NAF Five Star Winter Championships 24: day one

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Thu, 11 Apr 2024 07:48

Day one at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships and Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships produced nine new champions, crowned for the first time under the lights at Addington Equestrian.  

HorseHage Preliminary Gold  
Winner: Robyn Walker and St Giles Flamborghini, 72.931%

Robyn Walker and St Giles Flamborghini were elegant winners of the opening class at the 2024 NAF Five Star Winter Championships, taking the title in the HorseHage Preliminary Gold with a score of 72.931%. Owned by Dr Dinah Ashley-Cooper, Countess of Shaftesbury, St Giles Flamborghini is a full sibling to St Giles Flamboyant (Franklin x Furst Romancier) who’s also taking part at the Championships under fellow St Giles Stud rider Nicola Buchanan. 

Robyn Walker is a former rider at Eilberg Dressage and produces the British-bred young horses at St Giles Stud and described her win as “absolutely phenomenal”.

Speaking about her test she continued, “she was just fantastic the whole way through, she tried so, so hard – the walk especially, I felt she really relaxed and let me ride her and that’s down to our trainer Hubertus Zedtwitz who we train with online, and he’s just made a massive difference so we’re incredibly grateful. I can’t fault her.”

Proud owner and breeder Dinah added, “we’re a great team and we’re a small team. We work from a small yard at home with just seven stables and an indoor and outdoor arena.”

On their future together as a partnership Robyn concluded, “I think we just keep going and go at her speed and see where we end up.”

Jenny Martell placed second by a whisker with the eye-catching DBM Secre-C, sired by Secret (Sezuan x St Moritz), recently declared as the most popular Hannoverian with breeders in 2022 with the most Hannoverian-registered foals on the ground in 2023. Aberdeenshire-based Jade Whitelaw completed the top three on board her own six-year-old mare Nancy I. 

Petplan Medium Silver Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Carrie Passmore and Star Gazer, 68.579%

Kicking things off in Petplan Arena 2 was the Petplan Medium Silver Area Festival Championship judged by Anne Greenaway, Jane Howard and Nicky Du Plessis. First time Area Festival competitor, Carrie Passmore and Star Gazer took the championship title with a score of 68.579%. 

Carrie spoke about her test, “I was very pleased with some of the medium work and half passes were very good today.” Speaking on her journey with the gelding Carrie told us, “we bred him so have owned him his entire life, he’s 12 now, he started out as an event pony and transferred to dressage three years ago.” The 14.2hh is by Jennie Lorriston-Clarke's Little Dale Bright Star. 

The combination currently working at medium and advanced medium with hopes of going up to PSG level later this year. She continued, “at home he’s the character of the yard, as soon as anybody goes into the yard he bangs his door, it’s all about him!”

Carrie chose to compete at the Winter Area Festivals this year, “I haven’t competed at the Area Festivals before, usually I go the regional route, I just thought I would try with him to do something different! I also have some younger ponies to bring up through, this was an opportunity not to have to go back into gold, so I thought I’d stick to the Area Festivals.”

When asked about future plans, Carrie said, “We’re hoping to move up to PSG, we’ve got our changes down to two times, so hopefully we can go on a bit further than that and if I can find a pony rider to do pony classes on him that would be great!”

Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold  
Winner: Jezz Palmer and Toddington Debut, 75.370%

Jezz Palmer kicked off the start of a very busy week personally with a win in the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Gold Championships. Jezz and six-year-old Toddington Debut, owned by Martin Price, scored 75.37% to top the first freestyle class of the Championships.

Jezz impressed the judges Susie Cumine, Pam Bushell and Linda Pearce on day one by riding to a mix of music from The Lion King, “[the music] was put together by Equidance, who I use for all my music, he is brilliant at putting it all together and it is really easy to follow. I hadn’t even practiced that music, I changed his music yesterday, my gut was telling me to do something else, so I went with that music that I used a couple of years ago in the same class. The gut feeling was right!”

This is a first win at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships for the six-year-old gelding, with the duo finishing in tenth place in the same class at last year’s Winter Championships. Jezz also finished in third place with seven-year-old Hawtins Fiorucci II, scoring 73.612%.

In a very close second place was Lucy Amy and Morrico M who were just 0.092% off the top place with 75.278%.

Equi-Trek Elementary Silver  
Winner: Amy Hose and Enrique, 70.313%

Amy Hose riding her own Enrique won the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver with an impressive score of 70.313%. Amy told us how this was her first experience at a Winter Championships, “I’ve done a couple of Summer Championships, but this is the first time at Winters, it’s what dreams are made of really! I trained really hard so it’s nice to actually then be able to put it forward and get the results that I wanted.” 
Speaking on how she has found her first Winter Championships Amy explained how it has been a “really good experience” with still a couple of classes to compete in throughout the rest of the week “it’s been great so far.” 

