LeMieux Nationals 2021: day three
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A bumper crowd was treated to a fantastic day's sport bathed in sunshine at Somerford Park in Cheshire for day three of the 2021 LeMieux National Championships.
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver
Winner: Nick Lawson and IceBlue Valentino, 67.763%
Under glorious morning skies at Somerford, the inaugural Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver was claimed today by Nick Lawson and IceBlue Valentino.
This thrilling national final was nip and tuck, with the top three all within one percent of each other; however, Nick, a rider and trainer from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, performed a lovely test aboard 19-year-old IceBlue Valentino (by Harlem) to earn 67.76% for the win. Emma Jablonski and Higgens Van De Uilenhoek (67.57%) and Georgina Howard with Lovely Illusion (67.07%) put up a magnificent fight, but it wasn’t quite enough to catch the leader.
A delighted Nick said afterwards, “I’m really pleased with how he [IceBlue Valentino] went today - he carried me forward, which was really useful and meant we could get some really good quality of work. The pirouettes were a highlight, and the two-tempi changes, so I’m really pleased.”
Nick, who runs a busy and successful training and livery yard just outside Bridgnorth, only started riding the horse this year and this is only the fifth Inter I he’s done on him. “I’m really pleased with our progress,” he said. “In preparation for the Nationals we really focused on both our fitness and suppleness and keeping it moving forwards that way.” – a strategy that’s clearly paid off.
Describing the charming black gelding, Nick says, “He [Ice Blue Valentino] is a diamond, he’s a yard favourite; gentle, honest and just a nice horse.”
Of Somerford he added, “The venue’s great, the Nationals have got a really good opportunity to develop here.”
BETTALIFE Novice Silver
Winner: Georgie Nicholls and Woodcroft Kika Quina, 73.827%
The 2021 edition of the LeMieux National Championships may be a debut one for Georgie Nicholls (19) but what an impact she has made this week! Following her Equitop Elementary Silver victory yesterday with Katie Haigh’s Woodcroft Kika Quina, the pair returned to the winners’ circle this afternoon after claiming the BETTALIFE Novice Silver Championship with a score of 73.827%.
‘Luna’, as the six-year-old Johnson x Rohdiamant mare is known, was bought by owner Katie to ride in para dressage once she’s classified, so Georgie is just giving her experience in the meantime. And she continues to impress.
“As always she gave me 100% - it’s such an amazing feeling when a horse does that,” said Georgie. “She’s so consistent, we’re so proud of her. She didn’t arena walk but went in there and didn’t look left or right – she just loves her job. I just ride the test and she does what she wants.
“I adore her,” she continued. “But it’s always been the intention for her to go to Katie – I’ve just had the best time riding her. She’ll make a lovely horse for Katie. We’re not sure when she will take her over but at the moment I think she’s enjoying being an owner. It’s a lovely support group at Headmore so we’re all just having a lovely time.”
Lucyanna Westaway from Cranleigh in Surrey rocketed into second with Sarah-Jane Cox’s eight-year-old Keystone Rocketman (72.346%) while third place went to Matthew Procter (17) and AB Kensington on 72.037%.
British Dressage 7YO Championship
Winner: Becky Moody and Jagerbomb, 76.205%
Becky Moody got day three off to a flying start, winning the British Dressage Seven Year Old Championship with Jagerbomb, scoring 76.205%.
As the sun streamed down on the LeMieux Arena on Saturday morning, the first ever Seven Year Old Championship took place at the LeMieux Nationals in a class that saw Becky finish in both first and third place, her other horse being Jack Diamond.
On the first of five tests that Becky rode today, she said: “Jagerbomb has had a busy show – the PSG and the Freestyle – and he’s surpassed all expectations. He was fantastic in the small tour but a little tired this morning. He’s a big horse and if I’m honest, he was a bit dull and a little boring as a young horse but he’s really been really cool with the big tour work and the more he’s doing, the hotter he’s getting. I really think he’s a legend.”
Although only seven years old, Jagerbomb and Becky are no strangers to Championship arenas, having placed second in the Elementary Gold at the 2019 LeMieux National Championships and third in the Advanced Medium Gold NAF Five Star Winter Championships. On her expectations for this week, Becky said “I really didn’t know how he’d do – he’s so green at the level and Prix St Georges for a seven year old is a big ask. I only ride him two or three at the most times a week and the rest of the time he just hacks because he’s so chilled about life and I’m really conscious I don’t over do it with him.”
Second place went to Calum Whitworth and Damaris S who scored 73.055%. Becky and Jagerbomb are back in action for the final day of the LeMieux Nationals in the Andrews Bowen Advanced Medium Gold Championship.
TopSpec Medium Gold
Winner: Becky Moody and Jack Diamond, 73.027%
Already a winner this morning, piloting Jagerbomb to the seven-year-old title, Becky Moody added another success to her stellar day with a decisive win in the TopSpec Medium Gold with the fabulous Jack Diamond (Electron x Diamond Hit), also seven.
Owned by Jo Cooper, Jack Diamond is a handsome Electron x Diamond Hit gelding bought through Rebecca Dudley as a three-year-old. Competing in his second round of the day (he was third to his stablemate in the young horse championship earlier), he presented a super Medium test for 73.027% from judges Fiona Lace, Jane Critchley, Felicity Scott, Claire Deithrick and Steph Cooper.
“Jack Diamond couldn’t be more different to Jagermeister [Jagerbomb],” said Becky. “He’s a completely different horse. He is incredibly naturally talented, very big moving, quite tall but physically weak.
