NAF Five Star Winter Championships 2021: day one
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Day one of the 2021 NAF Five Star Winter Championships may have dawned with grey, rain laden skies but once the action was underway, the excitement of the day and shining performances across the three arenas brighten the mood across the Hartpury showground.
KBIS Preliminary Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Jessica Williams and Sir Leonardo, 71.95%
History was made as we kicked off the 2021 NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships off with the inaugural KBIS Preliminary Gold Winter Championship. Jessica Williams was crowned the winner with Sir Leonardo, who led from the start as the first combination to go, scoring an impressive 71.95%.
Known as ‘Lenny’ in the stable, Jessica purchased the dam (by Weltmeyer), at a sale in foal to Starnberg and he duly arrived the following March.
Of today’s test, Jessica said “Things most definitely went to plan today. I came here with the hope of just getting a placing, let alone winning as it it’s his first big competition. To go in first and carry the lead is just amazing. I’ve known him as a foal as I rode for his previous owner. About two and half years ago, she actually gifted him to me so he’s now mine. I got him and he’d done nothing really, a few small competitions but he was ready to just crack on.
“I’d like to take him as high as I can; he’s already qualified for the summer regionals at Novice. We’ll go gradually up the levels, keep gently pushing and see how far we can get.”
Jessica, who’s a full time rider, gives thanks to her mum Elaine Williams who helps her coordinate everything, and trainer Kim Ratcliffe; without who they wouldn’t have got here, and who has had to be very patient with Lenny!
In a closely contested class, second place went to Jenny Lo-vel and Lanuvio, scoring 71.61%, with third place going to Julia Walker and Strategy on 71.15%.
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Jennifer Johnston-Harman and Dance With Me Fürst MFS, 75.46%
Taking place this morning in the NAF Five Star Arena, the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold featured a high-quality field headed by Jennifer Johnston-Harman and her six-year-old mare, Dance With Me Fürst MFS. The winning combination, who made the trip south from their Scotland home, continued their super track record with a score of 75.46%.
“I brought this horse down [to Hartpury] really genuinely not knowing if she’d manage at all,” said Jennifer. “She’s quite young and it was a big environment for her. She’s slightly better outside so my main aim was to actually survive the test and for her to not get a fright; I’m delighted with her.
“I’ve been coming to these Championships quite a long time. I opted out of last year which I shouldn’t have done but it’s lovely to be back. Everyone’s doing a super job in light of the current situation, and it feels very relaxed but super organised.”
Dance With Me Fürst (Follow Me x Del Piero) was bought by Jennifer as a foal from Caroline Ironside’s Moray Firth Stud in Aberdeenshire. “She has been hot all the way and quite tricky. I’ve had to take her slowly and be careful with her. I’ve let her teach me how to train her and I think she’s now starting to grow up.”
Finishing on Jennifer’s heels with a mark of 75.18% was Jezz Palmer with Tiny Dancer, a six-year-old Uthopia x T Movistar mare owned and bred by Anni MacDonald-Hall, with Tahley Reeve-Smith and Romanno Danteno (by Dante Weltino) completing the top three.
The winning pair won’t be travelling home quite yet as they have tomorrow’s Prestige Italia Novice Gold Championship to look forward to.
Magic Prix St Georges Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Andrew Gould and Genie I, 70.43%
Winners in the NAF Five Star Arena, for the Magic Prix St George Gold were Andrew Gould and ten-year-old stallion, Genie I with a score of 70.43%. High profile events are no stranger to Andrew Gould but his ride Genie I is new to International level, only competing at PSG in October of last year.
Being one of the last combinations to go in this class the pair have done owners Tatiana and Max Skillman proud. Despite the stallions age, they have only competed lightly but Andrew states, “I’m not going to lie, the plan was to come and win. Everything’s been set up for that. He’s had a super start to the season and came out confident. I had really good regionals down south in a very competitive class and that’s given us the confidence to do the same today.”
Andrew is certainly looking forward to what this horse can bring in the future, “He’s super in his extensions, good transitions...and in his pirouettes he has the ability to really close and keep the energy. His changes are going to be a highlight but I’m at the stage where I can push, but there’s certainly more to come.”
They are looking forward to using him as a covering stallion as part of their home breeding programme in the future but for now the duo are back here next week for the Hartpury CDI Small Tour classes and have their sights set on the LeMeiux National Championships in September.
Finishing off the top three and coming in second and third was Nathalie Kayal and DHI Cleverboy with 69.78% and Woodcroft St Emillion with 69.47%.
Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dionysus, 78.28%
It just wouldn’t be the Winters without the prefix Headmore at the top of the leaderboard and Alice Oppenheimer didn’t disappoint with a decisive win In the Spillers Medium Freestyle Gold aboard Amanda Radford’s Headmore Dionysus (Dimaggio x Rubinstein). They set off with an impressive medium trot which just sailed across the arena to gasps from the crowd which set the tone for a rousing floorplan set music from West End legendary musical, Cats compiled by Sara Green.
