LeMieux Nationals 2023: day three
- Written By:
Super Saturday at the LeMieux Nationals produced a first-rate day of competition, with the showground atmosphere buzzing as Britain's top riders stepped into the arenas for the day's titles.
LeMieux Grand Prix Gold
Winner: Carl Hester and En Vogue, 76.73%
At a sun-bathed Somerford Park, spectators took to their seats for a thrilling morning of competition as a high-class field, packed with team and nations cup riders, came forward for the 2023 LeMieux Grand Prix Gold Championship. Fresh from the FEI European Championships in Riesenbeck, team gold medallist Carl Hester MBE took centre stage and the winner’s sash with his Tokyo and 2021 European Championships ride, En Vogue. Their sensational performance for 76.73% made them the unanimous victors amongst the Grand Prix judges panel of Andrea Smith (E), Denmark’s Christine Prip (H), Stephen Clarke (C), Clive Halsall (M) and Sandy Phillips (B).
British-based Australian, Jayden Brown set the early standard posting 70.95% with the Quaterback x Desperados nine-year-old, Willinga Park Quincy B, holding the lead going into the second break. First to go in the third group of riders, 2018 National Champion, Lara Butler put a score of 70.13% on the table, this time with Ursula Bechtolsheimer and Laura Tomlinson’s 18-year-old Kristjan to go into second.
Becky Moody and Jagerbomb who, last month, moved into the top 50 of the FEI world rankings and were selected as a reserve combination for the British team in Riesenbeck, showed their potential to post 72.00% and go into the lead after their impressive performance. Jagerbomb has so many strengths and a confidence that belies his nine years. Certainly a bright prospect for the future.
Next up was Carl with En Vogue (Jazz x Contango), who he co-owns with Sandra Biddlecombe, Charlotte Dujardin and Lady Anne Evans. En Vogue, now 14, was a direct reserve for last week’s European Championships in Riesenbeck, where Carl rode the Bigwood family’s Fame on our gold-winning British team. Today, however, was En Vogue’s turn to shine.
After a slightly tentative start, the sensitive and powerful gelding grew in confidence as the performance progressed under the masterful guidance of Carl. Showing a winning piaffe-passage tour, expressive changes as straight as a die, superb canter pirouettes, including a 10 awarded for the one to the right, the performance concluded with a flawless final centre line.
With Carl at the top of the leaderboard and Becky sitting second, Lewis Carrier (26) and Diego V (by Spielberg), last combination to go, delivered a strong test to earn 71.37% for third place.
“It was a fairly clean test and he hasn't been out for a while,” commented Carl afterwards. “The best bit about the National Championships is it signals the end of the season. It’s always something to look forward to and I was looking forward to him (En Vogue) having something to do. At the Europeans, Fame got all the glory that he deserved, but I felt Vogue has been equal pegging all year.
“I feel he's really improved this year,” continued Carl. “He's 14 years old, but this year has probably been the best he’s gone over his career. He's just more relaxed, easier and happier about situations like this. It was amazing to see such a big crowd and there was a nice atmosphere in there, which is lovely. It feels like one of the biggest National Championship crowds we've experienced for many years, so that was nice.
“As far as my test went, he was a little bit nervous going down the centre line, and then he settled into it. The best bit about Vogue’s tests really is the canter work - it’s so secure and strong. That's where he picks up all his eights and nines and his pirouettes were brilliant today. There's a lot of double marks in there and he did those so well, so I was really, really happy with it. It was a pleasure to ride.”
Immediately after arriving home from Riesenbeck, Carl was making final preparations for Somerford; “There was no turnaround for me because we drove home on Sunday night. Charlotte was flying back home Monday, because she was there with the baby. So I got home at three o'clock in the morning, had six horses to ride on Monday morning and four lessons to teach. This week as well, the people I help have needed some extra lessons here for the championships, so I haven't stopped yet. But it’s fine because I'm going on holiday next week and I’ve just got that in the back of my head.
“We came back [from Riesenbeck] on a high and it would be easy to think that coming here would be a low, but Vogue deserves this just as much. I've just had to make sure that I was prepared and give him his best chance – this was my end of season goal.”
