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Day two: LeMieux National Championships

last updated on September 16, 2017 11:48

Day two: LeMieux National Championships

“It was a bit lonely in there!” exclaimed Charlotte Dujardin as she exited the main arena on day two of the LeMieux National Championships. Well, if one rider will take the first three places in the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Championship then what can you expect? The Gloucestershire rider improved on her positions yesterday to make it a one, two, three with her trio of rising stars. 

It was a second victory in as many days with Mount St John Freestyle. The German-bred Fidermark mare owned by the Yorkshire Mount St John Stud arrived at Stoneleigh with high expectations…and rather large shoes to fill (those of Valegro) but the talented, super-calm mare impressed again today and if anything, rose to a new level to score 79.13%, a record score for the Inter I class at the Championships. Judges at H and C, Stephen Clarke and Lars Andersen, both awarded the duo over 80%.

“I was so happy with her test today. She’s done very few Inter I competitions but just finds it all so easy. I just don’t have any worries with her as she’s so great with the atmosphere,” said Charlotte.

So does the superstar German-bred mare have any faults? “No!” was the instant response. “She has a heart of gold and loves a crowd. She’s not mareish at all and loves a fuss - the only time she’s grumpy is when you walk away!”

As yesterday, second was En Vogue whom Charlotte owns with Sandra Biddlecombe and with a personal best score of 76.13% at this level to boot. A huge smile appeared as the double Olympic champion began to talk about En Vogue. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. To think he started the year at Advanced Medium and has now finished third in the Inter I Championship is amazing. I’ve really taken my time with him as he’s a confidence horse. The feeling he gives is just incredible and when I can get him to give what he does at home in competition, it’ll be amazing. It was a massive ask for him yesterday but to get such a relaxed performance today has made me so happy.

Third spot went to another Mount St John mare, Mount St John Kom Fairytale. Impeccably bred by Fuerst Heinrich out of a Weltmeyer mare, the liver chestnut is quite a firecracker and Charlotte had to adapt her riding style accordingly. But buoyed by the confidence of yesterday’s Prix St Georges experience, ‘Princess’ was more settled to score 73.87%.

“That was much better than yesterday, she was much more rideable,” Charlotte explained. “She’s never seen anything like this arena so to go back in on day two and improve is as much as you can ask of them.

“We’ve had her about two years and she was razor blade sharp when she arrived having not done much competing. She could do all the movements but I decided to take her back to go forward. I’m hoping she’ll be out at Grand Prix next year,” she said.

With three horses destined for great things, does Charlotte have a favourite in the trio? “It's so hard to say. They’re three very different characters. Freestyle and Vogue are all my own work whereas Princess had been produced. But the way she’s come on is great to see but you can’t beat bringing on a young horse, there’s nothing better.”

Charlotte has elected to ride just one in the Saracen Horse Feeds Inter I Freestyle on Sunday, Mount St John Freestyle.

Para Gold Championships

It may have been overcast at today’s LeMieux National Championships, however the para riders shone as five victors lined up to celebrate – with several claiming their first ever Para Gold National title.

Overall winner, with a sterling mark of 72.07%, was Yorkshire’s Izzy Palmer aboard Nicola Wells’ 17-year-old Dutch-bred Jazz gelding Touchdown M. After her win at last year’s Championships with Jacqueline Walker’s Pinocchio, the grade IV rider successfully defended her title with her partner of two years – known as Touch at home.

“He really went in there and tried his heart out, which is all I can ask for really,” announced Izzy. “I’m super happy, I felt like we improved from our last outing at Hartpury – which was my aim – so I’m really happy with today’s test. “For me, I was pleased with my walk work because sometimes I can just sit there and forget to ride it but today I felt that it was an improvement. We’ve had a lot of training in preparation and I think that gives you the confidence in the arena to be able to go in there and show your best. It’s a case of staying confident in there, not backing off and being able to ride each movement positively.”

Twenty-one-year-old Georgia Wilson claimed her first Nationals title with her own German gelding by Chico’s Boy, Chico 3. “I was really pleased with it, he listened to me really well and I got my shapes right – which is always great.” Scoring a championship personal best of 71.57%, the pair – who train with Sophie Wells - earned their grade II title as they also broke the 70% barrier for the first time this year.

Another to claim their first Nationals title was grade I rider Mari Durward-Akhurst. Scoring 71.49% aboard Glesni Owen’s 18-year-old son of Welt Hit II, Sky O’Hara, Mari topped the tables despite not having the best run up to the competition. “It’s almost a miracle that I’m here and able to compete.” Mari explained. “I had further deterioration of my condition and have been suffering a lot of pain so I haven’t been able to ride at all. We were just happy to take whatever we got, so I couldn’t believe we won! I was absolutely thrilled with my test, he went the best he’s ever gone and I absolutely nailed my halt.”

Buckinghamshire’s Amanda Shirtcliffe went the extra mile to ensure that she and Jon McFarland’s ten year old mare, New Princess, were fully prepared for today. “We went to Blenheim Palace for a para dressage demo in preparation for today, she was a little spooky there but it helped as today she found it really easy and didn’t look at all – there were no jumps to be scared of!”

Scoring an impressive 71.47%, Amanda and the Danish mare have celebrated much success in their short time together, adding today’s win to their long list. “My test was really good, for a change. My last halt was particularly good, I always have a problem with halts, they’re usually what I call ‘Hokey Cokey’ halts; there’s always a leg out.” The dynamic duo had two reasons to celebrate, as they also placed sixth in today’s Dodson & Horrell Novice Silver Championship.

