LeMieux Championships: Dujardin dashes into lead
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Day one at the LeMieux National Grand Prix Championships yielded first class dressage from Britain's elite with newcomers and familiar faces bringing their A-game for one last shot at glory in 2020.
From his appearance at the British Dressage National Convention, Dan Greenwood took an early lead with Juliet Leighton’s Chevalier-O. Showing strong trot extensions, lovely rhythm and balance and flowing half passes in both paces, their effort from first in the class was rewarded with 67.60%. Strong performances followed from Paul Friday and Steph Croxford, with Grand Prix National Championship debutant Dannie Morgan also enjoying a pleasing test with his own Southern Cross Braemar.
Emerging Grand Prix riders Megan Ingham and Jess Dunn showed two promising tests at the start of the second group, before Becky Moody with her own and Julie Lockey’s Carinsio claimed the lead from early front runner Dan. The elegant bay gelding showed plenty of class with 67.78% the reward. The last combination to go in the second group, Lisa Marriott and Valucio, were just a handful of marks behind finishing with 67.66% after some great work just held back by a few small mistakes.
A competitive third group saw three new leaders in quick succession as Britain’s leading ladies came forward at full tilt. Continuing her recent spate of strong form Amy Woodhead presented a delightful test with Emma Blundell’s Mount St John Kom Fairytale to take the temporary top spot with 69.38%, before Kate Cowell and Samba Dancer showed some classy steps to be the first duo to break to 70% barrier. Charlotte Dujardin and her first ride of the day, the delectable Gio, produced a routine full of power, precision and punchy energy to earn an impressive 79.10% , propelling them onto the top step of the podium.
The evergreen WG Rubins Nite made a welcome return to the LeMieux arena with Hayley Watson-Greaves proving the partnership’s style with a solid 69.18%. Nicola Buchanan, Becky Moody and Nikki Barker also earned promising scores in the fourth group, the strength and depth in Britain’s Grand Prix players ever-present.
The final group of the day produced an outstanding array of scores and tests from some of the brightest team talents. Ten time National Champion Carl Hester gave Charlotte Dujardin's rising star En Vogue a super ride, with the judges rewarding both the horse’s raw talent and the rider’s experience and skill with 77.10%. Sonnar Murray-Brown notched up 74.86% with his own Erlentanz, and Emile Faurie with 2018 WEG partner Dono Di Maggio, owned by Theodora Livanos, followed suit on 74.18%. Last combination to go Lara Butler and Ursula Bechtolsheirmer and Laura Tomlinson's Rubin Al Asad scored 72.36%, whilst Laura Tomlinson riding her own and Ursula Bechtolsheimer's Rose of Bavaria inspired for 75.86%.
A strong final group saw Charlotte Dujardin come forward with Emma Blundell's Mount St John Freestyle, whose experience and talent sparkled resulting in a magical performance in the LeMieux arena. Flowing extensions, half passes oozing ground cover and freedom, powerful piaffe, passage and flying changes delivered a phenomenal 83.04% for the pair.
Fifteen fabulous combinations now go forward to tomorrow Horse Health Grand Prix Freestyle Championships, times and details to follow.
Thanks go to generous title sponsors LeMieux, Horse & Country and Hartpury Arena for a day of dressage full of Christmas spirit and high quality sport. We apologise to those who experienced difficulties with the live stream - we're working with the external teams to have it perfect tomorrow. H&C has agreed to put today's LeMieux Grand Prix up on the website for all to catch up for free until the end of the year.
Photos: c Kevin Sparrow