NAF Five Star Winter Championships: Day two
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Despite battling wind, rain and sleet, Jess Bennett and JB Dukaat kicked day two off with a super test in the Petplan Equine Arenas to take home the Intermediate I Area Festival title. The judges panel of Tim Downes, Andrew Bennie and Kim Ratcliffe rewarded the duo’s polished performance with 69.60%.
“I was so pleased with his test, he’s still new to the level and that’s only his fifth Intermediate 1 – he’s done really well. His extended trot and canter work is a real highlight, the changes have been a real problem through the years so they can be a bit hit and miss but today they were all there!”
Jess and ‘Joey’ have a good record at the Winter Championships having picked up the Charles Owen Advanced Medium title in 2017. “He gets very excitable in the indoor arena! We’re back this afternoon for the PSG so I expect him to very over excited about…especially after a prize giving!”
The Petplan Equine Area Festivals have provided the perfect opportunity for Jess to aim Joey at a competition with the right atmosphere for him, “I’ve aimed him for the Area Festival Championships knowing the outdoor arena would suit him, it’s also been a great opportunity to give him experience at the level because he is so green.”
Full-time rider Jess plans to train Joey through the levels and will have a shot at the Summer Regionals at both Prix St Georges and Intermediate I. Talking about her 11 year old gelding’s character Jess said, “I call him my overgrown pony, he’s usually so quiet and easy and then he goes out…especially to Hartpury…and goes a bit wild!”
Second place went to rising Para Dressage star Charlotte Cundall with Brenda Reddy’s BamBam, whilst under 25s rider Izzy Chaplin claimed third on board Coral Ingham’s Vincente II.
Equi-Trek Elementary Gold
Hampshire’s Alice Oppenheimer made her final Elementary outing with her homebred Headmore Bella Ruby one to remember as they claimed their first title together in the Equi-Trek Gold. “She’s been the bridesmaid so often, she finally deserves that win!” exclaimed Alice.
Alice was first to go with her other homebred, Headmore Dionysus, owned by Amanda Radford, and firmly laid down the gauntlet with a score of 73.54%. She held the lead for nearly two hours only to go and overtake herself with the Belissimo M seven year old mare with 74.27%. There were a few strong challengers to come but the Headmore duo held on to their top two places.
‘Bella’, who has an embryo transfer foal by Franklin due this year, was broken by Ryan Shannon as a three year old; “The first time I sat on her, I knew she was special. Mum watched her and I said how amazing was and would go to the top, but she couldn’t see it, but I said, ‘well I can certainly feel it’. She’s just what you look for; go-ey, off the leg, an amazing canter.”
Alice was quite emotional, and deservedly so. “She’s such a genuine mare! She’s such a pro inside the white boards. Yesterday she was quite quirky in the warm up, almost naughty but she’s not really like that; she quite surprised me. I had a think about why and decided that it’s just the way she shows her nerves,” said an emotional Alice. “I gave her an easy time in the warm up today and she was super, just 100% with me in the test. You get a good mare like that who tries for you and…there’s no feeling like it.” And the tears began to fall, it was proof of the bond this partnership share.
Petplan Equine Elementary Bronze Area Festival
Some seven months after winning the Elementary title at the inaugural BD Bronze Championships, veteran rider Patricia Smith and her partner of three and a half years Helios claimed another title today when heading the Petplan Equine Area Festival Elementary Bronze.
Riding in the pouring spring rain, the duo powered on to score 69.51%. Their victory score in August was 67.18% so their training at home with Jade Dawson is clearly paying off. “He couldn’t have gone better despite getting soaked through!” said an elated Patricia.
“I was really pleased with my medium trot lines. He doesn’t have flashy paces and isn’t extravagant but he was very consistent today and I really felt a difference. The weather didn’t bother me. I have an outdoor at home and if it’s raining and I’m less than enthusiastic, my trainer says ‘it could be like this in a competition day’ so we get on with it!” she continued.