“This has been his first season competing and I was a little sad about his seven-year-old test as I thought he could have smashed it but we had a couple of issues. But then he was really cool in this Medium Gold – though a little tired as they were only an hour apart. It wasn’t his best test but he’s such a talented horse that even then he gets 73%. I really hope that in the future he will be an 80% horse.
“Being honest, for two years I couldn’t get him on the bit, I really struggled with him,” admitted Becky. “Six months ago I was ready to give up on him and admit it wasn’t working. I decided to start on the piaffe and passage and he found a different balance and way of going. He gives me the most phenomenal feel sometimes.”
Becky won’t be travelling home to Yorkshire quite yet as Jack Diamond is in action tomorrow in the Elementary Gold and Jagerbomb in the Advanced Medium Gold. Plus she has two rides in the Grand Prix Freestyle.
Second place went to New Zealand-born Sarah Wilkinson with her beautiful Desperado x Johnson six-year-old, Koko II (71.811%), with Jennifer Johnston-Harman and Dance with me Fürst MFS (Follow Me x Del Piero), also six, taking third (71.676%).
LeMieux Grand Prix Gold
Winner: Gareth Hughes with KK Dominant, 73.34%
After a year’s hiatus, with Hartpury taking the title on board for a Christmas special, the LeMieux Grand Prix Championships returned to the National Championships – with the added bonus of a special new home and atmosphere to boot.
In a field packed with team and nations cup riders, the Somerford crowds were treated to a stunning morning of competition in the late September sunshine. Fresh from success in Hagen at the European Championships, team medalist and Tokyo reserve Gareth Hughes took centre stage and the winners spoils with the Kroll family’s KK Dominant. Their supreme performance for 73.34% made their first placing unanimous amongst the Grand Prix judges panel, Peter Storr, Kirsty Mepham, Andrea Smith, Clive Halsall, Jo Graham.
“I’m really pleased,” Gareth praised his winning ride after celebrating a lap of honour in the LeMieux arena, “he’s a lovely little stallion who’s been Grand Prix a few years but unfortunately with what’s been happening over the last 18 months with Covid and then Tokyo and the Europeans, ‘Danny’ has had to take a bit of a back seat.”
Despite Gareth’s packed calendar, the missing 2021 mileage on the 12 year old gelding by Diamond Hit and out of a Rubin Royal mare served little negative effect. The pair’s average marks throughout the test barely dipped below 7, with highlights in the canter piriouettes, extensions and centre lines. “He’s done one Grand Prix this year at Wellington and they I’ve been away most of the summer but he’s gone in there and been a star. He tries so hard; this year its quite hard as as riders we can see the score which isn’t always helpful but you know what you’ve got to do.
With these horses you’re aiming for a clean test and when you get that, you know where you’re sitting. I knew he had a good chance of getting the score he did and if we came here today and get it, where that left him in the class was a win for him.”
Gareth showed much of the team spirit that has earned him both success and respect in the industry, stating: “I can’t do this without the team behind me – I’m just the shop window – never has it been more so. My wife Rebecca, daughter Ruby, our head girl Steph, Angharad, Paige…there’s so many who make it happen.”
Second place went to Emile Faurie with Theodora Livanos’ seasoned star Dono Di Maggio, the successful pairing completing their Grand Prix on 71.32%. Whilst Somerford’s golden girl on super Saturday, Becky Moody, rounded out an impressive podium with 70.62% for her smart test on board Famke PF (Houston x Cabochon).
The top three amongst the judges was mirrored by an informed audience, with the scores almost identical. Download the Spectator Judging App to get involved with tomorrow’s LeMieux Arena action.
Tomorrow Gareth, Emile and Becky, plus the rest of the strong field, take to the centre line for the Arika Grand Prix Freestyle looking to claim not just the music title, but the LeMieux National Champion crown. Today’s victor Gareth concluded with a nod to his Freestyle performance, “He did the music at Wellington to one of my old musics which really suits him so I’ll be riding to that tomorrow – it’s fun to ride to so we’ll drag that out tomorrow and see how we go!”
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle Gold
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, 78.625%
Day three of the Nationals…title number four for Charlotte Dujardin and Imhotep, owned by Carl Hester and Coral Ingham as today they were crowned Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Supreme Champions. The impressive chestnut has certainly inherited bounce, stamina and expression from his sire, Lottie Fry’s Olympic partner, Everdale and show no signs of fatigue to today – only a willingness to perform in what was his first ever Inter I Freestyle appearance. A mistake in the first line of two time changes was rectified later with a clean set to give the duo a score of 78.625%.
“Pete is on fire!” exclaimed Charlotte. “Considering he’s done three tests, I thought he might come out a little bit tired, but absolutely not, he’s still full of energy and bouncing his way round. I was so happy with him, that’s the first time he’s done an Inter I Freestyle so I was really pleased with him. I had a little mistake in the twos but I managed to get another line in in the end. I’m just absolutely thrilled with him to be honest. I’m just so excited for next year. I’ll play with him through the winter. He doesn’t struggle with anything but I just need to work on the ones. I’m up to eight at the moment – he’s got such big changes and trying to compress them to fit them in has been a challenge but we’re nearly there.”
Carl has earmarked this horse as a potential for the Paris Games in 2024 and if he can continue his small tour prowess into Grand Prix, he may just be on the money.
The small but prolific Hawtins Stud and Judith Davis continued their great few days at Somerford with a runners up spot for Lucinda Elliot and Hawtins Duchessa (Decamerone x Don Frederico) on 75.425% while Andrew Gould produced a magical freestyle with Genie, the Zhivago x Sandro Hit stallion owned by Tatiana Milne-Skillman.
Photos: © Kevin Sparrow