British Dressage is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Have you a particular highlight from the past 25 years of competing at the Nationals? "It’s always been my showcase. The past 10 or 15 years I’ve only competed at Grand Prix level - I tend to give all the other horses to Charlotte (Dujardin) and Lucy (Scudamore), my head girl. Lucy’s riding my six-year-old in the Novice Silver. I've always said the past 15 years has been about giving those who work for me chances, so I've only really done Grand Prix. The highlight of my Nationals career would probably be about 20 years ago when I think I had nine or 10 horses here.
“I had to ride nine or 10 a day over the three days, as it was then, and it was just such a great time. I just spent more time in the ring waving and galloping around and it was great fun - and staying in the lorry and parties every night. And there was a lovely horse I had, Legal Democrat, that won three National Grand Prix titles in a row. That was my aim in those days - to get National Champion. Now, to come back here and have a go at a National title again is exciting for me. It’s great to bring the horses here and I love to support the British shows."
And how does En Vogue compare to Fame? “What Vogue struggles with, because he’s very tense, is his rein-back, but today he’s done the best rein-back he’s ever done - which surprised me - but his walk does get quite hot because he’s thinking about what happens next.
“Fame just has that slight edge over him on that technical side, but they're both brilliant with a great work ethic. They're not horses you just get on and go ‘Oh I'm going go and do a Grand Prix’. You need to get out, you need to train them a bit in the morning and not work, just let them look at wherever they like and get relaxation, and I work that into their tests. They're talented, brilliant horses, so I couldn't pick which one I prefer to ride because they just both have the same work ethic, which is ‘let me do it, let me do it.’ And it's wonderful because it's just a question of steering and calming, which is how I like to ride, it suits me.”
It’s all to play for going into tomorrow’s Kudos Grand Prix Freestyle Gold as riders compete for the 68th National Champion title.
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver Championship
Winner: Alice Knight and SJL Dom Perignon, 67.73%
Alice Knight and SJL Dom Perignon rose to the top in the hotly contested Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Silver Championship with a score of 67.73%, closely followed by Sarah Heath and Feuertanz in second place with 67.41% and third placed Emily Perry riding Dondersteen on 67.20%. Remarkably, the top three were separated by less than one percent.
Nationals first-timer Alice told us about her experience at Somerford Park which saw her leave the arena with the Saracen sash, “it’s been amazing, it’s so organised, lovely facilities and we’re so lucky to have this as a venue that we can compete at in the country.”
The Billingshurt-based rider was full of emotion speaking about her win, “I can’t believe it, I came here and I wanted to do my best with my horse, not expecting anything so I'm shocked and so happy.” The thirteen-year-old SJL Dom Perigon (Hauptstutbuch Recianna x Don Primus) went beautifully in the scenic atmosphere of the Vector Arena, as Alice described her test: “He was amazing, so rideable, sometimes I struggle with him being a bit hot and excited. But today he was so with me and I could really ask all the questions needed. Obviously there's still lots to work on but his extended canter is definitely a big highlight, it comes out across the arena, it’s very unexpected.” Not only that but also his canter pirouettes stood out to the judges, “he’s so adjustable within his paces, so quick to extend and collect.”
The superstar duo have achieved much in such a short amount of time, having only been a partnership for 18 months. Alice prepared for the Championships with coach Vicki Thompson, “she comes to us regularly for lessons and based in West Sussex, so it works well.” Alice and her family are also located in West Sussex where alongside her mother and sister she has recently started her own business, “it’s a dressage yard in West Sussex, I’ve literally just started that and hopefully it will continue to grow.”
The future looks bright for this new combination as they look to progress further up the levels, “throughout the winter I’d love to train towards Inter II and contest some Premier Leagues at that level, long term I’d love to get him to U25s but we’ll see how it goes.”
BETTALIFE Novice Silver Championship
Winner: Katie Alexandra Scott, 74.555%
It was two titles in two days for Katie Alexandra Scott as she continued to take her first ever National Championships by storm, topping the 35-strong BETTALIFE Novice Silver class with an impressive 74.555%.
Beating her score from yesterday by over two percent, Katie described her second win of the week as “the dream. Everybody's been crying. Everybody's been drinking champagne. Who would have thought at my first National Championships we would take two National titles. I don't think it’s sunk in yet.”
