NAF Five Star Winter Championships 2021: day two
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Day two at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships yielded nine more worthy champions in the NAF and Petplan Equine arenas, with Novice to Intermediate I on the day's schedule with the feature class, the Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Championship, taking centre stage under the lights of the indoor.
Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Bella Ruby, 73.66%
Tuesday’s feature class proved a show-stopper in the NAF Five Star Arena with thirteen of the country’s small tour specialists going head to head for one of the most prestigious titles in the British Dressage roster.
NAF Five Star Winter Championships wonder woman Alice Oppenheimer brought forward Headmore Bella Ruby (Belissimo M x Rubenstein) after placing sixth in yesterday’s Magic Prix St Georges Gold class. Dancing to a polished Les Misèrables programme, the duo showcased tempi changes on a curve, steep flowing half passes and powerful extensions in all paces to impress the judges panel of Sarah Leitch, Debbie Wardle and Jo Graham; their efforts rewarded with 73.66% to take the lead with a group of top contenders still to go.
Yesterday’s Magic Prix St Georges Champion Andrew Gould produced another superb performance on board Genie I to a dramatic compilation, this time the lead would remain just out of reach despite another strong score of 73.16%. Natalie Kayal, Magic runner up on day one, also gave the judges a performance to relish with her test on DHI Cleverboy rewarded on 72.75%.
With nine scores over 70% and a class full of highlights, the win belonged to long time leader Alice Oppenheimer who takes home her first Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle crown, followed by Andrew and Nathalie completing a high-class top three.
"I'm absolutely over the moon today," Alice told us at the end of a busy day for team Headmore, "Bella was a bit too hot yesterday in the PSG so we had some uncharacteristic mistakes which affected our score. Today I just wanted to go for a nice quiet clear round and just try to get her to settle down, she's quite a hot mare which will be great for Grand Prix but makes it not so easy to ride without mistakes. I'm really excited to win today, I wasn't expecting it so it's really nice. She felt a lot better than yesterday so I was really pleased with that, she's a hot with a lot of energy but also supple so can feel really electric even if people don't really see it. She walked a lot better today and relaxed, today my pirouettes - normally a highlight for her but with mistakes yesterday - whereas we nailed them today, she has such talent for the canter pirouettes. We have the Inter I again tomorrow, I think she'll get better still and I'm hopeful that throughout the course of the week she's going to gain a lot more confidence."
Speaking about her winning freestyle programme Alice said, "Sara Green does my music, she's really talented and we're really lucky at Headmore to have her as part of the team. I'm very unmusical, Sara’s given up asking me what I want now and she just goes ‘here’s the music that suits this horse’ and I say ‘thank you!” Alice rides to a Les Miserables compilation that she describes as ‘emotive, light and elegant’, “I love riding her to this music, it really works for her and the judges seem to love it, I’m very grateful to Sara for her help.”
"We’re all so grateful to be here, we were very lucky to have it last year too albeit with the regulations and it’s lovely to be back in the indoor after missing it last year – there’s the same amazing buzz as you go under the archway," continued Alice thanking title sponsors NAF, British Dressage and Show Direct. "It’s a really special feeling, if you’ve got a horse than can come here and handle the atmosphere you know you’ve got a really special horse.”
Alice returns tomorrow with one of her younger horses in the Elementary Gold before taking on the Superflex Intermediate I challenge with Headmore Bella Ruby, with one final word on her champion horse, “she’s my princess Bella, it’s a bit of a standing joke at Headmore! She’s very much my horse, if I call her she always pricks her ears up. We have a really special bond, for her to get a title this week if really exciting.”
Prestige Italia Novice Gold Winter Championship
Winner: Charlotte Dujardin and Times Kismet, 79.01%
The second day of competition at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships was off to a flying start with the Prestige Italia Novice Gold class. The outstanding winner with 79.01% was Charlotte Dujardin and Times Kismet, one of her newer rides, owned by herself and Peter Belshaw.
The six-year-old Ampere mare secured their place with a victorious performance at Prestige Equestrian’s regional finals in May. Having never scored below 70%, they topped the leader board with 77.9%. Coming out today, to earn the title, with one of their best scores at this level, “to let everyone see her...what a phenomenal mare she is.”
Charlotte said; “I was really happy with her. She’s never done a big show like this before as we’ve only done a few novices and young horse classes. I decided to do the arena walk this morning to show her the arena and her eyes were on stalks! I struggled to get her past the judges tables. But she has an amazing temperament and in the test she just put her head down and off she went. She was so easy to ride and has so many gears – she’s really exciting. I was really chuffed with her.”