Helios, or Ozzy, is by KEC Diamond Millinium who’s a grandson of the legendary King of Diamonds. Patricia bought him from a dealer who said he’d done a bit of showing but dressage was her aim. The started in Team Quest with a group from their local Wokingham Riding Club before going solo and enjoying success at Prelim and Novice in the Draught Associated Championships, Petplan Equine Area Festivals and Winter Championships. The pair now have Medium firmly on their ‘to do’ list, “I’ll have to learn some new tricks!” joked Patricia.
Petplan Equine Elementary Silver Area Festival
In a true story of triumph over adversity, Lisa Clarkson and her own eight year old Giannova were the combination to shine through the afternoon rain in the Petplan Equine Elementary Silver class, taking the accolades with 70.09%.
“The conditions were horrible!” said Lisa about her winning test, “Through my warm up the weather was getting worse and worse, sideways wind and rain, he didn’t even want to walk in it! In the test he was such a good boy, he can be a little sharp so I was really proud that he held it together. We had a couple of small mistakes but I was still pleased overall.”
Post-test Lisa went back to the stables and discovered her score, unplaited and starting getting ready to leave before being told an hour later by the secretaries that she had in fact won! “They told me that I had 20 minutes to get ready so I called my trainer Becky Moody and her team came to the rescue – it took them only eight minutes to plait him and make him look beautiful again whilst I put all my wet show gear back on!”
True survivor Giannova has had a tough journey to the top battling with MRSA after having a tooth removed a couple of years ago. “We nearly lost him, he had to have two lots of surgery under general anaesthetic because we couldn’t get rid of the infection. He’s lucky to be alive really! But we couldn’t miss our moment of glory, it’s a lifetime ambition to win a championship rug.
“He’s a lot of fun to ride but he can be challenging,” Lisa added about her gelding by Goldfever, whom she discovered in Holland as a three year old. With trainer Becky Moody’s help she’s produced him through the levels to Petplan success. “I went to Becky for work experience age 13 and I’m 31 now! I’m based with her and she helps us a few times a week which makes a massive difference.”
Lisa balances riding alongside a career in Pensions and plans to compete her wonder horse at the summer regionals at Elementary and Medium level, “I’m really excited about him, hopefully the changes will be secure enough for us to have a go at an Advanced Medium before too long.”
Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver
For Maeve Morris it’s been two days, two tests and two titles! Today she scored a convincing 77.31% to add the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Freestyle Silver to her growing collection on board wonder horse Headmore Footloose.
“Amazing, absolutely amazing!” Maeve said about today’s performance where the pair danced to a Sara Green compilation including tunes from Footloose… what else!
The elegant bay six-year-old ‘Eric’, who is by Florencio and out of a Dimaggio mare, has all the qualities of a great horse. “His greatest strength is that he has no weaknesses,” said Maeve, “and he just wants to do the job well. He always does what you ask.”
Proud trainer Alice Oppenheimer had not one, but two tests to watch nervously from the sidelines in this class as her sister Kate rode to ninth place on board SOS Sealpoint. With four wins now in the bag, it’s very much looking like Headmore Stud’s time to enjoy a moment in the spotlight, and perhaps some celebratory champagne too.
Magic Prix St Georges Gold
With the withdrawal of Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John VIP, today’s Magic Prix St Georges Gold was opened right up. The class drew quite a crowd of spectators, such was the quality still, and they were rewarded with a cracking PSG competition which was ultimately taken in style by Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Davina.
Fresh from taking an emphatic one-two in this morning’s Equi-Trek Elementary Gold, Alice Oppenheimer, going in the first group of riders before the break, produced a super test to score 71.05% from the judging panel of Fiona Wilson (E), Nick Burton (C) and Peter Storr (M). “She [Headmore Davina] was super,” enthused Alice. “I’m so happy with her and all the horses today.
“It was the best trot work Davina’s ever produced in the ring. The canter pirouettes, which are normally her highlights, were not so good today. I felt I could have ridden them better, but that’s dressage riders – we always want perfection!” she smiled.
“Davina is such a genuine horse and always tries hard for me. She can be a little silly and spooky outside but once between the white boards she gives everything. When you know you can trust a horse like that, it’s a nice feeling. She’s the kindest and sweetest horse too - she’s so lovely and polite.”
Headmore Davina is a nine-year-old daughter of the Headmore Stud’s foundation mare Rubinsteena (Rubinstein) and the prolific stallion, Dimaggio. Remarkably she is a half-sister to Alice’s first- and second-placed rides this morning, a real feather in the cap to the matriarch of the Headmore dynasty, Rubinsteena. “They all have a real work ethic,” added Alice.
Completing the top three was Becky Moody with both her rides, Full Fusion BS (70.96%) and Odwig’s Echo (70.08%).
Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver
Lauren Noble (25) from Ripon in North Yorkshire claimed a close-fought Charles Owen Advanced Medium Silver Championship today at the NAF Five Star Winter Championships. With her 11 year old British mare, Heartbreak (by Herzensdieb).
“I’m a little overwhelmed…it’s still sinking in,” said Lauren after having time to reflect on her win. “I’m so happy with her.
“I had no expectations after my test, I was simply happy with my horse, so to win is a huge bonus. This horse is the best thing ever.”
Lauren travelled to Hartpury via her trainer Sonia Baines’ base in Derbyshire to put some polish on the half passes, a decision which certainly paid off as “they came off really well today.” The talented mare’s energy and verve was channelled to produce a test earning just shy of 70%. Second and third spot were taken by Denise Fryer with Keystone Starstruck and Holly Colgate Hardaway with Dalvangs Lorenzo on 69.56% and 69.03% respectively.
Talking about how the partnership was formed, Lauren said she bought ‘Rose’, as she’s known, as a four-year-old and describes her as her first ‘proper dressage horse’, “I started out showjumping and also did a bit of eventing with my pony but it later became clear that I was more interested in the dressage.
“A lady at Sonia Baines’ yard told me about a nice young horse there that was for sale. She thought she might suit me as the mare was quite sharp and I was quiet. When I rode her she gave me a great feel so I knew at that moment that she was right.”
“It’s a nice feeling having gone up the levels together,” said Lauren. “She’s not been easy and is quite reactive. At her first summer Nationals she reacted to the clapping after somebody’s test, spooked, and jumped on one of the judges’ cars. She still came fourth though!
“She’s had a bit a time off with injury but has come back stronger, both physically and mentally. She’s happier too. She just gets it now. Now she’s older, she can take in and deal with the atmosphere.”
Petplan Equine Inter I Silver
Danish born rider Anne-Marie Bork Eppers headed a thrilling Petplan Equine Intermediate I Silver Championship today at Hartpury. With her 10-year-old Danish-bred gelding Zeilinger Firfod, she was awarded a score of 67.23% to head the class of 16 national finalists.
“That was really amazing,” said a delighted Anne-Marie after their lap of honour in the Hartpury Arena this afternoon. “We came third last year in the Petplan Equine Advanced Medium Championship and I said we’d be here for the Inter I next year, and here we are! I’m so happy.”
Talking through her test, Anne-Marie commented, “I was very happy with the trot work, and happy with the changes and pirouettes too.”
Anne-Marie, who has been UK-based for six years, works in events and sports hospitality for a living. She trains with Charlie Hutton, Sam Rahmatallah and Richard Preston and bought Zeilinger Firfod in Denmark as six-year-old. “I’m Danish so I had to buy a Danish horse,” she smiled.
Known at home as ‘Mumble’, after the penguin in the computer-animated film Happy Feet, the horse is described by his owner-rider as ‘really chilled then all of a sudden he switches on to perform.”