Dujardin dazzles in London
- Written By:
It was a bright and early start for the qualifying FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix, supported by Horse & Hound, to open the London International Horse Show at its new home at ExCel London and a high quality display of dressage awaited those up to watch the action unfold.
Riding the latest shortened Grand Prix test, British duo Gareth Hughes and the Diamond Hit x Rubin Royal stallion KK Dominant, owned by Martin, Claudine and Jessica Kroll, lead the way through the early stages with a mark 69.605%. ‘Danny’ is still relatively new to the larger competition, this being only his fifth international Grand Prix ride, but has clearly benefited from his competitions this autumn with his strength and consistency showing.
London regulars Richard Davison and the homebred Bubblingh (Lingh x Picandt) whom he jointly owns with Gwendolyn Meyer, then posted the first 70% + score of the class to take prime position with a well ridden 71.526%.
It was then the turn of the combination many of the spectators had turned up to see, Charlotte Dujardin and Sarah Pidgley’s Gio. When news came through that this crowd-pleasing pair were set to be reunited to compete at ExCel, it was a welcome early Christmas treat. Their performance today didn’t disappoint as the pocket rocket ‘Pumpkin’ lit up the arena with his boundless energy and enthusiasm for his work.
They started full of confidence from the get-go and a super first halt was followed by powerful trot half passes to the left and right. Their piaffe and passage tour showed almost metronome-like rhythm and was super expressive. The canter zig-zag was a pleasure and two Dujardin-trademark canter pirouettes followed, which the judges rewarded highly. A flourish for the final line boosted the marks, which trended at 80%+ for much of the test, to bring one of their best performances together to an end. The final score was announced as 82.553%, a new personal best for them and a commanding lead.
The next main challenger came in the form of Lottie Fry and her 2019 Senior European Championship partner, Dark Legend, who she jointly owns with Van Olst Horses. They started with a super extended trot and showed great reach in their left and right half passes. There was some tension which caused a loss of rhythm in the piaffe but this was quickly put behind them to start to pile up the marks with a well-balanced canter zig zag and confident two time changes. The final centre line piaffe again proved costly to just restrict the marks but 74.52.% was enough for second.
Former British team ride of Fiona Bigwood, Atterupgaards Orthilia was up next with new rider Nanna Skodborg Merrald for Denmark. ‘Tilly’ is back to her best following some time away from competing and 75.105% rocketed them into second place ahead of Lottie.
The final combination to go have tasted London success previously but could they better Charlotte’s huge total? British-bred Duke of Britain (Dimaggio x Rubinstein) and Frederic Wandres gave it their all but the final tally of 75.158% wasn’t enough to take the win but it did edge them ahead of Nanna to take runner-up spot.
After the prize-giving, Charlotte said; “I was absolutely over the moon. This is Gio’s first indoor show, he hasn’t had the general public in warm-ups and there’s a lot going on. Going in that arena, it’s huge – he’s not really done anything like that before. He’s only really done the Olympics and the Europeans this year and I’ve had to up his game very, very quickly. I said to Alan [Davies, groom] after I came out that I could really feel how he’s grown up. He went out there, he did the test and I didn’t feel like I had to hold his hand through it. He felt much more secure in everything, much stronger in it all and he really delivered the test – I was really, really happy.”
Speaking of the change in venue for the show, Charlotte said; “It’s not quite the same, I’m not going to lie. London Olympia was always the show where, because it was so compact, everything was so small and on top of you, and it’s what made it feel so special. This is, again, a super show, a super venue – they’ve done an incredible job and there’s so much more space. The arena’s still fantastic, you still go down the same tunnel chute into the arena, and they’ve kept it all very similar. I think it’s just something to get used to now – it’s a change but they’ve done a fantastic job.”
All 15 combinations qualified for tomorrow night’s showcase FEI Dressage World Cup™ Freestyle under the spotlights at ExCel. The class will be shown live on the BBC Red Button with commentary from Steven Wilde and Bobby Hayler-Wright.
Photo © Jon Stroud Media