A Clean Sweep for British Riders in Avenches – First Season Sires Prove Their Worth in Newmarket
The final major European horse trial event on the European calendar of 2021 took place at Avenches in Switzerland. The European Eventing Championships. At Newmarket, the first of the autumn juvenile Group 1 races were held as well as other Group 1s around the globe.
The CCI 4 star European Eventing Championship event attracted riders and teams from across the continent, and arguably this was the most competitive and important horse trial event of the year held anywhere in Europe. Avenches seemed a strange choice of venue for such a big championship. However, with the championships on then not and then back on again, it was a fantastic effort to get a venue to step up to put on such a huge championships in just 3 months. A little about the unknown venue. Avenches is a small town in a small Swiss canton in the foothills of the Alps. If you drew a line on the map between Geneva and Basel, half way between the two, you would go through Avenches in the Canton of Vaud. It has had a busy history, despite its size with an old Roman fort and a castle among its treasures. It boasts a racecourse which is where the championships were set.
There were a total of 67 competitors to start in the dressage phase and the first day saw the first 34 of them compete. Jordy Wilken from the Netherlands was the path finder in front of the three judges; Andrew Bennei from New Zealand, the president judging at C assisted by Christian Steiner from Austria at M and Christian Landolt from the home nation at E. The technical delegate for the FEI was Gillian Kyle from Ireland. There were some very low scores in this event with the lowest on the first day being Nicola Wilson riding JL Dublin on 20.9. Fellow Brit, Piggy March riding Brookfield Inocent was second on the leader board with 23.3. On the second day, the scores were equally as low with several others getting fewer than 30 penalties – 14 of them in fact.
The all-female British riders continued to demonstrate their abilities with Rosalind Canter riding Alistar B ending the dressage phase in second place with 20.6 and Sarah Bullimore riding Carouet ending with 22.6. This left the Brits with four of the top six places on the leader board and in a commanding position for the team gold medal at the end of the four day event. The top accolade for the dressage however, must go to Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, who finished as the leader on a staggering 20.2 penalties.
She was riding her 17 year old SAP Hale Bob. Although she currently wares the European Champion’s crown, this position was even more remarkable as Ingrid had a hideous fall only a couple of months ago when she fell and broke her sternum, so to come back after such a short time was frankly incredible. The only other rider in the top six not mentioned was from France, Maxime Livio riding Api du Libaire, finishing on a score of 21.3 and in 4 place on the leader board. At the end of the day, Ingrid told reporters that ‘Bobby’ as she calls him was kept in work while she recovered from her fall by her head girl Carmen Thiemann.
The cross country course was designed by Mike Etherington-Smith from Great Britain and he designed a challenging but fair course as he always does. Using the contours of the level totting racecourse, the course started with several single fences. The first combination came at the ninth fence, a double of meaty fences followed by fence 10 which was another double, this time of houses made as skinnys. The first big corner fence came at fence 16. The first water came at fence 18 with a big brush fence to jump over into the water. Fence 23 brought up the second water, shallow with a jump in and out. Fence 28 was probably the most challenging of the waters with a big brush skinny going into the water, with a turn in the middle and out over a smaller roll top fence. The final double fence effort at fence 31 saw a double of large roll top fences with a small amount of brush on the top of each. The final fence, fence 32 was a welcoming roll top.
The course proved to be very rideable for most of the competitors with only 11 of the 67 starters unable to complete and only three actually retiring. As with the dressage, Piggy March held the lead as an early runner for some time. Rosalind Canter, in second after the dressage had a terrible day at the office with two run outs and a collection of time faults, ending the day adding a further 56.4 penalties to her score. Of the others in the top echelons, Nicola Wilson had no penalties at all over cross country and promoted herself from third to the overall leader with Ingrid Klimke not quite making the time went into second after collecting 1.2 penalties to add to her score of 20.2. French rider Maxime Livio also collected another 1.2 time penalties, but regardless of that he improved his leader board position from fourth to third. Piggy March was in fourth, up two and Sarah Bullimore stayed at position five.
Michael Jung for Germany riding fischerWild Wave was the only other rider to finish within one fence from the leader, so any of the first five could win the whole thing following the showjumping phase. The next four, Kitty King, Christoph Wahler, Felix Vogg and Izzy Taylor were all with a shout as they were within two fences of the leader.
As the top of the leader board, say the top fifteen riders, competed in the showjumping phase, there was everything still to play for as the top was so tight. Seventh from the end, Kitty King riding Vandredi Biats had an unexpected fence down, but left the arena in top place; only to be replaced by Michael Jung the next in who jumped a clear. Sarah Bullimore riding Corouet as an individual and not a team member followed Michael and also went clear. There was less than a fence between the top six riders, so the final four could not have a fence down without ruining their chances of a medal. Piggy March came in and left with a clear round, which if the others above also went clear would mean she would be just out of the medals.
