, Greystone Pathfinder, for them.”
Molly has already proved herself on Blair Castle's testing terrain; placing 2nd in the Scottish Open Championship with Wills last year. “Molly has an open, natural gallop, preferring the top of the ground but also adapting when it's wet. It took us a wee while to gel in the early days. At first I was a bit too dominant, but I realised what a free spirit she is, so now just give her a touch of guidance as and when she needs it. I have so much respect for her as an athlete, and she's a real character on the yard.
“With the European Championship being so close to home, it makes it even more special for me; the thought of competing in front of a home nation crowd is mind-blowing. I went to watch the cross country at London 2012 and the atmosphere was incredible; I'm hoping that the home crowd will be just as enthusiastic at Blair. I can't wait.”
This important championship is part of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded #EveryRoadtoRio series, supporting British athletes’ preparation and qualification for Rio 2016, this summer’s event is the last major championship before the Olympic Games. The Championship is also supported by EventScotland, which has a longstanding relationship with the team at Blair Castle.
For more information on the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship 2015 including a link to the box office, visit www.Blair2015.com.