Peter Belshaw approached Carl to have her as a three year old but the time wasn’t right so she went to Katie Bailey who started her competition career off. Charlotte trains Katie and Kismet caught her eye and she took on the ride – but with an apology to Katie!
Competing on her trainers and fellow Olympian, Carl Hester's birthday, they are both readily prepping for Tokyo, after being nominated a few weeks ago and hope to find out the final seleciton on Thursday.
Finishing second was Sadie Smith and Swanmore Dantina with 76.97%, alongside Mark Forrest and Francesco S, 75.24% in third.
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Charlotte Tuckwell & DHI Alligator, 69.64%
The first Petplan Equine class of the day was a win for Charlotte Tuckwell and DHI Alligator, scoring 69.64% in the Petplan Equine Inter I Bronze Championship.
This was the second outing for Charlotte, from Buckinghamshire, and DHI Alligator this week as they came third in the Petplan Equine Prix St Georges Silver Championship yesterday.
Charlotte, who’s ridden since she was four years old and hopes to make this her full time career, said “He’s been incredible, absolutely amazing. It’s been an amazing show. He was so much better today, he had that extra bit of confidence from yesterday, he let me ride him more and gave me more in the test. His extended trots today were his best extended trots in a test ever, he was just amazing to ride.
16 year old DHI Alligator, who’s known as Pocket or Minky, is owned and was originally ridden by Nathalie Kayal, who Charlotte works for. Nathalie took him up to PSG before handing over the reins to Charlotte five years ago, “we started together at Novice and he’s taken me up the levels and now we're competing at Inter I. I’m going to keep developing him at Small Tour and keep competing at Premier Leagues and High Profile Shows and see where that takes us.”
In second place was Samantha Dawn Turpitt and Bali Dancer scoring 68.95%. Angela Gladding and Parisienne Jupiter scored 68.38% to finish in third place.
Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze Area Festival Championship
Winner: Gill Peckham and Hero (Huroos), 69.21%
Day two in Petplan Equine Arena 2 started with the Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze class, where 9 year old Hero (Huroos) and rider Gill Peckham topped the 35-strong class with 69.21%.
This is their first Area Festival Championship together, however they are no strangers to Hartpury having competed at the last two NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships; competing in the 2020 Novice Silver Winter Championship and winning the 2019 Preliminary Silver Winter Championship.
About the test, Gill said “He went really well, he was a bit lively when I was warming him up and also in the arena walk, he was quite explosive so I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen when we went into the ring! Luckily he was on my side, he whinnied a couple of times but he listened and he had that bit of spark today, I think that’s’ what makes the difference.
I’m a veteran he’s not! Two years ago we won the KBIS Preliminary Silver Winter title and last year we qualified for the Novice but he got a bit vulnerable in the arena and this year obviously he managed to get over that and it made the difference.
I was looking for a dressage horse and my best friend/trainer Katharine Lewis, who’s enjoyed success with plenty of carriage horses, told me that we’d get a driving horse and retrain it for dressage as long as it was backed! We saw some videos of Hero being backed and it was love at first sight.
He’s a big personality, Katharine describes him as being full of his own self-importance. He likes to buck at the gate when you go to catch him and he’s a bit grumpy in the stable but when it matters and you’re riding him he’s just 100% on your side. He’s got lovely movement, he’s brilliant fun to ride – he’s just the perfect amateurs horse, he’s rideable but he’s got that bit of spark.
Amateur rider Gill retired last year having had a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, “I had a good job and I was lucky enough to retire a year and a half ago so now I can just have fun riding horses!”
“He could go all the way, he’ll just be limited by how far I can get and how much time I’ve got left!” Gill laughed talking about Hero’s future, “he doesn’t have a weakness, or a weak pace, it’s just so different training horses even an easy one, we’ll see how it goes!”
In second place was Debbie Squires and Mystic Spirit, with 68.87%, closely followed by third place Bradley Moore-Taylor and Jethro S on 68.28%.
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver Winter Championship
Winner: Charlotte Lutener and AB Barroco, 69.29%
The second class in arena two was the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver, where Charlotte Lutener and AB Barroco were crowned champions with a score of 69.29%. The eleven-year-old gelding has been with Charlotte for three years, competing regularly in the north west.
