Tuesday 18 April - 13h06 | Winnie Murphy
Dujardin. Wells and Morgan Star at Winter Championships
The NAF Winter Championships at Hartpury in Gloucestershire ended up with wins for some of the UK's most popular riders including Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Wells.
Blue Chip Novice Silver
Winning the Blue Chip Novice Silver and taking their second title of the week was Christian Landolt with the ‘foot perfect’ Liss La Belle. The pair took an early lead with an impressive 77.02% - a score and test which would prove unbeatable despite Christian’s worries with rein back. ‘She just couldn’t do it!’ he laughed before explaining his excitement at an announcement stating the Championship test had been changed to an alternative routine with no rein back only to find out later that that wasn’t the case, ‘I had a mad panic but today it was amazing’.
The six-year-old mare is a pleasant change for Christian who explained that she follows a string of quirky horses. Liss La Belle enjoys a lot of hacking in her programme as well as going around the gallops, ‘she’s just so amenable’ Christian enthused, ‘it’s great to be able to trust her, I’m finding I’m much more relaxed and positive in the arena now.’
Christian, based in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, hasn’t got any plans for the wonder mare but she will have a short break before hopefully contesting the Summer Regionals and Nationals at Elementary and Medium. ‘There may also be plans for an embryo transfer’ Christian said, we will watch this space with interest! Landholt is a List One FEI judge who has officiated at many major championships and evented for the Swiss team.
Blue Chip Novice Gold
Yorkshire’s Becky Moody stormed to victory in the Blue Chip Novice Gold Championship, claiming the title with an impressive 73.51%. Aboard her own five-year-old son of First Kiss, Heavenly Kiss BS, Becky topped the leader board above second placed Nicola Buchanan (71.73%) and third’s Charlotte Dujardin (71.55%).
In a class that many presumed was already decided, Becky’s accurate test riding combined with ‘Hector’s’ suppleness and relaxed way of going earned top marks with the three judges.
“It was a really nice clear round,” stated Becky. “He’s just a really easy and supple kind of horse. It lacked a little bit of spark to be totally honest, his medium trots could have been better from what he can do but it was just a good, solid test and I’m really pleased.”
Having known Hector since a foal and riding him since a three-year-old, Becky has high ambitions for the 18hh gentle giant. “We’re definitely aiming for Grand Prix, he shows so much ability and he’s really sweet – plus it’s lovely to have a horse that stands still in a prize giving!
“He’s known at home as ‘Hectorsaurus’ because he’s a bit of a dinosaur that just chills about, he’s pretty cool,” laughed Becky. “He’s already qualified for Summer Regionals and we’ll look at the five-year-old Young Horse class but other than that we just want to focus on training and getting him strong, I’m just conscious that because he finds the work so easy, I just need to take my time and don’t want to rush him. He does lots of hacking and other things to get him stronger and keep him fresh.”
Completing the top three were Dannie Morgan with Headmore Davina and Hayley Colwell with AB Barroco who both scored over 70% respectably.
PDS Elementary Freestyle Silver
It was third time lucky for Southampton based rider Dannie Morgan with Sarah Oppenheimer’s eye-catching chestnut Headmore Davina. The elegant duo placed second in two classes before winning the PDS Elementary Freestyle Silver on their third Championship appearance together. Riding bold canter extensions and balanced trot work to a Lion King programme created by Sara Green, Dannie and ‘Davina’ scored 73.91% to finish in front of Jane Morris with Quinet Du Buisson Z.
“We finally crept to the top spot” Dannie enthused and credited the seven-year-old mare’s success to her improved confidence in the arena, “she’s world class and loves winning,”. Alice Oppenheimer was on hand to add more about her newest star, ‘she’s got an amazing ability to sit and collect’ she said before confirming that she hopes the mare will be her future Grand Prix ride. Alice will take over the reins shortly with a view to progressing to Advanced Medium and Small Tour over the next year.
