Sarah Carless reports …
The NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials attracted an international line-up of riders during five days of thrilling competition with victory being shared by riders from Great Britain and Japan.
Britain’s Dani Evans piloted Hollywood Dancer to victory in the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI1* – leading from start to finish.
Scoring 27.1 in the dressage, the pair followed this up with a foot perfect cross country and a clear show jumping. However, it was a narrow margin of victory as they only finished 0.5 penalties ahead of Ireland’s Susie Berry and Fernhill G with Vicky Tuffs and Heartbeat who finished third on 27.8.
Competition was tight, with the top 10 all jumping double clears to finish on their dressage scores. Out of 84 runners on the cross country 81.7% completed without jumping penalties, and 56.9% jumped clear on the final day of competition.
Hollywood Dancer was the Five-Year-Old Championship at Osberton last year and has already competed successfully at Intermediate, making her a mare to watch in future.
“She really deserves it, she’s such a special horse and I think she is a real horse for the future,” said Evans of Ann Butler’s six-year-old mare. “She comes out and delivers every time. She does everything with no fuss and no drama and just focuses on her job which makes my life very easy. The event has been great for these young horses experiencing their first long-format event. The courses were great course, the ground was perfect, and the whole atmosphere was brilliant.”
Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima and Vick Du Gisors JRA stole the limelight in the NAF Superflex CCI2*.
Ireland’s Aoife Clark held the lead after dressage but retired on the cross-country leaving Kitajima in pole position after his clear cross-country. His clear show jumping round cemented his win, finishing on 29.4.
Kitajima only started competing the horse in June having taken on the ride from France’s Maxime Livio. But they have quickly formed a strong bond, finishing seventh in the CIC** at Barbury prior to their win – their fourth competitive appearance as a combination.
“We are still a new partnership so at each competition we are still learning about each other, but he is a brilliant showjumper and did a great round,” said Kitajima. “He’s a fast horse across country. There was a lot of pressure because I was in the lead overnight and there was a long wait from the trot up this morning to show jumping this afternoon. We came here for qualification so to win was a massive bonus.”
Emily Philp and Fallulah held onto their runner-up spot after a super clear round to finish on 31, while Alice Pearson and Jack The Ginger rose from fifth to third after show jumping clear, finishing on 34.4.
In a class which boasted a number of British World Equestrian Games team hopefuls, it was Tina Cook and Billy The Red who reigned supreme in the NAF Magic CIC3*.
Sitting in fifth place overnight after the dressage, Cook and Billy The Red pulled off a beautiful clear round show jumping before heading out on Eric Winter’s 3* course. The pair then gave a cross-country masterclass to finish on their dressage score of 25.6 pulling them up the leader board to take victory.
Having missed much of the season through injury, this victory marked Cook’s return to top level competition.
“The season has been unfortunate for me as I started with great hopes after being fourth at the Europeans last year,” said Tina. “Then we had our fall at Burnham Market where I dislocated and fractured my shoulder badly so that caused me to miss a core of the season. Everything fell into place here, he nailed a good test because he is a world-class horse and I’m thrilled — it’s been a while since I’ve had a big win and it was a strong field. The ground was fantastic as was the course, and it was a great prep for the autumn events.”
Clear rounds in both the show jumping and cross country with just 0.4 time penalties brought Piggy French and Quarryquest Echo up from sixth after the dressage to second place. French also took eighth riding Vanir Kamira who show jumped clear and added eight time penalties across country to finish on 32.2.
Sam Ecroyd and Wodan II made a huge leap from 11th after dressage to third when pulling off a clear show jumping and cross-country round with just 0.8 time penalties to finish on 28.3.
Other World Equestrian Games hopefuls also finished well up the order, and not just from Great Britain: Australian Bill Levett finished fifth with Lassban Diamond Lift, Ireland’s Aoife Clark and Fernhill Adventure finished 5th, Britain’s Ros Canter and Allstar B finished seventh with Kitty King and Ceylor LAN in ninth, Alexander Bragg and Zargreb in 15th and Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser finishing 16th.
Following the competition, Hartpury’s Equine Director Philip Cheetham commented: “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last five days of competition with horses, riders and record crowds of spectators enjoying the very best of International competition. We cannot thank the officials, Hartpury staff and volunteers enough. Without them and our sponsors NAF, putting on an event of this calibre would not be possible.”
Images courtesy of Phil J Photos