BD Winter Regionals: Merrist Wood
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Hot weather (at last!) and hot competition were the hallmarks at Merrist Wood Winter Regionals (29 May – 3 June). Scores soared to a sizzling 80% for rising stars Georgie Nicholls and Headmore Figaro, with boss Alice Oppenheimer not far behind on 79.44% in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold. Alice also achieved a long-held ambition of winning her 50th regional title.
Alice took home three titles and four tickets to the NAF Five Star Winter Championships. Amanda Radford’s Headmore Dionysus (Dillon) - pictured above - added to the Medium and Advanced Medium gold titles he won at Wellington regionals by winning the freestyle classes at the same levels.
“I didn’t go all out in the first test as it was so hot and cut my warm-up down by 10 minutes,” explained Alice. “In the afternoon he felt amazing and was bang on the music. Two judges had him on over 80% and our 79.44% was a personal best for him.”
Headmore Bella Ruby, Dillon’s half-sister from the same Rubinstein mare, wasn’t left out of the glory. Although she was pipped by less than 1% in a very hotly contested Magic Prix St Georges by Andrew Gould and Genie III, she got a qualifying ticket and the next day came back and secured Alice’s 50th regional title by winning the Superflex Inter I.
“Judge Jennie Loriston-Clarke said it was the strongest PSG she’s ever judged,” said Alice. “’Princess Bella’ was the most relaxed away from home she’s ever been.” The nine-year-old Belissimo M mare was advanced medium freestyle gold winter champion last year and advanced medium gold champion at the LeMieux National Championships in 2019.
Andrew Gould and Tatiana Skillman’s Genie III had to settle for qualifying for the Inter I behind Alice but Andrew was more than happy with his 74%+ score in the PSG. The 10-year-old Zhivago stallion has been on a roll this season, despite only having competed lightly.
“He did two very consistent, high quality tests and they’re probably the best he’s ever done,” commented Andrew. “They were mistake-free and he showed good extensions and canter pirouettes. I came out of the arena delighted with him – he doesn’t let me down.”
Sara-Jane Lanning placed third in both small tour tests with Sigurd and will be keeping her fingers firmly crossed for a wild card with a 72%+ score. Sara also qualified Nicola Seale’s British-bred Hawtins Lirica (Lemony’s Nicket x Dimaggio) - pictured below - who was four- and five-year-old National Champion. This very talented seven-year-old has had a run of 21 first places and her wins in both Elementary Gold classes added two more.
“She’s wonderful – so hot,” said Sara. “She knows Merrist Wood well but I’m glad I did the arena walk as she was surprised to find a caravan in the arena! I was very privileged to get the ride on her when Nicola bought her a year ago.”
It’s Georgie Nicholls’ first time competing at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships and she will be a very busy girl there. She already had three titles in the bag from Wellington regionals with Woodcroft Kika Quina.
She won the KBIS Preliminary Silver on her own Briarwood Notorious (Silas) and both Novice Silver classes on Headmore Figaro (Jack). “Silas is really talented and has scope for the higher levels,” said Georgie who bought the Negro gelding as a four-year-old from Greg Sims. “He tends to add a few extra movements to his tests, but did hold it together at Merrist Wood.”
“I’m so grateful to Sarah and Alice Oppenheimer for letting me ride Jack – he’s taught me so much. He forgives all my mistakes! He has a fan club at the yard, everyone loves him,” said Georgie. “He tried really hard on both days and really lit up at the show. I think he enjoyed being out at a big show again. His dramatic music programme was produced by Sara Green and it fits him so well.”
KBIS Preliminary Gold winner was Julia Walker and Strategy, known as Fozzy. His owner Julia Wort fell in love with him when he was born at Goodwood and bought him from Char Lasseter as a foal. The seven-year-old is by Schnick Schnack, a Holstein jumping stallion.
“I did the prelim class as he hasn’t done many shows and I wanted him to get more confidence without too many questions being asked of him,” said Julia. “He’s pretty chilled out most of the time. He does a little bit of jumping and likes his hacks.”
