NAF Five Star International Horse Trials
Sarah Wells-Gaston reports ..
More than 200 horses competed at this year’s NAF Five Star International Horse Trials over the weekend, as dreams came true and one British rider continued her international dominance.
NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L
Dreams came true for Harriett Beaumont at Hartpury as she celebrated her first-ever international win with victory in the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L with Annaghmore Bonita beating a fierce field of 76 other combinations.
The pair put themselves in contention from an early stage, being ninth after the dressage, and leapt up the leader board to take victory thanks to clean sheets in the jumping phases whilst those around them faltered.
Sarah Holmes with Harley Brown and John Paul Sheffield riding Future Gravitas set the pace in the dressage, both scoring 25.6. But the field behind them was closely packed with 12 riders on sub-30 scores. With an average dressage score of 33.9, 44 combinations achieved under this mark.
Of those who started out cross country, 14 collected penalties and eight did not complete. Sadly for Holmes and Harley Brown, their chances of victory came to a finish when they were eliminated on the cross country. The most influential were fence 11, fence 14 and fence 15.
However, 52 combinations completed the course without jumping penalties. Sheffield remained in contention picking up just 0.8 time faults. But it was Aoife Clarke and Leopards Action who finished the day in the lead on a score of 26.1.
Competitors in the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L had the best conditions on the final day for the show jumping phase. But both the time and fences proved influential in this phase. Out of 63 combinations, only 16 jumped clear (25.3%). Those who were affected included overnight leader Clarke, with two rails down dropping her to ninth, and Sheffield who tumbled down to 35th as a result of 16 jumping faults and two-time faults.
However, a clear round sealed the deal for Beaumont and Bonnie who finished on their dressage score of 29.6.
The 25-year-old who has worked with horses all her life told Eventing Worldwide:
“I’m still trying to let it all sink in – I still think it’s all a big dream. I have ridden Bonnie since she was three-years old and she is now 11. The first day I sat on her she bucked me off into a fence. I spent the first two years trying to stay on her.From her first ever event at Aston me Walls as I come back from cross country I said she was special. Dressage has not always been her favourite phase but I have worked so hard with her these last two years with my trainer. But she’s always been a good jumper in both phases.
“To have a big win is what I have always dreamed of. I never ever thought I would be a winner at an international event. All the hard work has finally payed off. I can’t thank my owners Dawn and Kevin Waterman enough; they do so much for me along with my trainers, and my family and friends for the support. It’s seems surreal the amount of phone calls and texts I have had to say congratulations. Bonnie is having a week in the field now enjoying some grass and then she’s hoping to go to Ballendenisk at the end of September.”
The riders in second and third also benefited from clean sheets in the final phase, also finishing on their dressage scores. Mark Davidson and Striding Edge finished in second on a score of 29.9.
Charlotte Rowe finished in third on Redbarn Lux Ury Biscuit, owned by Eventing Worldwide, with a score of 31.3. Charlotte and Biscuit have had a consistent season including placings at Barbury and Aston Le Walls in the run up to Hartpury.
Charlotte told Eventing Worldwide
“I was absolutely delighted with this result. I always knew the horse had it in him to pull out a big result and it has been a long road to achieve this. But I was over the moon with him in all three phases. I now look forward to taking him up another level.”
NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L
Fifty-two combinations battled it out in the Naf Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L. But it was Piggy French who continued her tremendous form this season taking victory with Brookfield Quality.
In the dressage, the pair scored 27.0 to take the lead over Will Furlong and Elstar (28.3) and Ben Lee Liles and Ballyellen Buzz (28.5).
The time on the cross country proved to be tight with only four of the 51 starters making the optimum time – Katie Prowse (Kilcoltrim Kit Kat), Flora Harris (My Lucky Day), Charlotte Dennis (Mount Panther) and Alice Pearson (Ciaos). There were 33 rounds without jumping penalties with the most influential fences being fence 9, fence 16 and fence 17.
