Charlotte and Erlentanz domintate at Windsor
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Caroline Chew had the honour of getting the Al Shira’aa Grand Prix underway for Singapore tonight in the shadow of Windsor Castle as part of the Royal Windsor Horse Show 2019. And an impressive start they made with a ‘clear round’. Trained by Matt Frost, the duo are no strangers to the big occasion as they rode at last year’s World Equestrian Games and this was their second international outing since. A score of 68.45% set the bench mark for the others to follow.
It was then the turn of the first British representatives, Vicky Thompson Winfield with Sam Francis’s Rondeno IX sired stallion Mango Jacaro, the current MCI European Champion. They started with great expression and activity but he became a bit unsettled in the piaffe – almost appearing to try too hard to please – which impacted on the rhythm but Vicky used her experience to ease him through. The two time canter changes were spot on but some tension just crept in towards the finish to peg the marks back in the latter stage for a final score of 66.3%.
Rustique and Mai Tofte Olesen were third in for Denmark and they had plenty of highlights to score 67.91%.
Next was one of the combinations most had come to see, Charlotte Dujardin, fresh from meeting HM The Queen earlier with Valegro, with Sonnar Murray Brown’s lovely Trakehner Erlentanz. Of course Charlotte is merely deputising for Sonnar while his broken leg mends. She started with clear intent with a bold first diagonal of effortless extended trot. Riding with a forward flow throughout, Charlotte and ‘Erly’ got their two and one time changes and rode an excellent canter pirouette centreline with good energy and consistency. It was good…and mistake free, what did the judges make? 78.08% was the score, with both Peter Storr at H and Stephen Clarke at B feeling it was worth 80% plus.
Straight on to Richard Davison with Gwendolyn Meyer and his own Bubblingh on their third trip to Windsor. A year on, the duo have grown in maturity and ‘Bubbles’ looked more relaxed in the atmospheric arena than on previous visits. Richard’s skill avoided a canter in the second extended trot and there was a mistake in the two time canter changes but a final impressive extended trot and centre line with awesome regularity in the piaffe and passage despite the pouring rain. Their score was 72.97% which put them second.
It was then the turn of one of the most experienced and revered combination in the field, Carl Hester with his own and Jane de la Mare’s Nip Tuck. The duo made a welcome return to international competition at Keysoe where they were double victors but could they hold the same form? Carl rode with his usual master genius, coaxing every mark possible while ‘Barney’ looked more than happy to please and show his skill in front of the appreciative crowd. There was just a bit of swing in the piaffe/passage down the final line but otherwise it was a lovely test with super fluency and accuracy to score 74.3% to overtake Richard and Bubbles.
Niina Nilosaari was next for Finland with KOM Ragdoll. They suffered a little bit with Windsor nerves which kept her marks down as the tension built and built to end with 62.95%. She was followed by Dutch pairing Tommie Visser and Chuppy Checker CL. The horse showed plenty of pleasing moments but was on a mission and didn’t settle to the task at hand and had a very expensive extended walk where he jogged most of the diagonal. However, they were marked 69.21% and higher scores are on the horizon for the duo.
The final Brit was Louise Bell and Into the Blue. It was a momentous occasion as ‘Dynamo’ was making a return to Windsor having competed here previously with Louise as a working hunter; not many horses can boast competing on the hallowed ground of Windsor in two disciplines. Their test was impressive, mistake free with clear progress and improved consistency. Louise finished with a huge smile…which quickly turned into a sigh of relief that Dynamo had managed to contain his exuberance! They posted 70.6% which is huge for the pairing to break that magic score internationally.
It was then the turn of our two Irish visitors and as three time Olympian Heike Holstein entered with her own Sambuca, the heavens opened and the rain got heavier and heavier, less than ideal. At just ten, Sambuca is relatively new to Grand Prix but there were some strong moments form the Samarant sired mare which the judges rewarded alongside some green ones but 70.37% is a new Grand Prix PB in only their fifth international together.
The rain just got heavier and heavier for Dane Rawlins and Espoire and they didn’t look to be enjoying their task. Dane used all his experience and determination to get through for an extremely respectable 66.6%. In his own unique style, he joked by doing breast stroke as he exited the arena, showing a sense of humour to the end. He darted off and get changed ahead of coaching the Hickstead Young Rider Quadrille who are performing an eightsome reel as part of the Windsor Pageant later – let’s hope the rain eases off.
So the victor was Charlotte Dujardin as it was in 2017 but this time with catch ride Erlentanz. Afterwards she said; “It’s only our third Grand Prix together and we’re still getting to know each other. I’m really pleased; he tried is heart out and I can’t ask for more than that.”
Second place went to Carl Hester and crowd pleaser Nip Tuck who described his ride as ‘careful and precise’ while Richard Davison completed the podium of Brits with Bubblingh and Louise Bell and Into the Blue fourth to complete domination of the top placings by the home nation.
The Al Shira’aa Freetyle takes place in the Castle Arena tomorrow night – tickets are still available or you can watch via the website www.rwhs.co.uk – just click on the Windsor TV link.