NAF Five Star Winter Championships: Day One
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It was a fabulous opening day at Hartpury for the NAF Five Star Winter Championships with five winners shining as brightly as the August sunshine.
While conditions are generally relaxed with the COVID protocols in place, there's still that 'Hatpury buzz' throughout the showground and riders and horses really know that that they're at a championship.
Prestige Italia Novice Gold
Winner: Greg Sims & Waverley Fellini, 72.96%
Starting the NAF Five Star Winter Championships in style, Greg Sims and Waverley Fellini were full of class in the Prestige Novice Gold Championships to take the win on 72.96%.
The five year old bay gelding born and bred at Warwickshire’s Waverley Stud, has excelled in his first two seasons of British Dressage competition under Greg’s guidance, having previously placed in the top three of the Shearwater Young Horse Championships in 2019 before going on to qualify from third at the Myerscough College Winter Regionals earlier this year.
Of the bright British bred Furstenball x Sandro Hit talent’s effort inside the white boards today, Greg said ”his test was lovely today, there was a really nice balance and he flowed through the test, I was really pleased with his way of going and it’s just really nice to get out and compete him again!”
With a confirmed tick by this goal, Greg will now aim Fellini at the Shearwater Young Horse Championships taking place in October at Bury Farm EC. Speaking about his character and potential Greg continued, “he’s great, he’s lovely to ride always up for it and never hard work. He’s a real pleasure to ride. I’d like to see how far we can go with him, so far it looks good so we’ll keep going like we are and we’ll see how far we get.”
The Conwy based rider and trainer successfully runs GSH Dressage with Stena and Karin Hoerner, “it’s been quite nice being able to concentrate on the horses at home without too much pressure to get out and compete. It’s been good to focus on the horses but it’s equally as good to be out competing again and to be at a Championships.”
Hoping to continue an exciting week Greg returns on Wednesday for the Theraplate Ltd Medium Gold with Waverley Dante.
In the 19 strong class judged by Isobel Wessels, Carole Thornton and Sarah Leitch, second place went to BD Scotland rider Jade Struthers and Suarez, with Jezz Palmer placing third on board King IV.
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold
Winner: Kate Cowell & Ray-Ban, 73.90%
Taking place in the NAF Five Star Arena, the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Gold hailed a unanimous winner in local rider Kate Cowell with Ray-Ban. The elegant duo were awarded a supreme 73.90% by the judges panel of Peter Storr, Richard Baldwin and Tessa Thorne.
The dark bay gelding by Royal Duruto has gone from strength to strength progressing through the levels with Malvern based Kate, qualifying from third place at the Winter Regionals in March and enjoying several successful starts at Prix St Georges level.
“We just went in there, said hi to all my friends when I arrived but got on and focused and got on with the job,” said Kate who cantered down the centre line last in the first of two Charles Owen Advanced Medium classes this week. Of her winning ride she continued, “I didn’t know what he was going to be like, as with other horses he hasn’t been out for a while. He was just such a pro, he took it in his stride and I couldn’t have asked any more!”
“I’ve had him for three years having bought him from Germany with my great friend Jonny Clarke-West. He came to me very Novice-y but he’s gone up the levels really well.” Clearly a horse of talent and character, Kate enthused, “we all tease him, he’s the longest horse in the world but he’s the most genuine boy, he’s so generous and he loves coming to a show. He’s on side and it’s a delight, he’s a delight!”
Speaking of lockdown learnings a thrilled Kate concluded, “all of my horses have benefitted from time off, we’ve taken stock and trained on, pushed them up the levels – they’ve got stronger and better. I’ve learnt to understand them more and spent more time with them. It’s been really beneficial but I love competing and I’m thrilled to be back!”
With a class full of future talent it was close at the top, second place went to Calum Whitworth and Hawtins Barolo on 73.90% with Matt Frost completing the top three after posting 72.93% on his own and Nicola Keenan’s electric mare Helga.
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver
Joint winners: Chelsea Tolhurst & Hermitage de Jeu and Maeve Morris & Headmore Footloose, 71.61%
It was a battle royal for two riders from the Southern region for the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver title but after two polished tests, there was nothing to separate 20 year old Chelsea Tolhurst from Kent and Hampshire’s Maeve Morris (26) so they’ll share the title for 12 months.
Chelsea was the first of the duo to go in front of judges Judith Harris, Sharon Butterworth and Sue Petty with her own Dutch bred eight year old, Hermitage de Jeu and they posted 71.61%. Just one horse later, Maeve rode British-bred Headmore Footloose, or Eric to his friends, to the exact same score.