Alice was also full of praise for multitalented Dannie who competes at both dressage and eventing. ‘He’s done an amazing job” she added about the rider who hails from a non-horsey background and learnt to ride at a local riding school.
It’s been a busy week for Dannie who’s win today marked his seventh start, but not as busy as his day to day life. ‘It’s been like a holiday’ he concluded with Alice in agreement as they summarised a fantastic week for the Oppenheimer-Morgan partnership.
Wells and Dujardin Strike
NAF Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold Championship
Rio Para gold medallist Sophie Wells took the Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle tonight, on the first of two gala nights at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships at Hartpury. Aboard Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction, Sophie’s reserve ride for Rio, she owned the class with an impressive 75.75%.
First up, in front of the packed crowd, was Jezz Palmer with Zanthoos Himself, Paul Friday’s 13-year-old Negro gelding. Riding to a Madonna soundtrack, the pair produced a lovely performance but with a couple of costly mistakes. FEI 5* Judge Isabell Wessels who gave a rundown after each test said; “It was a really nice test. The music was subtle, light and suitable for the horse but sadly there were mistakes in the canter. I would have like to see a bit more impulsion but overall it was a good test.”
Gemma Maddocks and El Paso Van Overis rode a technically demanding routine including four tempis, then three-tempis on a circle, to dramatic and powerful music. “The changes on a circle were really well done,” said Isabell. “The music was good and it was technically demanding."
Eilidh Grant (24) did a great job with the elegant Gribaldi-sired 15-year-old Rock DJ rode a floorplan to emotive music earning 69.67%. “They really look like a good partnership,” said Isabell. “I really take my hat off to them. It’s a big atmosphere. The half passes were steep, there was a mistake in the 3s but she fitted them in at the end. The music really suited him.”
BD Training Director Paul Hayler and the 18hh nine-year-old Londonderry stallion, Lonswelt, performed a powerful test with some greenness, also for 69.67%. “He’s such a huge horse and very young,” said Isabell. “Maybe the canter could have shown more collection but there were some lovely movements, the flying changes after the half passes were very good. He’s a green horse but he’s in expert hands.”
Lauren Phillips and the elegant mare Hot Chocolate impressed to earn 69.04% riding their Western-themed routine. “She rode her very well,” said Isabell. “The horse has lovely natural paces and everything is there. She went straight from walk to four-time changes on a difficult line which was difficult. The mare was a little ‘looky’ but I loved the way Lauren managed her without wrestling with her.”
Victoria Maw and the chestnut mare Bon Rouge CH did a great job to earn 71.46%, her ambitious choreography and music really telling a story. Elder Klatzko had a challenging ride with the 16-year-old Woodlander Little Richard who was a little stage struck by the occasion but she did a great job with very daring choreography to score 68.75%.
Russki and his elegant rider, Leah Beckett were awarded an average of 68.67% from the three judges – Kurt Christensen (E), Jo Graham (C) and Paula Nysten (M), Russki looking very happy and secure in his work. “They look a good partnership, they look like friends.”
Bryony Goodwin and Hawtins Floriana rode a beautiful, elegant test for 70.33%. They showed steep half passes, soft, rhythmic and powerful extensions and finished in extended trot, one-handed, down the centre line. The mare has so much expression in half passes and extensions and the subtle vocals worked well. The choreography was difficult but smooth, showing the security of the combination.
Ellie McCarthy (20) and Donna Summer earned 68.71%, young Ellie gaining great experience in a big atmosphere. Becky Moody and Eureko were impressive and look to have a bright future though a handful of costly errors kept their score in check.
The eventual winners, Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction were third to last to go and pulled out all the stops with a very strong, technically demanding test to stirring music. As they powered down the centre line in extended trot to their final halt it was clear they’d done something special. ‘Jorge’ as he’s known, has been a busy boy recently with appearances at the Para Gold Winter Championships and Deauville CPEDI where he won all his three of his tests, and is clearly still raring to go.
The penultimate competitor Nathalie Kayal did a super job but with and expensive loss of balance in the first canter pirouette, they scored 70.08%.