On their win today, Charlotte said “I was super pleased with it, we’ve really struggled with the changes and teaching him, so to go in there and get all of them, I’m thrilled with. He’s quite a quirky horse, he’s been a bit spooky recently, and he didn’t bat an eyelid in there so I was thrilled with him to come here in such an environment and to be great.”
“We bought him four years ago, I’ve been riding him for the three years after I finished my A Levels, and he’s so special to me. I’ve trained him from Elementary to Advanced Medium; I feel so much pride because he’s quite quirky as well!
Based in Yorkshire, the young rider and Bertie, as he’s known at home, can be challenging but Charlotte finds “he’s most rewarding horse I have ever ridden but his talent and willingness to learn will outweigh all his quirks every day, no matter how difficult.” Her aim is to now do some Small Tour classes with him.
Mentored by Jessica Dunn and training by Isobel Wessels, this is their first Winter National Championship win together, having previously won the Elementary and Medium Silver Winter Regional Championships, and Medium Silver Summer Regional Championships.
Second went to Amy Jack and Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof with a score of 69.16%. Nicky Heale, in third on Furstinclaire with 69.03%.
Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Silver Championship
Winner: Sarah Colborn and Fürst Love 1, 76.16%
Hampshire rider Sarah Colborn claimed victory in today’s high-scoring Nupafeed Advanced Medium Freestyle Championship. With her elegant 10-year-old mare, Fürst Love 1 (by Fürst Fugger), she danced to a super score of 76.16% to claim her first ever national title.
“I was really pleased with her today, she went really well,” said a delighted Sarah after the prize-giving. “She’s quite sharp and quite hot but she managed to keep a lid on it. I actually came out really pleased - I was very happy with her. Everything seemed to go very well today which doesn’t happen very often!”
Sarah trains Fürst Love 1, known at home as Darcy, with help from Charlotte Dujardin. The partnership of six years made their PSG debut earlier this year.
“She’s 10 now but I got her when she was four and just-backed. Sarah Oppenheimer actually found her for me on Facebook, so off to Devon we went to view her, had her vetted, and she’s been with me ever since,” explained Sarah. “I’d love to go all the way if we can. She’s got the potential, if we can keep her sound and everything goes well.”
Sarah, who secured her ticket to Hartpury by winning at Wellington regionals, runs a livery yard at home in Hampshire, “It’s a full-on job - we’ve got 18 horses to look after at home, so this is a nice day off!”
Championships regular, Nicky Heale finished close second on 75.94% partnered by Verity Jenner’s Furstinclaire, with Amy Jack and Graf Hit VH Bloemenhof third (75.33%).
PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold Championship
Winner: Sara-Jane Lanning and Hawtins Lyrica, 74.94%
This afternoon’s PDS Saddles Elementary Freestyle Gold boasted an exciting line-up of talented combinations, offering a fabulous class to watch for both those at Hartpury and those watching from home courtesy of Horse & Country.
It was a day to remember for List 1 judge Sara-Jane Lanning, for not only did she pilot the winner, Hawtins Lirica, to a 74.93% win, she also owns Breit Fantastic, expertly ridden into second place by Dannie Morgan on a score of 73.78%.
Hawtins Lirica (Lemony’s Nicket x Dimaggio), owned by Nicola Seale, is a seven-year-old mare bred by Judith Davis. She competed at the World Breeding Championships as a five-year-old with Lucinda Elliott, and this year has been competing in young horse seven-year-old classes with much success, including a recent win at Wellington Premier League.
“I’ve had a wonderful day!” smiled Sara-Jane. “It was the first time in that Hartpury indoor arena for ‘Lyra’ - she’s been here previously to do young horse classes, but outdoors. She was a little nervous going in but I was so pleased with how she listened to me. I was very happy with the test.
“I can’t wait to watch the video to see what it looked like! She’s tiny – I’m used to riding big 17.2 chunky, bay, lazy geldings! She’s a typical red head, very hot and I have to be careful what I do with my legs – very different for me. I’m learning how to do her justice as she’s a class horse. It’s a big learning curve."
Talking about the runners-up performance of Dannie and Breit Fantastic, Sara-Jane said, “Proud mum moment! I heard Dannie go into the lead just before I went in and I have to say I’m very competitive and knew I wanted to beat his score – rightly or wrongly. I missed his test as I was warming up so that’s another video I want to see!
“I’m off to feed the horses as I’m doing all three myself and then I think it’s bubbles time!”