French was one of the quicker riders around the course collecting just four time faults. A quick round from Susie Berry and John The Bull saw them collect just 1.2 penalties on the cross country putting them in contention going into the final phase. Berry is one of the riders on the Windrush Foundation Young Riders Programme and has formed a tremendous partnership with John the Bull this season.
Heavy rain and thunder on the final day forced intermittent halts in proceedings for the final show jumping phase. The time proved to be incredibly tight with just two combinations leaving the fences up and making the optimum time – Dan Jocelyn and Florencina R who finished fourth, and Rhian Smith and Boris VII who finished 12th.
The 0.4 time penalties French collected put her on a final score of 31.4 – just 0.2 penalties ahead of Ireland’s Berry, who added 0.8 time faults to her clear round and is based with French at her yard. Charlotte Dennis finished in third with a final score of 37.7.
For French and Brookfield Quality, it was their third win at 3* level this year (and fourth international win of the year) and their fifth win of the season, with the horse also having won an event with previous jockey Harry Meade at the start of the year. This victory also marked French’s 11thinternational win of the year.
NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S
With a bumper field of 103 entries in the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S class, competition was always going to be tough. The start list boasted a number of British team members for the forthcoming European Eventing Champions making their final preparations.
And it couldn’t have been a better result for Piggy French, who not only took first place with her chosen European contender Quarrycrest Echo, owned by Jayne McGivern, but she also took second place with Brookfield Inocent.
On the first day of dressage, it was Pippa Funnell who set the early pace with Burghley-bound MGH Graftton Street on a score of 24.8. Of her test Funnell commented: “I was very happy with MGH Grafton Street’s test. “He is improving and getting stronger with each test he performs. He’s always been pretty solid in this phase; it’s just getting the other phases to come together.”
Emily King slotted into second place with Brookleigh (24.9) with Australia’s Kevin Mcnab in third place with Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam’s (25.4).
Funnell maintained her grip on the competition after the second day of dressage, albeit with her third 4* ride – Billy The Biz scoring 23.3. Sarah Bullimore had slotted into second with Corouet (23.6) and Tom McEwen and his European Championship mount Toledo de Kerser in third (23.6). But the competition was hot as 27 riders earned sub-30 dressage scores.
With the Met Office forecasting high winds on Saturday, organisers have taken the decision to move the CCI4*-S show jumping phase indoors. Of the 101 combinations who jumped, 59 went clear including dressage leader Funnell and eventual winner French, with Tom McEwen deciding to withdraw before the jumping phases.
On the cross country, problems were widespread, and of the 88 combinations who started 48 would cross the finish line without incurring jumping penalties, flag penalties, or knocked-pin penalties. The most influential fences on the course proved to be fence 8b (a hanging log to the first of two skinny triple-bars on a downhill related distance).
And the time was also influential with French and Quarrycrest Echo being the only combination to make the optimum time – and she was only just slightly over with Brookfield Inocent, incurring 1.6 penalties. This gave French a well-deserved victory. Pippa Funnell took the final step on the podium finishing third with the early dressage leader MGH Grafton Street, and fifth with Billy the Biz, with whom she was held on cross country for 45 minutes due to a heavy fall for Tom Jackson, who later confirmed he had broken his leg.
Of her winning mount, Piggy commented:
“Red was fantastic – he’s just such a pleasure to ride cross-country. He’s very easy, to be honest, and so it’s easy to be economical and to be quick.
Burghley Young Event Horse
Hartpury also marked the final qualifying round of this year’s Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse competition.
In the four-year-old class 29 combinations came forward. But it was New Zealander Caroline Powell who took the win with a final score of 80, including top marks for suitability and potential. Second place went to Caroline Harris and Woodlands Be Individual, who also secured their place at the finals next month.
In the five-year-old qualifying class, competition was fierce between the 35 entries. But it was Rodney Powell and Wonham Free B who came out on top with a final score of 88. Tiana Coudray came in second place with a score of 81 on Cabaret with the top scorer for suitability and potential Unique Van De Hoeveweg Z, ridden by Dani Evans placing third with all three qualifying for the finals.
Images courtesy of Hannah Cole Photography