British riders give selectors tough Olympic decision at Bicton
Sarah Wells Gaston reports …
Britain’s longlisted Olympic athletes gave selectors something to ponder over with stellar performances at Bicton International.
The competition was organised in just seven weeks, holding the CCI4*-L, U25 & CCI4*-S classes previously scheduled for Bramham which was cancelled for a second year due to the on-going pandemic. Bicton was able to hold the competition – the first time a four-star level event had been held at the Devon venue – due to funding received from the Horse Trials Support Group and Event Horse Owners Association to upgrade the cross-country course, which proved particularly influential in the long format classes.
It was the results of the CCI4*-S that gave British selectors the most to think about with Olympic nominated riders taking five of the top seven places.
But it was Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser who finished top of the table in an extremely hot class. Having been fourth after the dressage, faultless performances in the cross country and show jumping saw them take the win with a score of 23.0.
“I am thrilled to bits,” said Tom. “I’ve had several rides this weekend and to pull off such an important result on this horse is amazing really, and shows how special he is. I was delighted with the cross-country. It was just what we needed at this point of the season — there was no hiding behind it — and the organisers had tried their utmost with the going.”
Kitty King and Vendredi Biats finished second behind McEwen keeping a clean sheet to finish on their dressage score of 23.1. She said: “Froggy felt brilliant; he has become so much more consistent in the dressage, which is exciting. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Double World Champions Ros Canter and Allstar B rounded out the top three. The pair were fifth after the dressage with a score of 23.0. The pair picked up 1.6 time penalties on the cross country but once again showed they could leave the coloured poles up with a clear round in the showjumping. Ros believes the 16-year-old is coming to form at exactly the right moment, commenting “It’s been a long three years for him. At the start of the season, he was a little lethargic, but now he really wants to be here and not in the field.”
Laura Collett and London 52 finished fourth in the CCI4*S. Having led the dressage with a score of 21, an unfortunate pole in the show jumping dropped them out of contention, whilst Piggy French finished in seventh with Brookfield Inocent. A dressage score of 23.1 left them at the top end of the table but again it was the show jumping where they picked up penalties with a single rail down. A storming round cross country left them with a final score of 27.1.
Nicola Wilson finished just outside the top 10 in 11th with Bulana whilst Pippa Funnell and her Olympic nominated ride Majas Hope retired on the cross country. Reserve nominated combination Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class were also in the mix finishing fifth.
Christopher Burton was the best-placed non-British rider, finishing sixth on Quality Purdey. There were 40 clear rounds, with nine inside the optimum time, and 66 completions from the 89 cross-country starters.
Nicola Wilson showed she has another star in the making winning the CCI4*-L with JL Dublin.
The pair, who had been slated to compete in Luhmuhlen’s CCI5*-L in Germany but re-routed to Bicton due to travel restrictions, led from the start, sealing victory with an immaculate clear show jumping round in which Nicola had no margin for error.
Former Badminton champions Piggy March and Vanir Kamira were the second last to jump but went out of contention with an uncharacteristic four rails down – which dropped the pair down to 15th. However, clear rounds from Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo, who eventually finished as runners-up, and Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay, third, meant the pressure was on. But Nicola kept calm to take the win, sealing a british one, two, three. In fact, it was a British top 16, with France’s Arthur Duffort the best of the many overseas riders in 17th with Gredington Mailthyme.
Nicola bought JL Dublin as a four-year-old at the Holsteiner sales in Germany; the pair have been placed at CCI4* level at Bramham in 2019 and at Burnham Market last year. She said: “It’s fantastic to finish at the top of the podium. I couldn’t be more proud – I feel so lucky to have such a lovely horse. He felt amazinf on the cross country and answered the questions beautifully. JL Dublin normally gets very excited and squeals in the warm-up, but today he really had his brain in gear and I thought and hoped that this might be our day.”
Ben Hobday and Sarah Bullimore who are both reserve nominations for the Olympic Games were also in action with Ben finishing 18th with Shadow Man and Sarah finishing 6th with Corouet.
CCI4*-L Under 25
Bubby Upton emerged the winner of the CCI4*-L for Under 25s with Cannavaro. Having sat in third after the dressage, the pair were second after the cross country behind Bubby’s other horse Cola III. But the latter had three down in the showjumping whilst Cannavaro only added 0.4 time penalties in this phase for a winning score of 33.9.
The 22-year-old said: “I’m finally a British champion! Six times I have been in the lead for a national title, but never won it. I am delighted and so pleased for Cannavaro – he is so special and has a heart of pure gold. He’s not a blood horse, so I was a little unsure of how he would cope with the hills but he dug so deep. Cannavaro is a class jumper and this shows he’s got a future. He really deserves this win and I am so proud of him.”
Heidi Coy admitted that the journey back to her home in the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire would seem that little bit shorter after such a successful week, with three horses in the top 14. She finished as runner-up with Russal Z. The 21-year-old commented: “She’s only little, but she’s feisty and she answered every question.”
Dressage leaders Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir – the least experienced of her three rides, finished in third. She was full of praise for her youngster, saying: “For him to jump like that after the cross-country we had yesterday was fantastic. It shows he’s got a huge future.”
IMAGES COURTESY OF TANZY LEE