Louise Moses and Forever Endeavor (pictured below) were multiple-winners, taking both Elementary Silver titles and the Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver section. “Fidget’ is an 11-year-old British-bred by Mooiman. Louise has owned him since he was four. She is an amateur rider with a full-time job in insurance in London.
Louise credits trainer Claire Gallimore with revolutionising their training. “He’s a really anxious horse by nature,” she explained. “He finds the work easy if you can get his brain with you. He’s either on your side or has got brain freeze. Transferring the ground work into ridden has really helped. He finds life overwhelming which might work in his favour at the Championships as he’s normally overwhelmed anyway! What I need to get is to get him to chill.”
Her winning freestyle programme featured instrumental versions of Sting songs, produced by Equidance.
In the Medium Silver young talent was on display with 16-year-old Emilia Nelson taking the title on dressage pony Woodlander Wales. Emilia has been competing Lynne Crowden’s British-bred 10-year-old by her prolific stallion Woodlander Wavavoom for almost two years. The combination placed fourth in a hot Elementary Gold at Wellington regionals a few weeks before.
The Medium Gold winter regional championships went to Katie Bailey, riding Elissa Bucher’s DJoe Dimaggio (Dimaggio x Weltmeyer). “It was one of ‘Squirrel’s’ best tests,” reported Katie. “His medium trot and simple changes got good marks and the test flowed nicely. He needs to get a bit more strength to keep more push and swing in the test but he’s a very talented horse.” Katie also secured a ticket for the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold with Defago.
In the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold, Georgia Davis took the title with a super score of 76.75% on Louisa Prebble-Hill’s gelding, Knightingale, who is by Lord Leatherdale son, Fairytale out of a Dimaggio mare. “With lockdown it was tricky to get him out and about but he’s growing in confidence every time out and is starting to know his job. He’s very trainable.”
“His canter is a highlight. It’s very light – a proper Lord Leatherdale canter!”
Catherston Timeless has chalked up some recent successes in young horse classes and secured her place at Hartpury in the Prestige Italia Novice Gold with Charlotte Dicker. ‘Tilly’ is homebred by Timolin out of a Breitling mare and is owned by Sarah Marks. “Sarah was a student of my Granny (Jennie Loriston-Clarke) and has always followed my riding career,” explained Charlotte. ”She bought her as a yearling for me to ride. She’s a lovely quality mare. She always wants to learn. I’ve had a lot of help from Carl Hester who absolutely loves her.”
The pair are hoping for a wild card for the Novice and Elementary freestyles and Charlotte also qualified Billy Moran’s stallion, Tiger Attack in the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold section.
An adverse reaction to a Covid-19 vaccination meant that Linda Hoad had to pass the ride on her Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold winner, Atterupgaards Capirossi, to her trainer, Danish international rider, Sune Hansen. He had competed the Caprimond x Stedinger 12-year-old twice which allowed him to qualify. The pair were also reserve champions in the Medium Gold class.
“I’ve been helping Linda for a long time though I know him mainly from watching her ride him,” said Sune. “He’s a very good competitor. He’s really sensitive so one can ride with small aids. You just need to keep his confidence – when he has that, he gives you his heart.”
Amy Jack’s Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver winner Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof has a history of spooking but held it together on the day. “He did a relaxed test – I’ve never had a test before where he was with me all the way before,” commented Amy. “It was awesome to win as it was a huge class with lots of talented horses and riders.”
Amy has owned ‘Harvey’ for six years, buying him as a just-backed three-year-old. “He’s very trainable and wants to work for you,” said Amy, who is based with, and trains with, Amy Stovold. She also hopes to qualify him for the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships at PSG Bronze.
It was a worthwhile journey round the M25 for the Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver winners, Claire Knowles and Singing Skyjacker, who live in Essex. Claire has owned ‘Jack’ for 10 years but only been riding him for the last two.
“He has to work really hard as he’s not naturally uphill,” explained Claire. “He’s such a trier and what he lacks in natural ability he makes up for in heart. He came out and hit every change in the music, with only one tiny mistake in one of the simple changes. I was so thrilled with the test it didn’t matter what the score was.”
Claire had adapted a Medium floor plan originally designed by Kim Ratcliffe, put to music by Julie Geraghty of Equivisions.
