Event reports sponsored by Elite Horse Owners
Sarah Carless reports ….
Champions crowned at The Festival of British Eventing
The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, presented by the British Equestrian Trade Association, once again produced a weekend of high class eventing action.
Oliver Townend took his tally of national titles to ten with victory on Angela Hyslop’s Khoi Traveler in the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship.
Townend produce an inspired cross country round clocking up just 4.4 time penalties to rise from 33rd
place after dressage and finish less than a penalty ahead of the runner-up, Matthew Heath on Sportsfield Lord Livesey with Tom McEwen, who is based at Gatcombe, in third with 7.4 on Royal Roxy.
The cross-country time proved highly influential as Only three riders finished with time penalties in single figures around Mark Phillips’s exciting cross country track.
Khoi Traveler came to Townend’s attention when his previous rider brought the horse over from America to his yard and provided him with his fourth Intermediate championship win, having taken the title in 2007, 2008 and 2015. ”
Townend said: “I didn’t come here expecting him to pull off that result but he performed at his best in all three phases. Three days ago I wasn’t going to bring him here because he came late to eventing and I thought his dressage was a little bit behind, so this is quite a surprise. He was a racehorse so if any horse was going to cope it was him, although actually the ground has held up superbly. The team at Gatcombe as always have done an unbelievable job in keeping the show on the road and I thought the conditions were as good as you could possibly expect them to be.”
Ben Hobday secured his first national title when he led the prestigious Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship from start to finish with Jane Chambers’ and his own rising star Shadow Man II.
A dressage score of 27.3 left the pair at the head of the pack and they maintained this position with a foot-perfect clear in the show jumping followed by an economical trip across country for just 6.8 time penalties.
The son of Fidjy Of Colours was sourced in Belgium as a two-year-old for Ben’s business, Shadow Horses, which specialises in finding and producing top quality eventers. This was the combination’s 10th win in 23 starts.
Hobday said: “I feel very proud of the horse and the whole team – everyone has put a lot of hard work in and it’s nice to show the horse has such quality. A lot of the riders were quite shocked when they heard I was in the lead. The test was everything I hoped it would be; he kept his concentration and I could ride him bravely forward. He’s everything you want in an event horse — athletic, intelligent and exceptionally kind. He was nearly sold twice as a four-year-old but luckily for me neither sale happened and Jane offered to step in. At nearly 17hh he’s a big horse, but he’s incredibly light on his feet. I think he can go all the way and that’s my plan with him. The skies the limit and we intent to try and win them all. But one step at a time.”
William Fox-Pitt had to settle for second place with Catherine Witt’s The Graduate whilst Hayden Hankey and You’ve Got The Lux posted the fastest round of the section for 3.6 time penalties and third place.
Lorna Collins and Blackrock Ricardo scored a pillar to post victory in the TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup, a National Restricted Novice Championship.
Collins last competed at The Festival of British Eventing 11 years ago, when she finished 43rd in the British Novice Championship on Benson, but the amateur from Melton Mowbray scored a career-best result when she returned this time with the six-year-old son of Ricardo Z. Their preparation for the event was slightly interrupted as Lorna spent most of the week to-ing and fro-ing to Pony Club camp with her eight-year-old son, Joseph.
A lack of practise mattered not a jot as the pair turned in a dressage score of 24.6 and delivered one of the most polished show jumping clears of the section. The pair headed into the cross-country with a seven-penalty cushion and they needed every second, stopping the clock in a time of 4min57sec — some 17 seconds over the optimum for 6.8 time penalties.
“It’s a very special competition. To come and do so well at a great event is huge. He is only six so it will be a great standing for the future. He jumped beautifully considering how boggy the ground had become by the time I went. He went to Burghley for the Five-Year-Old Young Event Horse Final last year, so he is used to a bit of atmosphere, but even so he really surprised me with how he took it all in. He went a little bit green on me at the two water fences and was mentally and physically very tired by the end, but I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Katie Hancock and Coddstown Pet so nearly added the Corinthian Cup to the BE100 Mitsubishi Motors Cup they won at Badminton earlier in the year, but a rub of the second show jump meant they had to settle for second.
“The mistake was my fault,” rued Katie, a mother-of-one who juggles eventing with working part-time as a safety compliance officer. “I’d always wanted to ride at Gatcombe, so when I found out we’d qualified I was really excited. This was by far the biggest track she’s jumped and she answered every question.”
Shane Rose had an unexpected boost with a win in the Neptune Advanced class riding Sam Griffiths Happy Times.
The Australian, who has based himself with his great friend and compatriot this season, has been deputising for Griffiths after he injured his neck in a fall. The pair were in contention from the start with a dressage score of 28. A rail down in the show jumping, where there were only seven clear rounds, kept them in the frame, and this was followed by a faultless cross country round to finish on a score of 32 and 13.3 penalties ahead of the rest of the field.
The 18-year-old horse is one of the most consistent four-star horses of all time, and Shane joked “It’s a bit like being thrown the keys of a fancy sports car. It was rather a treat. He’s very cool, very level-headed and all I had to do was steer. It’s great for Sam to see his horse do so well.
In an international line-up, Japan’s Toshiyuki Tanaka was second with Talma D Allou (43.3) and Oliver Townend finished third with Samuel Thomas (47.3).
Co-Chairman of the event Peter Phillips commented after the event: “It has been a good event. We had some challenges with the weather but we have a fantastic team here led by Tim Henson and everybody did what they were supposed to do in fairly tough conditions. This event is about celebrating horse trials – this is the national championships and the more that we can do to draw people into the sport through Gatcombe, and everything else we do here then fantastic.”
Photographs courtesy of Phil J Photos