Their performance clearly impressed judges Fiona Wilson (H), Debbie Wardle (C) and Sharon Butterworth (B) for a score of 78.28%. This gave them the magnificent Spillers silver slaver by over four percent ahead of Tahley Reeve-Smith and Woodcroft Valentino, who she owns with Jetta O’Kane. Third spot went to Scottish Winters regular Nicky Heale, a full time paramedic, with Verity Jenner’s Furstinclaire on 72.28%.
Alice was clearly delighted with the win; “He was awesome today and really deserved that win. He’s been so close on so many occasions and today he just gave me a cracker of a ride. I call him my little pocket rocket; he’s got so much power and he’s so elastic. He’s such a small, easy to manage package for me at 15.3hh. He surprises people as he really fills the eye and he’s just got so much power and go. I came out and said to mum ‘I’ll be disappointed if that doesn’t get 78%’ and today the judges agreed with me.”
‘Dylan’, now ten, was purchased by Amanda as a four year old but he just grew a little too tall for her and Alice took him on as a seven year old. She continued; “There’s something really special about riding in that indoor arena and this show is always great for Team Headmore, we’re just glad to be back. To have a win on day one takes the pressure off a little bit."
She summarised in saying; “He’s absolutely cracking, I just love riding him. He’s full brother to Dirubinio and Davina so it’s nice he’s following in their footsteps of being super successful too. He’s such a cool horse to have around and he loves his work. He deserves his time in the spotlight.”
Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Winter Championship
Winner: Sarah Wilkinson and Koko II, 73.28%
The second class of the NAF Five Start Winter Championship to get going was the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver Winter Championship, in which Sarah Wilkinson and Koko II were the winning combination, scoring 73.28%.
Sarah, who’s from New Zealand, spent four years in Germany learning and training before arriving in the UK just ten days before the first lockdown in March 2020. Sarah has luckily found a yard to set up at with her horses and a few clients, as she adjusts to life in the UK.
This is the first outing at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships for Sarah and six year old Koko; “I was feeling quite confident in the warm up as she was going fantastically and in there she was really rideable and happy to do everything. I was really happy with her canter work; she has a massive canter and I’m now trying to collect her and doing smaller circles. It’s difficult for her but she’s really getting there.”
On how Sarah met Koko; “I actually went to try a different horse at a yard in Holland which turned out to be too small but they did say they had a bigger mare in. I tried her and I said straight away ‘I just love her’ and I bought her as a four year old. She’d been broken in for about three weeks but she was just lovely. I didn’t do so much with her the first year but we’ve now just cracked on and her temperament is just fantastic. I’d definitely love to produce her to Grand Prix and see where we go.”
In second place was Lauren Williamson and Vancouver LG, scoring 72.6%, with Harvey White and Icilla finishing third on 70.89%.
Petplan Equine Medium Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Lizzie Bulmer with Duke of Light, 69.75%
The first class of the first official running of the Petplan Equine Winter Area Festival Championships as part of the two season format, finally unhampered by Covid-19. Twenty seven cool, calm and collected combinations took to the Petplan Equine arena to challenge for title one of 18 with the eventual top three split by just a handful of marks.
Our new champions Lizzie Bulmer and Duke of Light shone through the overcast morning to triump on a total score of 69.75%. Speaking to BD after her prize giving Lizzie told us, “I’m absolutely over the moon and very surprised by the result! It’s the first time he’s done a championships, he’s been a very difficult horse and I haven’t felt like he’s been ready for this sort of atmosphere before now. The lockdown has done him good, he’s grown up a bit and he’s now nine – I felt it was time to try and get him somewhere get him to a championship I’m amazed by the result!”
Lizzie’s De Niro x Wolkentanz gelding showed all his class today and excelled in the Petplan Equine arena defying his complex early years, “I bought him as a three year old from the Brightwells Auction and he has been difficult, we’ve had trouble with gastric ulcers and fitting saddles, at home he’s now actually very lazy and relaxed! After he’s had his break he goes back to sleep and I have to get him out of bed to do his work! At a competition he’s actually more willing to work, he’s quite a showman really. There’s a fine line with him as to whether you get the right level!”
Speaking about their test today Lizzie continued, “he was a nightmare in the stables whilst I was trying to get plaits in him neighing to all his friends going backwards and forwards and so I was amazed that he came out and concentrated as well as he did! I spent a lot of time walking and supplying him this morning, I didn’t do a huge amount before I went in. When I went in, he was on my aids and relaxed, if I had to be critical he was slightly running out of energy as the test when but I’m absolutely delighted with him it’s so much more than I could have expected.”
Lizzie, a former event rider for many years, aims to progress towards making Duke of Light’s Prix St Georges debut at the end of the season with a view to continuing on the path to Grand Prix. “I’m very glad I came back to dressage, lockdown has done us both good but obviously it’s lovely to come out and have a success like this.”
Second place belonged to Area Festival Championship first timers Lucy Lloyd with Glensensaw Sweet Girl, whilst Nicky Harding and Eccelstone S claimed the third podium spot.
Petplan Equine Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Rachel Platt and Gracia du Rona, 68.23%
Taking place all afternoon was the Petplan Equine Bronze Area Festival Championship in arena one and from the 35 strong field South Yorkshire's Rachel Platt and Gracia du Rona emerged as champions with a score of 68.23%.