Backed by Greg Sims, ‘Junior’, as he’s known at home, is described by Katie as “a bit wilful sometimes to train but I think that's what makes him so cool. He goes in the arena and he's got a massive heart and he just keeps giving. Everyone looks forward to seeing his face in the morning.”
Katie was surrounded by her ‘entourage’ of family supporting her during the prize giving and said it is a full team effort, with her partner even being responsible for naming Liverpool KS, after Liverpool football team “I come from a non horsey family. I've worked super hard to get some nice horses. And it's just amazing. I've built up a really strong support team around me of people who believe in me, and obviously I couldn't do it without them. Because when I think I can't do it, they're the people that tell me I can.”
Katie will be making her third appearance of the week on the final day of the LeMieux Nationals in the KBIS Young Horse 4 Year Old Championship. In second place was Lucy Scudamore and River Rise Atomic with 73.074%, with Charlotte Monk and First Class V finishing third with 72.852%.
Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Gold Freestyle Championship
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Times Kismet, 80.575%
Taking her fourth win of the week, Charlotte Dujardin completed the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Gold Freestyle Championships triple crown with a win in the Freestyle delivering her the Supreme Champion title. In front of Fiona Wilson, Pam Bushell, Jenny Ward, Sarah Leitch and Leanne Wall, Charlotte rode Peter Belshaw’s Ampere-sired talent to 80.757%, recording the first 80% score of the championships.
The extended trot was a real highlight of the test, achieving no fewer than three 9s from the judges; whilst there were also high marks for the lateral work, with both the trot and canter half passes pleasing the panel. There were 23 marks over an 8 for the combination’s artistic marks as Charlotte presented a picture of harmony and opted for elegant tunes to suit her light-footed, modern mare.
For the Freestyle placings, it was Becky Moody and the superb James Bond II to take second place with 76.82%, whilst Michael Eilberg notched up 76.225% for third with Nicky Hannam’s MSJ Encore (Escolar x Caprimond). Sadie Smith climbed to second place in the overall Supreme rankings, following two super consistent +75% performances.
TopSpec Medium Gold
Winner: Becky Moody and Magic Dream, 76.21%
The TopSpec Medium Gold Championship promised to be a high-class affair, and that it certainly was, with a wealth of exciting prospects rising to the top of the leader board. Becky Moody and her fabulous chestnut mare Magic Dream (Governor x Swarovski), third in yesterday’s KBIS Young Horse 6YO preliminary judging, showed their supremacy to top the class.
In front of judges Mark Ruddock (E), Mary-Anne Horn (H), Penelope Lang (C), Debbie Wardle (M) and Maria Eilberg (B), a confident and expressive, beautifully presented round earned 76.21% to take the win. The second-placed duo of Sonnar Murray-Brown and Nicky Hodge’s eight-year-old mare Faside Simply Amour posted 75.67%, while Charlotte Dujardin and Peter Belshaw’s Times Mon Amour (Martinez x De Niro) completed a high-scoring top three on 74.86%.
Becky was incredibly pleased with how her test went today, “I was really pleased with her, she’s only six and she’s not done a great number of mediums but she’s a really cool horse and she just did a really neat, tidy test. Everything was on it and she was very good.” Although the talented young mare has less experience at this level she is extremely experienced at the National Championships, having previously qualified every year since four-years-old.”
“This is her third nationals. Yeah, she was ridden as a four year old by my stable jockey Anna Burns. She won the Prelim Silver with her as a four year old and then last year, she was second in the Elementary Gold. But this year she's got her sash and her rug.”
Having produced her from a young age Becky has high aspirations for Magic Dream, “she's a really exciting horse for the future because she's got a lovely temperament she's very workable with but she's got a real good engine. You could see in the prize giving she can be a little bit spicy. But I think you need a bit of that for the top level.” In training “she is really already showing quite a natural talent for the half steps and things so I hope she's going to be a really good Grand Prix horse in the future.”
Although she has plenty of flair in the ring, the sweet youngster has an incredible temperament at home, “She's great, she's really good to hack and even though she's only six, she takes the babies out hacking because she's really good in traffic and things like that. It's the atmosphere and things that makes her a little bit buzzy. I really think she will be a good Grand Prix horse, she’s exciting!”