Festival of Eventing – Saturday Report

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Sarah Carless reports ….

Whewell take first title at the Festival of British Eventing

Two new champions were crowned at The Festival of British Eventing, presented by the British Equestrian Trade Association, with honours being decided in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Championship and Smith & Williamson Intermediate Championship.
Francis Whittington out-galloped his rivals to clinch the coveted Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship. Under glorious blue skies and in front of a packed crowd, Francis steered Sarah Arrowsmith’s seven-year-old gelding Evento to the fastest cross country round of the section for just two time penalties.IMG_6176 1ST.1
“He’s a great galloper. I set him up a bit for some of the earlier fences, but once we were in our stride I let him roll along on a long rein and took a few tighter lines,” explained Francis, who is no stranger to speeding around Gatcombe Park – in 2004 he made history by joining the select band of riders who have finished inside the time in the British Open Championship.
Evento joined Francis’ team at the end of 2014 having come from Ian Woodhead’s yard. Francis rolled a pole in the show jumping, but his dressage score of 29.5 was enough to keep his nose in front of runners-up Selina Milnes and Iron IV and third placed Frenchman Arthur Duffort and Sue Ricketts’ Oaklands First Time.
“He’s got a bit of fire in his belly, but now he’s mentally growing up,” continued Francis. “I hope he’ll go on to big things.”
Alexander Whewell was a first time winner at the Festival of British Eventing in the Smith & Williamson IMG_7196Intermediate Championship. He piloted Lisa Coward’s Chakris Star to victory – a horse who was fifth in the Novice championship 12 months ago – finishing on a score of 37.7 having added eight tine penalties to their dressage score of 29.7.
“I can’t quite believe it. It’s one of the biggest wins of my career. The horse thrives on the crowds and he really enjoyed it. I came here hoping for a placing, so to win in this company is just amazing,” said the 28-year-old, who keeps his string of 13 horses at his parents’ yard near Bristol.
Alexander, who is trained by British Eventing Master Coach Lizzel Winter, has struck up a fantastic partnership with the 10-year-old gelding, who did dressage with his owner for the first two years of his career and only started eventing as a seven-year-old.
“He’s only little and he’s not flash, but he tries so hard. He was spot on in all three phases today; I couldn’t fault him,” added Alexander.
Oliver Townend finished runner-up with Peter Finer and Posy Kopanski’s promising nine-year-old Master Trump. Oliver posted by far the fastest time of the section – 3.6 time penalties – but a dislodged rail in the show jumping demoted him to second. Emily King secured third spot with Jane Del Missier’s Dargun.
Oliver Townend made the Advanced section his own claiming three of the top four places with his trio of rides. Top of the pile was Peter Windus’ Dunbeau, who added one pole down in the Show Jumping and eight time penalties across the country to his dressage score of 25.7. He finished just over one penalty ahead of Oliver’s second ride, Sue Chadwick and Komfi’s Samuel Thomas II.
“It was a really nice surprise [to finish first and second],” said Oliver, who recorded characteristically speedy rounds on all three rides. “I liked the changes to the course, which meant spectators were more spread out around the park. The new water rode well, although having to turn back and jump it a second time was a bit disconcerting.”
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Oliver with Dunbeau
 Oliver also finished fourth with Michael McGrath’s Dromgurrihy Blue, just behind Tom McEwen and Frank and Jane Inns’ up-and-coming Toledo De Kerser – who led after the show jumping but opted for a steady trip across the Gatcombe parkland to drop to third.
Whilst champions were being crowned, dressage also got underway in the Event Rider Masters, incorporating the British Open Championship, and Topspec Corinthian Cup Restricted Novice Championship.
Australian Andrew Hoy leads the way in the ERM with Cheeky Calimbo on a score of 36.6. He has less than a show jump in hand over Britain’s Oliver Townend on Cillnabraddon Evo (39.1) and Izzy Taylor on KBIS Briarlands Matilda (41.9).
Hoy was full of praise for Capt Mark Phillips’s cross country course, which has a new double water complex at the far end of the park bowl and is creating great interest for spectators. “The ground is fantastic and the presentation of the course is excellent. Mark does a great job,” said Hoy. “The changes are good and have spread the spectators out so you have support all the way round.The whole format of the British Open, and the ERM, with the show jumping and cross-country in reverse order is so exciting and has to be the way forward for the sport.”
In the Topspec Corinthian Cup Restricted Novice Championship the lead after dressage is held by Rebecca Woolley on Zeno Das Gluck, having scored 28.1. Lizzie Provenzan lies close behind in second on Fine Feathers (28.8) with Sophie Forbes in third with Tricky Johnie (28.9).
The action concludes tomorrow with show jumping and cross country action in both classes. Cross country action from the Topspec Corinthian Cup will be available via the British Eventing website, whilst action from the Event Rider Masters will be live streamed from www.eventridermasters.tv.
Photographs courtesy of Lorraine Porter

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