The 16.3hh gelding  “was really goof in the test” Amy explained, “despite getting loose in the car park prior to getting on, so it wasn’t the best of starts the way I was feeling before I got on. But when we went in the test he really came into his own.” The striking 8-year-old impressed judges Andrew Bennie, John Robinson and Lotte Olsen, “he’s a lovely lad, he stayed with me and gave me exactly what I wanted from him which was really nice.” 

Amy has trained with Jezz Palmer for six years now, and helped bring together Amy and ‘Enrique’s partnership, “he found me Eric, I’ve had him a year and a half now. He rode him for a little while before I had him, so he knows us both well and knew we were going to make a nice partnership which is really nice.”

Having previously been based on the Isle of Wight, Amy had the opportunity to relocate to Waterlooville, in November. “I moved over to run the yard, a big life change having always been based on the Isle of Wight since I was born. With the opportunity that both my boss and Jezz have given me, I’m reaping the benefits now!”

Amy tells us, “I manage a Stud that Jezz is a main rider on one of the horses he won on today, so it’s quite nice because he’s there supporting me the whole time. A successful win for us both, three wins between us. For our owner it’s lovely to have the results we have.” Amy is competing in the Medium Silver Freestyle and Elementary Freestyle this week.  

Proud trainer Jezz commented on Amy’s success as the duo celebrated their prize giving moments together, “She has worked so hard for today. There is no one person that deserves it more than her. I was so proud of her and it was so close, we were watching the final scores come in, I thought my Novice Freestyle was close but hers was even closer. As a trainer and as a friend I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

The final results were incredibly close between the top three, with Hannah Luesley and EDH Franklin Rose with a score of 70.312% and in third place was Ben James riding Clapton Banks Primadonna receiving a score of 70.052%. 

Petplan Prix St Georges Bronze Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Fiona Newall and Fendy VCG, 67.451%

Fiona Newall and Fendy VCG returned to the Petplan winner’s enclosure, adding a Winter Area Festival to their collection which already included a Petplan Summer title at Advanced Medium level. The duo were rewarded 67.451% by David Hamer (E), Sue Petty (C) and Ann Bostock (M) to secure the Prix St Georges Bronze class, the first of the Small Tour level titles at the 2024 Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” Cranage-based Fiona told British Dressage after her prize giving, “we won a couple of years ago at Advanced Medium, so to take the step up and win at Prix St Georges now is amazing.”

Speaking about the jump from Advanced Medium to the FEI levels Fiona continued, “It’s a huge step up, its been a massive learning curve, there is so many places to make a mistake in a Prix St Georges and it is so much more difficult and demanding. But I have enjoyed the challenge and it’s slowly come together.”

Fendy, by Don Schufro and out of a Ferro mare, is a powerhouse and showed all her talent in an impressive lap of honour. “She’s like any mare,” Fiona said about her character, which she knows well having worked together for ten years, “she has a strong opinion about things, which I absolutely love, we get on in that regard. I love that she expresses herself, and I encourage it because it brings out the expression in the work and she is awesome.”

The duo return to the stage on Thursday to contest the Intermediate I, but Fiona spoke emotionally about the greatest goal, “I would like to dream that hopefully one day we’ll do a Grand Prix, that would be the ultimate dream.”

Fellow former title winners Amy Foster-Smith and the Desperado-sired mare Kimberley SHR were second with 66.814%, whilst Lucy Mills claimed the third spot with her own twelve-year-old MSL Saltarello Hit.

Magic Prix St Georges Gold  
Winner: Jezz Palmer & Ketcher B, 69.70% 

Hampshire-based professional Jezz Palmer was all class to claim the feature class of the day, riding to a win in the Magic Prix St Georges with Emily Ivins’ licensed stallion Ketcher B. The duo achieved a class topping mark of 69.706% to place ahead of Tahley Reeve-Smith with her own and Jetta O Kane’s Woodcroft Valentino in second, and Sarah Higgins presenting Sarah Rao’s Samuel (by Ampere) for third.  
Ketcher B, by Van Olst stable star Negro and out of a Stedinger mare, has come of age at Small Tour level this season and now adds a Winters title to his International win at the level, earned just last month in the same arena at Addington CDI.

“We all work so hard to get to a show like this,” Jezz spoke after his prize giving in the NAF Five Star Arena , “to take the win in two classes on the first day is a day you don’t forget. I was happy with all the rides I had today, regardless of where they come, but a win is always a bonus.” 

The week presents a flat-out schedule for Jezz, who remains inspiringly unphased by his twelve Winters entries: “Every show we go to is busy, as much as it is mental exhaustion, physically you are ready to go. You train and ride up to 10 or 15 a day, so when you come here and ride five or six a day it is actually easier. But obviously you always give a bit more when you are competing, you have to take each test as it comes. When I get off one horse and onto another I think about my warm up plan, Dannie [Morgan] helps me too, he is really good at getting me focused for the test, so it’s ideal.”

When asked whether celebration or focus was on the cards ahead of busy week to come Jezz concluded, “ Actually I will go and watch all my tests back, there’s always room for improvement, even though you have won everyone is always very close to your heels. So you have to stay on top and don’t loose focus, so I will be trying to improve, get the warm up better, but they are horses and not robots, so we go in there and do what we can and sometimes it comes off like today and sometimes it doesn’t.” 