First-timers at the Petplan Area Festival Championships, the pair have had a successful year, qualifying in the North East after stepping up to this level in the Autumn of 2020. Rachel, who came back to riding in her 40’s brought Gracie, as she’s known at home, as a four-year-old. Originally bred to show jump, she’s the first horse Rachel has owned, fulfilling a childhood dream thanks to her mum who left her the funds to make her precious purchase on her passing.
"I’m absolutely flabbergasted! It was a big class and I didn’t come here win really, I just came here to have a have a good time and she just blew me away. There was a couple of mistakes but she was terrific. She's quite a character, quite affectionate – and we have such a great bond together. She can be quite feisty and opinionated but once you bring her onside she’s amazing and has a great work ethic."
Rachel is clearly enjoying her dressage journey with Gracie, whom she calls a 'pocket rocket' and puts having a great time, and fun, top of the agenda with trainer Hannah Moody. She's a musician (plays and teaches the clarinet and saxophone) and her husband a composer so standby for her and Gracie making their Freestyle debut soon - they should have impressive music, that's for certain!
Coming in second were Sam Whyley and Tremadoc with 68.13% and Angela Fenn with Dun-lin on a score of 67.94% to finish third.
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Samantha Dawn Turpitt and Bali Dancer, 68.24%
Aberdeenshire rider Samantha Dawn Turpitt has added another Hartpury success to her CV, claiming this afternoon’s Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Bronze Area Festival Championship with her 10-year-old Barclay x Del Piero mare, Bali Dancer.
Winners here last year in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Bronze, the combination continued their Hartpury form today with a 68.24% win from the judging panel of Anne Keen, Fiona Wilson and Jane Critchley.
“Oh wow! What a crazy week!” smiled Samantha after the prize-giving. “My brother’s two boys were christened yesterday and I’m Godmother so had to be there! When he told me the dates I was like... ‘oh no’ but we made it work.
“I got special permission to arrive here at midnight so we set off at 2pm, made our way down and arrived in nine and a half hours. I was a bit concerned Bali didn’t have as much rest as I’d have liked but she was fine.”
Samantha is an amateur rider who works as an IT project manager; Bali was purchased as a two-year-old, straight off the field, for £2,500 from a chap in Aberdeen who had imported her from Germany. Samantha has produced the mare herself and trains locally with Jean Stephen with help from Charlie Hutton
“She’s a typical chestnut mare and we’ve had some mixed results,” said Samantha. We’ve won here but we’ve also been last in that very same arena! When she’s good, she’s really good. She was really super last year and I couldn’t believe it…it’s the same this time.
“She just gets stronger and stronger and I absolutely love her… I wouldn’t have said that five years ago! People kept telling me to stick with her, she’s really talented, but I feel incredibly lucky to have her now. Maybe one day we could do a Grand Prix.
“The trot work was really nice today - she’s pretty solid. The canter was good but I did make a mistake in my four-time changes but that was just down to me, I miss-timed it. I didn’t have any expectation as such… I just thought ‘oh well, we’ll see where we are’. I went back to the trailer, got changed and the people started messaging me and saying wow and congratulations. I just can’t believe it! It just feels like de ja vu. It’s a dream come true.”
Taking second place was Maria Pook with Felicity Iles’ So Enamoured (67.41%), with Amy Jack and Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof finishing third on 66.49%.
Samantha and Bali won’t be travelling back home quite yet as they’ll be vying for Petplan Equine Inter I and Advanced Medium titles later in the week.
Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Shelley Reeve-Smith and Sinderella, 69.34%
Hertfordshire’s Shelley Reeve-Smith, the penultimate competitor to go in this afternoon’s Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Area Festival Championship, took top honours aboard her lovely home-bred bay mare, Sinderella (by Sir Oldenburg).
The winning partnership was awarded 69.34% from the judging panel comprising Andrea Smith, Anne Keen and Jane Critchley to repeat their victory in the same class last year.
“I was super pleased; she really felt good in her body, really moving, nice and solid, and very rideable,” said a delighted Shelley. “Sometimes you get yourself in a whirlwind in the test but today I felt I had time to set each movement up. The only thing I was slightly indecisive about was when to start my changes, so we had a tiny little blip there, but the rest I was really happy with.”
Shelley clearly thinks the world of Sinderella, now 16, who she considers as her ‘princess’, plus there’s a strong family connection with both Shelley and her sister Tahley having ridden Sinderella’s grand sire, Sharola Rainmaker. The family have bred a number of successful horses and there are more on the way.
“I’ve got some exciting babies coming up and of course Grand Prix is always the dream. I’m not sure Sinderella will make it that far or not, but I’m hoping to take an embryo from her as I’m enjoying her so much that I just want to keep riding.
“She doesn’t owe me anything - she comes out every time and tries her hardest; she always does her best for me.”
The runners-up position was filled by leaders from the midway point, Emma Jablonski with Higgens Van De Uilenhoek (67.98%), whilst Charlotte Tuckwell and DHI Alligator took third (67.93%).
Full results with judges breakdown: