Dujardin and Gio ExCel in London
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Charlotte Dujardin and Gio delivered a sensational personal best performance tonight to win the Freestyle at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Qualifier, supported by Horse & Hound, held at the London International Horse Show, Excel London. Lottie Fry impressed yet again and all Brits finished inside the top ten.
The London leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Western European League may have been under a different roof whilst Olympia undergoes renovations, but the atmosphere and Christmas vibe was as pumped as ever. Those who travelled to the Docklands venue, as well as those watching from home, were treated to a thrilling evening of competition.
Charlotte and ‘Pumpkin’ concluded their fantastic 2021 in the best style at this iconic Christmas show. Adding to yesterday’s decisive win in the FEI World Cup shortened Grand Prix, Charlotte and the diminutive chestnut gelding hit the ball out of the park with a phenomenal freestyle for 89.040%.
The judging panel of Peter Storr (GBR) at E, Susanne Baarup (DEN) at H, Stephen Clarke (GBR) at C, Raphael Saleh (FRA) at M and Eduard de Wolf van Westerrode (NED) at B duly declared them unanimous winners.
Ten-year-old Gio (Apache x Tango), now owned by Sarah Pidgley, had until yesterday never been exposed to an indoor competition of this calibre, but again he took it in his stride with his trademark enthusiasm and charisma. Charlotte and ‘pocket rocket’ Gio, who stands just 16hh, presented another performance of energy, poise and power showing incredible connection through the body.
“Riding with such a huge crowd behind you, I’ve actually forgotten what it’s like,” said Charlotte after the prize-giving. “To go in there and just feel that buzz is amazing. Gio has never done an indoor show and not done anything with those vibes. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.
“He’s been amazing this year; he’s done his first Olympics, his first Europeans and then to finish the year like this. He’s come on so quickly,” she continued. “To finish my year with two personal bests in that atmosphere is extraordinary. You can’t create that sort of atmosphere, except for riding in it. He definitely proved what sort of horse he really is as he took it on like a real showman.”
Charlotte’s Tokyo teammate, Lottie Fry once again showed her maturity and class to place second with her own and Van Olst Horses’ Dark Legend (Zucchero x Tango). Riding to their new-this-year freestyle programme, ‘Let me take you dancing’, the Yorkshire-born 25-year-old gave a masterclass of precision riding, balance and musicality. Two-time changes into one-time changes on a turning line were stunning, as were canter half passes into pirouettes into half pass. Aside from a loss of rhythm in one of the right pirouettes, the test was immense.
Contemporary music and a well-executed high degree of difficulty was rewarded with 81.945%. “It was incredible in there,” said Lottie afterwards. “Even before you start your test they’re cheering for you – it’s an insane feeling.
“It’s so quiet when you’re riding your test,” she continued. “You can hear a pin drop but as soon as you finish, everyone is just so happy for you. This year couldn’t have ended any better, it’s really insane – the perfect end to this amazing year.”
London regular, Frederic Wandres (34), and his aptly-named ride Duke of Britain FRH (Dimaggio x Rubinstein I) were another combination to break the 80% barrier. An Olympia winner in 2018, the young German sporting his trademark bow tie and riding to a compilation of well-known British pop classics delivered a super test for third place. A couple of glitches in the changes was costly for the pair but an overall cracking test was awarded 80.260% for the third place behind Dujardin and Fry.
“I’m very happy to have come here – all the paperwork to get here has been challenging but I really wanted to come as I have such special memories of London,” said Frederic. “To be so close to both Charlottes is great, I’m really happy with my horse.”
It was exciting to see all seven of the British riders taking spots in the top ten. Richard Davison and 15-year-old Bubblingh, a duo long-listed for Tokyo, showed their class to finish tantalisingly close to the top three on 76.910%. The athletic, Lingh-sired gelding, who is out of Richard’s former team ride, Ballaseyr Royale, tried his heart out. Ridden with great calm and tact by Richard throughout their popular Gangsta’s Paradise routine, they left the arena to lively applause from the appreciative home crowd.
Also very much in the frame was the super-smart pairing of Lara Butler and Kristjan. They held the lead going into the break, showing great expression and fluency throughout their Scottish-themed programme. A score of 76.305% put them fifth.
Hayley Watson-Greaves and Rubins Nite were happy to be back on the World Cup circuit after Hayley’s recent time out to become a new mum. The experienced campaigners, who are no strangers to London, earned a score of 75.875% for eventual sixth place.
Gareth Hughes and KK Dominant, hot on Hayley’s heels, posted 75.845% for seventh whilst Louise Bell and Into the Blue took ninth with 73.215%
1. Charlotte Dujardin and Gio, 89.040% (GBR)
2. Charlotte Fry and Dark Legend, 81.945% (GBR)
3. Frederic Wandres and Duke of Britain FRH, 80.260% (GER)
4. Richard Davison and Bubblingh, 76.910% (GBR)
5. Lara Butler and Kristjan, 76.305% (GBR)
6. Hayley Watson-Greaves and Rubins Nite, 75.875% (GBR)
7. Gareth Hughes and KK Dominant, 75.845% (GBR)
8. Alejandro Asencio Mendez and Focus, 73.775% (ESP)
9. Louise Bell and Into the Blue, 73.215% (GBR)
10. Tommie Visser and Genesis Begijnhoeve, 73.095% (NED)
11. Agusti Elias Lara and Altaneiro, 71.725% (ESP)
12. Caroline Chew and Tribiani, 70.160% (SGP)
13. Theodora Livanos and Dono di Maggio OLD, 64.025% (GRE)
14. Dane Rawlins and Espoire, 64.005% (IRL)
EL. Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Atterupgaards Orthilia (DEN)
Photo © Jon Stroud