Hughes and Briolinca wow under the Rotterdam lights
- Written By:
It was a battle royale in the first opportunity for individual dressage medals in the Grand Prix Special this evening at the Longines FEI European Championships. With the Germans on fire this week, few would take a bet against them making a clean sweep of the medals on offer.
First to go for the British was Lottie Fry riding Dark Legend, whom she co owns with her employers, Van Olst Horses and they were in determined mood. It was a beautiful evening in Rotterdam with the daylight beginning to fade in favour of the floodlights and the crowd were in boisterous mood, typically Dutch as they love their dressage.
Darkie was cheeky to start by not standing for more than a millisecond but Lottie is clever with him and moved on into the first extended where she maintained a good rhythm and continued in that vein throughout with some well ridden transitions in the numerous changes of pace within pace. They did manage to halt fully at the end – Lottie winning that battle on this occasion. 73.81% was the score which left her among the leaders at the time.
He was a bit more on his toes tonight than yesterday – he’s never ridden with noise in an arena like that and I’m really happy with the way he coped,” said Lottie. “Doing Aachen was great preparation though. His trot work felt really amazing but there’s nothing in the test that I wasn’t pleased with.”
She was asked how her first senior championship was going; “It’s exciting, it’s still not really sunk in that I’m here. I love the atmosphere and Darkie will learn to love it too!” she joked.
Carl Hester has felt under the weather since arriving in the Netherlands but an early night gave him just the boost needed to wake in determined mood to aim for a top ten finish and even a hunger for a medal.
As the daylight finally faded and the floodlights took hold, Carl entered after a break to a crowd still settling in their seats with Ann Cory, Lady Anne Evans and his own British bred Hawtins Delicato. Despite the ruckus, Del appeared settled and focused on his rider. Everything flowed beautifully as every trademark Hester test does and the marks piled in.
The piaffe looked secure with just a bit of hesitation in the transitions out in to passage but this will come with more strength, he is just 11 after all. He nailed the tricky canter strike off and then gave a clean line of two time changes for an average of 8.4 but sadly the ones weren’t clean…a missed change was spotted but didn’t put them out of their rhythm and they quickly recovered but the damage was done.. average of 4.1 which dragged down the score. This was rectified however with the ones on the centreline which earned 8.5. It looked promising – perhaps not a PB with the error in the ones – but not far off. The score was confirmed as 77.5% which looked like it would give him the top ten placing he hoped for.
Carl was very happy with a job well done. “He was totally rideable tonight. He halted, he piaffed…and I actually rode out of them as I had my instructions to do so. I really have to focus on the positives tonight and now keep up this moment to improve my ranking – I want to be back in the top ten. He now needs to get out there more so the judges have the confidence to give him the marks he deserves.”
Then it was Gareth Hughes as the final Brit with Classic Briolinca, owned by Julia Hornig, Rebecca Hughes and Gareth and the mare looked a picture as she glided around to the back drop of a rendition of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’. Plenty of eights flowed for elegant and athletic work; the Special really suiting the Trento B 13 year old. As the test built, so did the marks with a great deal of passage, Briolinca’s party piece. He was approaching the then leaders score…just a loss of rhythm in the final extended trot was the only negative and as they came to a halt, the crowd knew it was close and 78.08% was confirmed. It was a new lifetime best score for Gareth!
A stunned Gareth (pictured top) said; “This just doesn’t happen…not to me… At home, you ride, you train, you question your ability. You then go up the steps of riding internationally, being on teams but to finish in the top ten at a Championship is something else. It’s so special to be doing this on this mare. She’s been with us since a three year old when my wife Rebecca spotted her and we’ve had our fair share of issues. It’s tough in there, we’re judged on every step and I’m not a big name but this has just been a dream. She tried her heart out in there, even though she had never been in an atmosphere like that before, under floodlights and with so much noise. This is the stuff dreams are made of, and I couldn’t believe that score.”
In the end, Isabell Werth claimed her 19th European gold medal of her career with Bella Rose on 86.53% while fellow country woman Dorothy Schneider finished second on 85.46% after leading for a great deal of the class with Showtime FRH. Denmark’s Catherine Dufour secured bronze with Atterupgaard’s Cassidy.
It’s a rest day for the dressage riders before the Freestyle finale on Saturday and the top 15 go through from this evening, Gareth and Carl included.