Fourth in this championships at last year’s Winters, Hermitage de Jeu and Chelsea have been together for four years and he was bought as her first horse to produce, bought as a lightly backed four year old. He was bred by De Jeu Dressage and is by Chagall out of a Prince Thatch mare.
Chelsea said; “He warmed up really well as he can be tense and spooky but he was really soft and supple. In the arena he really put his trust me and let me ride him. He’s not been the easiest to produce but as he’s getting older, he’s gaining confidence and learning his job.”
Chelsea’s love of dressage was sparked by watching the freestyle at Hickstead as a teenager and knew that her future lay competing between the white boards. At 16, she left school to work for the Eilbergs and is now based with Judy Harvey but returned home during lockdown. The pairing did their first Prix St George together earlier this month.
Maeve and Eric, bred my Maeve’s mum Nicola, are no strangers to the Hartpury winner’s podium having won both the Novice and Novice Freestyle titles last year. “He’s just so consistent – quite a horse! He’s incredibly sensitive on the ground but a totally different horse once you’re on him.” beamed Maeve.
Maeve normally faces a daily commute into London where she’s a Senior Property Manager but lockdown has been spent working from home. “We tried to have a ‘fun’ lockdown and kept the work varied including poles. We’re working towards Medium which is going to be new for me and I’ve got to master sitting trot!”
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver
Winner: Lynn Wickes & Pauldary's Tiger Two Sox, 73.52%
The first freestyle of week has been won by popular trainer Lynn Wickes, from Alton in Hampshire, with Samantha Mirehouse’s talented British-bred gelding, Pauldary’s Tiger Two Sox.
Lynn, a BHS Stage 4 Senior Coach who has ridden at advanced eventing level, and 12 year old Pauldary’s Tiger Two Sox (Pauldary’s Tiger Aspect x Sleinadler) scored a decisive victory in the Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Silver Championship with 73.526% from the judging panel of Tim Downes, John Robinson and Sue Petty.
“We had a last minute call up for this morning’s Novice and we we’re thrilled with him and sixth place set us up for the day. I had to work to keep up his enthusiasm but he answered all the questions and we were spot on the music the whole way through. I’m so grateful to Samantha for letting me ride this amazing horse.“
Owner Samantha Mirehouse will be back with Pauldary’s Tiger Two Socks on Friday to compete in the Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze Championship herself. The horse was sourced for Samantha by Lynn as her first horse and turns out he was bred half a mile from her and his dam was once in a field outside her house! Samantha had a career in the military so the music has a ‘marching band’ feel and includes music from the Battle of Britain and Potters Waltz.
Elizabeth Killick and Galante’s V.I.P 18 posted 72.372% for the runners-up spot whilst Maeve Morris and Footloose, today’s earlier joint-victors, once again made the podium, this time with 72.308% for third. Tantalisingly close in fourth was Myles Graham (13) with a dynamic performance aboard the dun pony, Dresscode Cocktail.
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold
Winner: Victoria Maw & Benito Dorato, 75.89%
In the final class to take place on day one of the NAF Five Star Winter Championships, Victoria Maw and Benito Dorato were crowned the fifth winner of the day with 75.897%.
Lincolnshire based Victoria and her own seven year old ‘Benny’ clinched the top spot in a closely contested competition which saw the top three riders separated by just 0.96%.
“He’s such a consistent horse. I rode him boldly as it’s quite a safe floorplan but really plays to his strengths – medium canter and trot – and here I can show off for the marks. He’s really light on his feet and hardly touches the ground so it’s been difficult to find music for him. I settled on music from ‘How to train your dragon’ and love riding to it.
He’s the dream horse – at home, in the arena and at a competition. I hope I can find another like him.”
A former student on the BEF Young Professional Programme, Victoria and Benny are no strangers to success, having won last year’s Dodson & Horrell Novice Gold Championships at the LeMieux National Dressage Championships.
Victoria owns his older brother, Belli Blue, who competes here at Hatpury in the Theraplate Medium Gold on Wednesday, and when she heard the dam was in foal once again, she knew that she had to have him. She was sent photos at three days old and the deal was done. “I hope to take him the whole way to the top. He’s been doing some Mediums and scoring well in the 70’s,” she explained. Victoria and Benito Dorato have another shot at a coveted Winters title tomorrow in the Equi-Trek Elementary Gold Championship.
Second spot went to Dannie Morgan and Sara-Jane Lanning’s Breit Fantastic scoring 75.32%, with Tahley Reeve-Smith completing the podium on 74.94% with Woodcroft Valentino.
Photos: © Kevin Sparrow