The Festival of British Eventing – Final Report

Australia’s Burton triumphs in British Open and Townend claims two titles

Australia’s Christopher Burton claimed victory in a dramatic finale to the British Open Championships at The Festival of British Eventing, whilst Great Britain’s Oliver Townend made his mark at the event by claiming two national titles.

The British Eventing Open Championship CIC3* 

Riding the 16 year old TS Jamiamo, Christopher Burton became only the third Australian to take the British Open Championship title – following in the footsteps of compatriots Andrew Hoy and Clayton Fredericks.

Christopher Burton with TS Jamiamo

Placed ninth after the dressage, the 33 year old admitted he thought had blown his chances of winning when the combination had a pole down in the show jumping. But a dramatic finish to the weekend’s proceedings, which saw his team mate Sam Griffiths fall from Paulank Brockagh, elevated him to take the victory

Afterwards Chris said: “It’s a bit of a shock win. I was a little bit cross when I had a showjumping rail down. I spoke to the owner and said we might as well take him fast (across the country). It’s very exciting to be at Gatcombe – it’s an event that gets us event riders going. To win here is something I have always wanted to do.”

Talking about the horse he is now aiming for Burghley Horse Trials next month he said: “He is very careful and fast, although he’s got a bit of a hair-trigger and can turn too sharply. But I hope this event will have set him up for Burghley.” 

Jonelle Price with Classic Moet

Second place in the British Open Championship went to New Zealander Jonelle Price riding Classic Moet. The Marlborough-based rider said: “It’s the first time I have come to this Gatcombe – it was really easy for me as I only had one horse and the sun was shining. The dressage was a personal best – Classic Moet wasn’t built for the job so she has to work so hard. But she has just started to come together. She was brilliant. It takes a specialist horse as the terrain is tough on them. But I had a beautiful ride and it was really fun.”

The British National Championship was won by Nicola Wilson riding . Clearly ecstatic she said: “I can’t believe it. She was phenomenal – I’m still pinching myself. I’m so proud of her – she keeps getting better and better. The dressage was superb and she gave her all. And cross country she proved what a horse she is. I was grateful to her at the corners as I overshot but she is such a brave horse.” 

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Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen

Nicola was also ninth on Baluna, owned by Mr James Lambert OBE and Mrs Jo Lambert, and picked up the award for the highest placed young horse in the competition. Oliver Townend topped off a successful weekend to pick up fourth place on Armada – the only horse to achieve the optimum time of six minutes and 28 seconds.

The British Open Championship cross country course caused a number of problems, not only for the leader. Pippa Funnell retired Mirage D’Elle, William Fox-Pitt had run outs on both of his horses, Andrew Hoy – who led after the dressage – suffered a fall from Rutherglen whilst Francis Whittington fell from Fernhill Highlight. Perhaps most dramatic of all was Andrew Nicholson who suffered a crashing fall from Cillnabradden Evo at the last fence. A statement from his family following the fall said: “He has a neck injury and is currently undergoing treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.”

The Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship

Oliver Towmend with Sonic De Sermentol

Kicking off what was to be a superb weekend of eventing action, Oliver Townend took the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship for the fourth time, having previously won in in 2005, 2010 and 2011.

This time he was riding Stephanie D’Andrimont’s nine year old Sonic De Sermentol who added nothing to their dressage score of 27.7 to claim the title. He said: “I told the owner we would win this two months ago but because she is Belgian she hadn’t heard of it and didn’t know what I was talking about. I love it here. I hoped we’d have a winner this weekend.”

Oliver made it a one-two with Karyn Shuter’s seven year old Ridire Dorcha claiming the runner up spot with Polly Stockton taking third on Mafra Smither’s Stanhopes Mr Macoy.

Proceedings were temporarily held up after William Fox Pitt had a fall from Dynasty at the water fence. With one horse still to ride, the Badminton winner had to make a quick change after his soaking before he completed on The Soapdodger.

The Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship

Picking up his second title of the weekend, Oliver Townend took victory in the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship, onboard Note Worthy.

Oliver Townend with Note Worthy

It is a title he has won on three occasions, previous victories came in 2007 and 2008. Adding just 1.2 time penalties from cross country to their dressage score of 23.3, the combination finished on a total of 24.5 – 12 penalties ahead of the runner up. Townend also also finished fifth on Power Drive.

Of the horse he said: “He has an endless gallop and although he needs a squeeze at times, he’s class. I had quite an early draw and I knew I had good ones around me, so I couldn’t afford to hang around.”

Second in the championship was Italian Vittoria Panizzon on Chequers Play The Game, owned by Amy and Patricia Lambert. Vittoria, who only returned to riding a few weeks ago after breaking her collarbone and took the ride on the horse this year, commented: “I’m used to producing my horses from scratch so this feels like a fairly new ride. But I’m having such a good time with him – he’s a very happy, easy horse.”

Vittoria Panizzon on Chequers Play The Game

Third went to Tom McEwan on Toledo De Kerser, owned by Frank and Jane Inns. The horse was second at Le Lion d’Angers at the seven year old world Championships in 2014. Tom quipped: “He’s quirky but he was completely class today.”

The TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup

Nineteen year old Noah Brook was a convincing winner in The TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup – the new Novice Restricted Championship aimed at amateur riders and introduced to The Festival this year.

On board Paul Crompton’s seven year old Deo Volente III, he led from start to finish to complete on the pair’s dressage score of 22.5 penalties – 10.2 ahead of their nearest rival.

Following his win, Noah said: “I’m really pleased – he was amazing and performed really well. I didn’t come here with any expectations. After the dressage I was pretty confident he had done a good test so there was some pressure to do a double clear. The terrain was quite challenging and as I was quite early I didn’t know how the time was going to ride. But he was such a straight horse and got on with everything and gave me a really nice ride. We’ll be moving him up to intermediate and aiming him for the 2* championships at Osberton. His owners weren’t sure how far he’d go initially, but he keeps getting better and better.”

Noah Brook with Deo Volente III

Second place went to Sarah Chittleburgh on the diminutive Sari De Lobelle who pulled up from 4th after the dressage to finish on 32.7 penalties. She said: “I bought Sari four years ago as a five-year-old thinking that I’d quietly produce her for the pony market while enjoying competing her myself. She’s got so much scope; she’ll happily go on to intermediate level.” To ride alongside the best in the world and feel included – and be part of – the main competition has been such a fantastic experience.”

Cathrine Taylor riding Lorelei completed the top three to finish on their dressage score of 34.4. The combination were third at this years BE100 Badminton Grassroots Championship. She said: “She’s such a fun horse to be around and never has a bad day.”

The new cross country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips provided a great test for the amateur riders. Out of those who started the cross country, 46 went lear with a number taking in the course so fast they accrued time penalties for going too fast.

Burghley Young Event Horse

Eventing stars of the future were also in action on the first day of The Festival of British Eventing. Sponsored by Dubarry since 2009, the competition is open to four and five year olds, with the aim of encouraging breeders and trainers to produce and present the type of young horse which will be considered to make a world class three day event horse. Competition was fierce with the Four Year Old and Five Year Old classes attracting entries of 34 and 44 respectively.

The winner of the Four Year Old class was Helen Wilson riding Congo Rebel ahead of Tom Rowland on MGH Carver Doone and Sally Bowler on Wish.I.Am.  In a hotly contested Five Year Old class, the winner was Vicky Brake riding MGH Banky Moon. Second went to Jason Hobbs on Sinterklass whilst Tiana Coudray picked up third with Cavalier Crystal. The final qualification spot for the final from this event went to Emily Proud on Leonardo C.

Thee Festival of British Eventing is presented by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) and is now in its 33rd year.

Sarah Carless

Photography Courtesy of Hoofprints Photography

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