KBIS Preliminary Gold
1. Julia Walker and Strategy, 71.60%
2. Kate Purchase and Kiola BH, 71.14%
3. Scott Allen and Winnetou of Bellhouse, 71.03%
KBIS Preliminary Silver
1. Georgina Nicholls and Briarwood Notorious, 72.18%
2. David Ashby and Ivanstown, 70.28%
3. Rachen Ovens and Secretlodge, 69.19%
Prestige Italia Novice Gold
1. Charlotte Dicker and Catherston Timeless, 75.55%
2. Ben Martin and Jacko B, 73.58%
3. Leonie Brown and Wishaw Lord Nelson, 71.17%
Prestige Italia Novice Silver
1. Georgina Nicholls and Headmore Figaro, 76.54%
2. Elizabeth Richards and Diamantino, 71.72%
3. Sharon Power and Desirado, 71.04%
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold
1. Georgia Davis and Knightingale, 76.75%
2. Dannie Morgan and High Hoes Razzle Dazzle, 76.66%
3. Jezz Palmer and Tiny Dancer, 75.37%
Baileys Novice Freestyle Silver
1. Georgina Nicholls and Headmore Figaro, 80.74%
2. Sandie Gibbs and Gomez Gold, 72.03%
3. Liz Trowbridge and Lord Lancelot, 70%
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold
1. Sara-Jane Lanning and Hawtins Lirica, 75.26%
2. Arabella Whelan and Feur Noir, 71.61%
3. Alice Oppenheimer and Wurlitzer, 70.88%
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
1. Louise Moses and Forever Endeavor, 72.65%
2. Kathy Staples and Fox’s Castle, 71.4%
3. Amy Blount and Double Rhondezvous, 69.84%
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold
1. Sara-Jane Lanning and Hawtins Lirica, 76.15%
2. Alice Oppenheimer and Wurlitzer, 75.76%
3. Jezz Palmer and Tiny Dancer, 74.8%
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Silver
1. Louise Moses and Forever Endeavor, 73.91%
2. Gareth Bulley and Faerwald, 73.077%
3. Kate Oppenheimer and SOS Sealpoint, 71.47%
1. Katie Bailey and DJoe Dimaggio, 74.41%
2. Sune Hansen and Atterupgaards Capirossi, 73.73%
3. Olivia Oakley and Full House, 73.6%
1. Emilia Nelson and Woodlander Wales, 70.94%
2. Fiona Wood and Wild Rose IV, 69.09%
3. Elizabeth Killick and Galante’s V.I.P. 18, 68.87%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold
1. Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dionysus, 74.38%
2. Charlie Sawyer and Private Number, 73.44%
3. Zoe Sopp and Vilan, 72.55%
Spillers Medium Freestyle Silver
1. Louise Moses and Forever Endeavour, 72.11%
2. Demi Howard-Cartwright and Fin C We, 71%
3. Alisa Hunter-Gordon and Eurythmics, 70.94%
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold
1. Sune Hansen and Atterupgaards Capirossi, 72.71%
2. Katie Bailey and Defago, 72.58%
3. Nicola Buchanan and St Giles Bon Bon, 71.09%
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver
1. Amy Jack and Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof, 70.96%
2. Amanda Towle and Rockwood Virtue, 70.43%
3. Joanne Price and Casino Scandal, 70.35%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Gold
1. Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dionysus, 79.44%
2. Nathalie Kayal and Helianthus vd Fuik, 70.33%
3. Charlotte Dicker and Tiger Attack, 70.11%
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver
1. Claire Knowles and Singing Skyjacker, 71.16%
2. Penny Birch and Diamond, 71.11%
3. Nichola Harrison and Lobke Van Het Umenveld, 70.55%
Magic Prix St Georges Gold
1. Andrew Gould and Genie III, 74.07%
2. Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby, 73.99%
3. Sara-Jane Lanning and Sigurd, 72.71%
Superflex Intermediate I Gold
1. Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby, 74.25%
2. Andrew Gould and Genie III, 73.24%
3. Sara-Jane Lanning and Sigurd, 69.43%
Photo © Nak Sports Images