Petplan Prix St Georges Silver Area Festival Championship  
Winner: Jenny Ainscough and Florence PFB, 67.647%

First time winner Jenny Ainscough topped the Petplan Prix St Georges Silver Area Festival class with fourteen-year-old mare Florence PFB, scoring 67.647%. 

When asked about her day, “It feels amazing to be a winner at the Winter Championships, a bit gobsmacked still to be honest!”

Jenny has previously competed at a few Petplan Area Festival Championships but this being her first win, when asked how her test went, Jenny said, “I’m really pleased with the test, she got a bit panicky around the outside but she listens so can’t fault her really!

Jenny, who trains with Laura Roe and Becky Moody, talked of what it is about the Petplan Area Festivals that she loves, “Area Festivals give amateurs and people who haven’t got a string of horses a chance to ride at big atmospheric shows, which is why I do it – otherwise we’re up against professionals which is tough going when you’ve only got one horse.” 

The duo have already qualified at Inter I level for the Petplan Summer Area Festivals and are also trying to qualify for the Inter I Freestyle, not to mention the Advanced Medium and Prix St Georges at the Regionals as well, getting set for a busy summer ahead.

Shelly Reeve-Smith was a close second with a score of 67.451% on her own Garfield VDW, followed by Heidi Hutchinson and Ellison in third place scoring 66.863%.

Petplan Medium Bronze Area Festival Championship 
Winner: Ben James and Clapton Banks Primadonna, 71.373%

It was Ben James and Clapton Banks Primadonna who ended the last Petplan class of the day on top with a score of 71.373% in the Petplan Medium Bronze Winter Area Festival Championship. 
The duo, who are no strangers to topping the podium having won the Petplan Elementary Bronze at the 2023 Winter Championships, proved they have a bright future together with their second Championship win in as many years.

Ben said “she rode fantastic, she was brilliant in the warm up. Everything I asked of her she excelled herself. There’s just something in that mare’s head when she goes into the arena it’s like a game face, she knows what to do. She pulls out all the moves, she’s fantastic – she never lets me down. It makes you realise that all the long days, training, money, tears to get to places like this is worth it.”

The combination train with both Tessa Thorne and David Trott and remarkably have only been doing dressage for three years, “we’re stepping up slowly, I introduce new movements and ask different exercise of her slowly, she has a very varied lifestyle – she goes in the field, she hacks out – we walk up and down hills, I believe it’s good for their brain, as well as in the school training. She’s such a happy horse.”

Becoming a regular face across the Petplan Area Festivals, Ben told us why he enjoys competing in this series so much “I think it’s fantastic that you are put in the levels of your ability until you ride yourself out of them, I think it’s good because you’re competing against the same level of rider, which is fair. With the Petplans you qualify for the festivals which is really exciting, and then when you qualify again for the Championships it’s like ‘wow I’m going!’ and today to win – it doesn’t get any better.”

Having also finished third in the Equi-Trek Elementary Silver, Ben is now looking to what’s next, with his sights set on working towards Medium at Regionals and Advanced Medium in the Petplan Area Festivals.

In second place was Sophie Altmann and Woodlander Crossroads on 70.147%, followed by Kizzie Lucas and Candito in third place with a score of 69.608%.

SPILLERS Medium Freestyle Gold  
Winner: Dannie Morgan and Vive la Reinne VH, 75%

Dannie Morgan made it Winters business as usual, making it another year and another win for the successful Hampshire-rider. With Kristina Rausing’s Revolution-sired mare Vive la Reinne VH Dannie rode to a winning score of 75.00% in front of Kim Ratcliffe (H), Anne Keen (C) and Cherry Elvin (B), claiming the SPILLERS Medium Freestyle Gold title, the final class of the day to take centre stage in the NAF Five Star Arena. 

Commenting on his winning performance Dannie said, “I was really pleased today, Delilah [Viva la Reinne] is a good girl and is always a reliable horse in the arena. I always come to these championships thinking about how I can make the floorplan more interesting, show off her highlights and take some risks.”

Dannie was also full of praise and thanks for Tony and Kelly at Equidance who created his winning freestyle: “We did medium canter from counter canter up the centre line with a simple change in front of the judge to make it more interesting. I think it shows off good straightness and adjustability for the simple change. I tried to show a nice balance and way of going over all – it helps that she’s got a great temperament so I’m able to be bold in the arena.”

“She’s seven this year,” the rider now with 15 national titles to his name added about the development of his rising star mare, “so we’ve started working on the changes and things now. In her way of going it’s improved because she’s built so much more strength; the self carriage is improving and she’s a big framed, big moving horse so that’s taken a while. She’s great and going really the right way.”

Second place in the competitive fixture belonged to Claire Abel with the Sezuan daughter GF Sezuki scoring 72.445%, whilst the British-bred mare Catherston Tarantella earned 72.389% for Charlotte Dicker placing third.