Sara-Jane's day was made even more special with a fifth spot riding Sigurd in the Magic Prix St Georges Freestyle Gold.
Both Hawtins Lirica and Breit Fantastic are back to Hartpury next week for the British Dressage Seven-Year-Old Championships and hopefully on to the Nationals.
Jezz Palmer with Richard Burge’s six-year-old stallion, King IV (Governor x Johnson), completed the podium on a score of 73.71%
Petplan Equine Elementary Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Rachel Platt and Gracia du Rona, 70.83%
There’s no stopping Rachel Platt and Gracia du Rona who’ve added another win to their 2021 Petplan Equine Area Festival Winter Championship campaign. Fresh from winning yesterday’s Medium Bronze, the successful Hartpury first-timers claimed this afternoon’s Petplan Equine Elementary Silver title with a great score of 70.83%.
On winning her second title of the Championships, Rachel said, “It’s the icing on the cake, the entire experience and everything about it has been just the best thing; the team here, the people, having Vivien Bird our part owner with us has been so emotional. It’s just been brilliant, such fun.”
“She’s been really good for me, you always know it could have been better – but I think everybody’s like that. I came out and I was just happy, and because I was happy she gave me a nice test, a very nice test seemingly! I’m just really pleased.”
Gracia du Rona, known to her friend as Gracie, is a 10-year-old Dutch-bred mare by Quality Time, standing just 16hh and originally bred to show jump.
Rachel describes Gracie as “a character – she’s very sweet, we’ve got a tremendous bond. She neighs for me all the time. She’s quite complicated, but she does try really hard for you, she’s showjumping bred and so she’s incredibly athletic and very sharp, so you’ve got to be on it all the time with her. When I bought her I just bought her to have some fun with and then she seemed to have an ability for this so we went down the dressage route.”
When asked about her preparation for the Championships, she says “I’ve been working with Hannah Moody who’s my main trainer, she was away for my last lesson so Becky Moody stepped in. They’re such brilliant girls and they’re just so much fun to work with, they really get Gracie and they’ve had amazing ideas of how to handle her quirkiness, so I’ve worked with them building up to this.”
“We have qualified for the Petplan Equine Medium Advanced Bronze Summer Area Festival but we might take a bit of a break from competing and just get on with training and get those changes really established.”
Nicola Naprstek and Don Cru came in second on 70.24% with Francesca Segalov and Ballydunne Captain third (69.41%).
Petplan Equine Intermediate I Silver Area Festival Championship
Winner: Nicky Heale and Retanach Request, 68.86%
Aberdeenshire rider and NHS hero Nicky Heale is no stranger to the long journey south to Hartpury having been her a number of times but never has she been so busy! Six tests across two days culminated in one final heroic effort with her own Welsh Section D, Retanach Request to win the Petplan Equine Area Festival Intermediate I Silver championship with a score of 68.86%. Three prize givings she’d qualified for over the last two days… and three she missed as they always clashed with her riding in the arena but today, she was present and correct to claim her sash and winner’s rug this time.
“He was amazing, he put heart, soul, all his energy into this one. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but I knew that I needed to warm him up and just let him go. He pulled it all out of the bag and I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” beamed Nicky.
“He thought he’d done his job by the last canter trot transition at C and I had to tell him that he had one more extended trot across the diagonal to go! He did everything, we came down the centre line and he was struggling for puff by then but he stayed with me, kept going and eventually we got to X with a sigh of relief!”
Nicky told us about her cheeky Welsh section D superstar, “We were lucky to make our test it took me a long while to catch him in the stable! A lot of sugar lumps and bribery did it!” “He’s a full Welsh section D, he comes with quirks – good quirks – they outweigh his not being caught in the stable before I need to do an Inter I!”
Working rider Nicky recently completed her first Grand Prix, “We’ve got one golden point at Grand Prix, his highlight is his piaffe and passage, he finds it really easy.” NHS worked Nicky provides great inspiration to the working amateur riders amongst the BD membership. “I’m a full time Paramedic in Aberdeenshire, it’s a 12 hour shift with full PPE, we were double vaccinated very early and have two lateral flow tests every week. I do it before I go to work and when I finish I make sure my stables are clean.”
Second spot went to Emma Bond riding her own Limewalk with a core of 68.82% - Emma won the U21 prize, while Limewalk was top veteran, and yesterday’s Prix St Georges Silver winners Shelley Reeve-Smith and Sinderella were third.
Download Tuesday's full result with judges' breakdown:
Photos c Kevin Sparrow