Para newbie Gillian Brown has burst onto the scene this year, claiming her first National Grade V title with her own 12-year-old Welsh section D, Meikle Rustler, on a solid score of 66.79%. “He was good today, he had a decent clear round in the arena and did everything I asked for, there’s lots more to come because he has a lot to learn – he can be quite quirky, section D style!

“He loves atmosphere, he likes the occasion – noise, razzamatazz, the more the better as he thinks it’s all for him. I never expected to win, it’s my first year in paras and my first ever Nationals so I never expected to win - he’s done so well for a pony we found in the field having done nothing.”

Dodson & Horrell Novice Championships

Oxfordshire rider Ashley Jenkins added a fourth National Championship title to his CV today in the first of the Dodson & Horrell Novice Championships, the Gold section.

Riding Jamie Reynolds and Cherry Elvin’s British-bred His Highness, he scored a two percent victory over his nearest rival with a score of 73.73%. A very happy Ashley commented; “He was really settled and in really good balance today. I could really ride him and he felt full of confidence. He’s a big character and I have really high hopes for him.”

At just five, British-bred ‘Hugo’ looks set to be a star for the future. As a foal he claimed the 2012 KWPN Foal of the Year before Jamie purchased the Wynton-sired gelding as a three year old when Ashley, stable jockey for Dan Greenwood, duly broke him in. “We took him to a number of venues to get his confidence up and get him used to new places,” he explained.

Hugo’s 2017 Nationals adventure isn’t quite over as he’s in action in Saturday’s first round of the Shearwater Insurance Five-Year-Old Young Horse Championship. They won their semi-final at Port Royal so must rank among the favorites for the title. Having been in the atmosphere of the LeMieux arena once and performed positively, he must have an edge over some others. “There’s always a chance he could be tired but I think it takes the pressure off,” Ashley said.

Moving on to the Dodson & Horrell Novice Silver Championships Rob Barker proved untouchable not only winning the class but also taking the second and fourth place accolades as well.

It was set to be a close competition for Rob’s rides as all three came to Stoneleigh Park following a win in their respective Novice Silver Regional Championship classes; in the end it was Andrew Fletcher’s outstanding day bay gelding Hamlet to emerge victorious despite having trotted down the centre line first in the 24-strong class. The five-year-old star scored 73.40% to win on collectives narrowly beating Chloe Walton’s Fidertanz son Fidelius by one mark with Alison Haste’s divine mare Woodlander Romance scoring 70.37% to just miss out on a top three takeover. 

Judge at C Andrea Smith was impressed with Hamlet’s performance, speaking about his test she said, “The highlight for me was how soft the horse looked; he had lovely rhythm and harmony. They were a real partnership and so easy to find marks for.”

About his winning ride Rob said, “He’s a quality horse with three really good paces, he’s been lovely to train and it’s like having half the job already done with the brain and paces he’s got. He did really well today with the atmosphere considering he’s only five and lacking a little bit of experience.”

This is a first appearance at the LeMieux National Championships for former international event rider Rob who’s also in only his first year of dressage having stopped jumping to switch disciplines last year. ‘I’ve always done a bit of dressage and loved it more. I had to wind the jumping down when I had a change of horse power and started focusing mainly on the dressage so it all fell into place,’ explained Rob who suffered a rotational fall a few years ago during his career over fences which he refers to partially as a reason for his change. A future in dressage is certain now for the Upleadon-based rider as he hopes to train his fantastic string of horses to Grand Prix.

‘I’d really hoped to do well this week, it’s been an amazing first National Championships – I’m over the moon,’ he concluded. 

Commenting on the success of the two classes Dodson & Horrell CEO Sam Horrell said, “It has been a great day here at the Dodson & Horrell Novice Silver and Gold Championships. Watching the tests by all horses and rider combinations. The winners of our Championships are duly deserved and I am grateful that Dodson & Horrell has played a role here. Congratulations to all the competitors taking part and we have two very worthy winners.”

TopSpec Medium Silver

Twelve-year-old Annabella Pidgley rode a first class test this afternoon to gain victory in the TopSpec Medium Silver at her first ever National Championships. Annabella, who hails from Berkshire, rode her German Riding Pony Farbenfroh (Farewell I x Rakt’s Rocky) to impress the judges for a score of 70.51%, the sole combination to break the 70% barrier.

“It feels amazing, I’m so happy to be here let alone win,” smiled Annabella. “I am so shocked!”

The 14-year-old gelding, who’s owned by Annabella’s mum Sarah, has formed a formidable partnership with his young rider, not finishing out of the top three since mid-January. A highlight in their career so far was when Annabella and ‘Farbi’ aced Hickstead CDI at the end of July scoring a hat-trick in the FEI Pony divisions.

This afternoon, Annabella was wearing smart new boots which were earned by her Hickstead performance, “I told her [Annabella] that if she was placed in the top three at Hickstead I’d buy her new boots, and if she was in the top three here it would be a new hat! This is proving quite expensive,” quipped Sarah.

Farbi first caught the eye of the Pidgley family at the Pony European Championships in Malmo, Sweden in 2015, where he was on the team for Denmark and won Freestyle Bronze. In a twist of fate, the gorgeous Farbi was acquired later by the family, when another pony they wanted had been sold. “We loved everything about him,” said Annabella.

Next stop for the talented pair, who have an exciting Pony career ahead of them, is next month’s Le Mans CDI in France.

For full results – click here

For winners’ interviews – click here

Photos c Kevin Sparrow