Sarah Carless reports 

Poplar wins for Grassroot championship riders 

Poplar Park’s early season fixture provided the perfect early season run for riders qualified for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Cup. 

Five riders qualified for the champinships,  which take place in May, won their sections at the Suffolk event, which attracted more than 400 combinations competing across a range of classes from BE80 to Advanced Intermediate. 

Joanne Watts has two horses qualified for The Mitsubishi Motors Cup – Darc Legend won BE90 Section A whilst Chilham Temple Bar finished fifth in BE90 Section C – both of whom competed at the championships last year. 

Joanne said: “Darc Legend went really well and was pleased to be out again. Had a very easy winter this year and he came out fresh and raring to go. He did a lovely test and a confident double clear. Chilham Temple Bar is firing on all cylinders – she was 5th at Poplar and second the week before at Isleham.”

Alyson Parker and JJ Malone will be paying their fifth visit to Badminton in May for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup. At Poplar they won BE100 Section I. 

Alyson told Eventing Worldwide; “I am over the moon with our result today, and to have come out this season seemingly as good as we finished last year. Joe is the most honest and genuine horse I have ever had the privilege to own. He ate up the course at Poplar and gave me a fantastic ride. We have been working hard at our dressage and the increased suppleness has improved the other two phases as well. Joe is on a strict fitness preparation for Badminton and that incorporates the events we will do in the build-up. My aim is always to have a nice day and enjoy the fun of eventing and Poplar Park is one of my favourite early events. Well done to the organisers who have put a monumental effort into upgrading their courses and redesigning the layout to make it more straight forward. It’s fantastic.” 

James Pratt and Churchside Reflection won BE100 Section J having qualified for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup for the second time. Corrine Roberts and Recession will be first time visitors to the championships, and they got their season’s preparations underway with a win in BE90 Section M, with an impressive dressage score of 21. Caroline Bridge will be heading to Badminton for the fifth time in May but it will be the first time for her horse Eldyno, who were the winners of BE90 Section C at Poplar. 

Pippa Funnell enjoyed a successful weekend in what was a busy week for the British team rider. Following on the back of her success at Tweseldown a few days before, Pippa scored a win in the Advanced Intermediate (Section N1) with her Olympic mount Billy The Biz – his first competition since Rio, a second with Sandman 7 in the Open Intermediate (Section M) and a fourth with Billy Cuckoo. During the last week, Funnell has collected seven top five placings including two wins, two seconds, two fourths and a fifth. 

Junior rider Bubby Upton rode Eros DHI to victory in Intermediate Section N. The 17-year-old, who has competed for Great Britain at Pony and Junior level, is now in her last year of Juniors. Her aim is to be selected for the junior team who will contest the championships at Millstreet in Ireland in August. 

Bubby told Eventing Worldwide: “I was absolutely thrilled with Ero – he was was amazing. He just about contained himself in the dressage but he was unbelievable jumping – an absolute machine. He is very smart on the flat and is capable of producing an unbelievable test but he was very fresh so we rode more of a safe test but there is still a lot more to come. It was the plan to go fast enough cross country to feel like we had a good run before the Junior trial at Belton but I didn’t want to go too fast as it is a long season ahead. He is very quick cross country – he has an enormous stride so I just kept a nice rhythm. It was quite bold and I had to really attack it at times but I felt like he gave me a really confident ride. This is my last year in Juniors and hopefully if I am lucky enough to get selected again I can improve on my performance from last year.” 

Bubby was also seventh at Poplar in Novice Under 18 Section O with new ride Cola III. She added; “I’ve had him a couple of months now. He was fantastic. He did a really nice test but I was a bit disappointed with the mark but I was really pleased with how he went. He’s got a lot of strengthening to do as he is still really green at that level. But he is such a cool jumper and so I was really pleased. It’s so early on in our partnership together so I took him slowly across country so that dropped him down. He’ll be running at Lincoln next weekend so I didn’t want to pressure him too much as he has a busy couple of weeks.” 

Another young talent was also victorious at Poplar. Will Furlong started the event season as he means to go on with some great results over the weekend. The young rider placed in the top six with all four of his rides, including a fifth in the Open Intermediate (Section M) with his former Young Rider Championship winning partner Livingstone II. But his best result came in Open Novice Section Q which he won aboard Elstar, winner of the CCI* at Aldon at the end of last year. 

Other results; BE90 Section D Michelle Lowe, Vivendi Noble Cavalier; BE90 Open Section E Sacha Hourigan, Macadem Jewel; BE80 Section F Amy Crosby, Parkchurch Holly Berry;BE80 Section G Caroline Smith, Fenomeen L; BE80 Section H Hannah Kelly, Pairumani Tyree; BE100 Open Section K Becky Moorish, Kilsallagh Cathal; BE100 Under 18 Section L Gemma Wellings; Open Intermediate Section M Anthony Clark, Crambamboli; Novice Under 18 Section O Zara Lye, Jana De Cavaignac; Novice Section P Greg Kinsella, Watermill Rocks; 

Photographs courtesy of Sue Westmoore

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