The final rider was Joanna Thurman-Baker who from the off meant business with her Young Rider team partner, Highcliffe Apollo. The performance was secure, it was confident, and the music uplifting. “It was a lovely, lovely test,” said Isabell. “To be fair, he’s not a flashy horse but he’s really well trained and beautifully ridden.”
So victory went to the Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells on her talented up and coming star. Afterwards, Sophie told us; “We’ve worked on the floorplan for a while but there’s a bit too much in it for a Grade V para test so it’s great to use it tonight. He’s only just recently been strong enough too. He can be very spooky which has taken me a while to tackle it but…I’ve found if you walk in like you’ve finished and he can look, he’s happy and then means business.
“It wasn’t all his best work tonight but a lot came off and I was impressed by his confidence and good energy. He’s still quite new to this level as our focus was Rio last year but we’ll do more Small Tour this year.”
Sophie, based in Lincolnshire, has the chance of the NAF double as she rides her own Valerius in the Superflex Inter I Freestyle tomorrow night. The determined Lincolnshire rider will certainly be giving it her best shot.
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold
Charlotte Dujardin gave the bumper crowds enjoying an Easter Saturday at Hartpury a master class in test riding to take first and second in the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold Championship. Her first ride was with the striking grey mare Florentina (Vivaldi x Rubels), owned by Paul and Wendy Dockley and Charlotte. ‘Flora’ is rightly earning quite a following with the fans having won championships at Stoneleigh as a five and six year old but this was her first trip to Hartpury.
She rode her normal accurate, beautifully presented test but was sympathetic to the mare’s relative inexperience and didn’t overly push for maximum ‘flash’. The judges rewarded the accuracy, flow and harmony with 74.25% and the lead.
It was then on to the relatively unknown En Vouge. Charlotte brought the son of Jazz from Sandra Biddlecombe, who owns the yard where she keeps her young horses and he’s been very lightly campaigned as he’s taken time to mature and develop. The picture was quite different to her previous ride in that there was extreme power but quite a bit of nervous tension. What was constant was Charlotte’s clever ringcraft and ability to coax marks. 72.15% was the score – not enough to take the lead but to lie second.
Flora’s 74%+ score couldn’t be matched and the mare had a third championship title to her name. As she came out of the prize giving, co-owner Paul Dockley looked at his pride and joy and said; “She moves me to tears every time!”
Charlotte, from near Newent in Gloucestershire, explained they spotted Flora on a video ahead of the Brightwells sale as a two year old and instantly fell in love with her – “We all did!” added Wendy. “I knew we had to have her,” added Charlotte. “It was a risk with a two year old as you don’t know what you’re going to end up with her but we got her and said ‘thank God’ – I really do believe in fate.”
“She was an angel to break with immense trainability and isn’t fazed by anything. She’s a real worker and loves to perform, almost rises to the occasion and I love just how brave she can be,” enthused Charlotte.
She continued; “I put a lot of pressure on myself today so perhaps rode a bit ‘safe’ but I’m pleased with her. I’m my own harshest critic so would say maybe I wish I’d have been braver. I have to remind myself that she’s only seven and rides like an older horse. You ask her any question and she always answers ‘yes, yes, yes!’; she’s just so genuine.”
On her ride on En Vogue she said; “When I came out of the arena, I was quite emotional. It’s been quite a challenging journey with him. When we broke him at three, he bucked a saddle clean off and when it came to teaching him changes, he just threw himself on the floor. He’s a horse that crying out to do Grand Prix and I’m so excited for his future. In the arena, I could feel his heart beating but he really tried. I’ve been really careful to not put him under pressure and build confidence but only going out to small local shows and he just gets better and better. Flora was born with the perfect attitude but him, I’m going to have to teach it.”
She ended in saying; “I’m so proud of the both today. To be honest, to bring a baby on like these two to such a level is better than any medal – those are just a bonus!”
NAF Superflex Inter I Freestyle Gold Championship
After her fantastic victory in yesterday’s Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold, Paralympian Sophie Wells claimed the gala night double, scooping the Superflex Inter I Freestyle Gold Championship with her own 15-year-old son of Flemmingh, Valerius on a fabulous mark of 75.83%.
Last night’s winner, Sophie Wells burst into the arena after the break with Valerius – aka Reece – in his first competition since last year’s Paralympic Games. Launching into a fantastic extended trot down the centre line from halt, Sophie’s freestyle really packed a punch. Although tension crept in and showed during the extended walk, clean tempi changes and an exciting floor plan ensured great marks were given by the judges. Her orchestral music, put together by Tom Hunt, built to a crescendo before ending on a soft note as Sophie and Reece walked into their final halt. “Loved that they finished on a very soft note,” exclaimed Isobel. “It was like the music was hanging in the air. Most usually finish with a flourish, but this was like a bird landing on a leaf and I thought that was very unusual and well done.”
Morgan Wins and Dujardin adds another title
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
Hampshire rider Dannie Morgan climbed into the saddle for one last ride at this year’s Championship, his eighth to be exact. It was in the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Championship and his partner was Sarah Oppenheimer’s Dimaggio x Rubenstein I mare, Headmore Davina, bidding for a second title. The duo claimed the PDS Saddles Elementary Silver title on Friday so were looking to do the ‘silver double’.
The mare was focused and listened to Dannie’s every command to produce a picture of harmony which clearly impressed the judges who awarded them 72.81% which proved to be the only occasion the 70% barrier was broken. Lucinda Elliott, stable jockey for the Mount St John Stud had three chances at the title but couldn’t quite match Dannie and Davina so a second title was theirs.
Dannie arrived at Hartpury with two horses, Davina and his own Southern Cross Braemar with both horses having qualified for four classes. All eight tests were ridden, two titles and six further top four placings the result for the 26 year old from Portsmouth.
A delighted Dannie said; “She was amazing today. She was so relaxed in her body and frame – just great to ride. We gave her an easy day yesterday and it was just the job.” Part owner Alice added; “She’s a Dimaggio, they always bounce back!”
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold
The Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold lived up to its reputation of being one of the hottest classes at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships with Nikki Crisp and Viv Gleave’s Durable emerging as the deserved winners after scoring 75.83%.
“He’s amazing, I’m pretty chuffed with him,” Nikki said about the outstanding stallion by Speilberg sweetly nicknamed Danny. “I think they broke the mould when they made this one, he’s exactly the same at home as he is at shows. Really he’s just a completely cool customer; I don’t think I’ve ever had a horse like this one.”
Newmarket based Nikki and Danny rode to a classical hip hop routine put together by close friend Ros Kay. “Ros has always done my freestyles,” Nikki explained, “The first one she made for me was for a Grand Prix test so we keep saying she’s working her way down!” The funky upbeat tunes made for a nice change and suited her huge bay’s expressive paces.
Albion Medium Gold
Charlotte Dujardin has provided a masterclass of riding all week with her lovely young horses, continuing this afternoon with a beautiful ride in the Albion Medium Gold. Her partner this time was Brioso II, Carl Hester’s Benetton Dream x Dimaggio seven-year-old. The pair was awarded 73.79% with Lara Dyson and Jazzed Up taking the runner-up spot (71.72%).
Talking about how the mare was discovered, Charlotte told us; “A friend of Carl’s, Caroline Dawson, rang him and said there was a horse with good blood lines which he should look at. He sent someone along and she [Brioso] passed so he bought her. She was a just-backed five year old so was a bit behind in her training but she’s proving to be a proper ‘rough diamond’. I’d certainly say that she has the talent for GP.
“I’m so pleased with how she coped with the atmosphere here as really she’s so inexperienced. The more I did [in the test], the better she got.
So how did Charlotte feel her week’s work went at Hartpury; “I’m very pleased. It’s exciting to get the younger horses out and I have a great group of up and coming stars across the scale for the future – I can’t wait!”