Following her was Maxime Livio from France; he had a pole down, and correspondingly went down in the leader board and out of medal contention. Following him was Ingrid Klimke, she also had a pole down, so she was out of medal contention. This meant that British riders, Piggy March and Sarah Bullimore were promoted to at least a bronze and silver medal. Finally, Nicola Wilson, with no room to make any mistakes came in and she rode a magnificent clear, thus giving her the Individual Gold medal. The British had taken both the Team Gold medal and the Individual Gold medal from German hands and ended the weekend with a clean sweep. In the team event, behind Great Britain was Germany who won team Silver and Sweden took Bronze.
This was a spectacular result for Great Britain as they are now current holders of the World Individual and Team Gold, The Olympic Individual and Team Gold and now finally the European Championship Individual and Team Gold. No doubt, as this is written, there will be some very sore heads today following the well-deserved celebrations!!!
In Newmarket, the first of two year old Group 1 races took place with the Middle Park Stakes for colts and the Cheveley Park Stakes for the fillies. Other Group 1 races around the globe were the 3 year old for fillies only, the Golden Rose Stakes in Australia over 1 mile ½ a furlong which had 13 runners and in the United States at Parx another 3 year old contest for fillies only on the dirt which attracted 8 runners. The final Group1 race of the weekend was in Germany, the 59th running of the Preis Von Europa at Cologne where there were 9 runners for the 1 ½ mile race for 3 year olds and up.
Both the Cheveley Park and the Middle Park races were strong renewals and were both sponsored by Juddmonte Farms. In the Cheveley Park, there were 12 runners for the six furlong contest. Sacred Bridgem trained by Ger Lyons of Ireland was thought to have the best chance as the filly was unbeaten on four runs including the Group 3 Railway Stakes at the Curragh in her last outing. As the race unfolded on the good to firm ground, Sacred Bridge simply lacked the speed to keep up with most of the others. Flotus broke from the pack about two furlongs out and kept going well, gaining 4 or 5 lengths on her rivals, but up the inside, with frankly astonishing speed, came Tenebrism, not seen out on any course since late March.
Then, the filly won her maiden with ease, but since had had training setbacks and this was her first run for six months. She maintained her unbeaten record winning this race at 40.1, unheard of especially for an Aidan O’Brien trained horse! Flotus was second with Sandrine in third. The winner was ridden by Ryan Moore, his first race ride on the filly, who afterwards said that she was a really good filly and a great excitement to look forward to next season. “Tenebrism could very well go to the Juvenile Race at the Breeders Cup meeting before being put away for the winter”, said the rather surprised but delighted trainer. Tenebrism was her sire Caravaggio’s first runner and now his first Group 1 winner, making it a great start for the young first season Coolmore stallion.
In the Middle Park Stakes, run over the same distance for the colts, Perfect Power was the horse to beat. He won the Norfolk Stakes over five at Royal Ascot and after a disappointing Goodwood run went on to be the only Group 1 winner in the field of ten runners by winning the Prix Morny at Deauville last time. Badly drawn in the number one stall, jockey Christophe Soumillon had to play a tactical race. He dropped the colt out and at the halfway point was plum last. The colt was known for his speed and acceleration, and he certainly proved it in this race as he came home to score the victory for the Yorkshire based trainer, Richard Fahey. The colt is also by a first season sire Ardad, and this was a first Group winner for the sire. Second home was Castle Star, trained in Ireland by Fossi Stack and in third was Richard Hannon trained Armor.
In the United States, Arlington Park staged its final day’s racing. The course has been used for US racing since 1927, so a sad day for all concerned to see one of the older US courses no longer being used.
The main dirt Group 1 race run over the weekend was in the United States at Parx. The 3 year old fillies only 1 mile ½ furlong race The Cotillion Stakes was won by Claireier trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santatna. Second home was Obligatory with Army Wife in third. There were 8 runners
In Rosehill, Australia, The Golden Rose Stakes was won by In The Congo ridden by Timothy Clarke and trained by Gai Waterhouse. There were 13 runners for the 7 furlong race. The second home was Anamoe with the third Coastwatch. The winner won by a head with a length and a half between the second and third.
The final Group 1 of the weekend was the 59th running of the Preis Von Europa over 1 mile 4 furlongs. The 8 runners went on the good ground and the victor was trained in the UK by Sir Mark Prescott for Landwades Stud owner Kirsten Rausing – Alpinista ridden by Luke Morris, his first ever Group 1 win. Nerium was second and Sisfahan was third, both horses trained and owned by Germans.
Images courtesy of Tim and Tilly Berendt, Timeform and Throughbred News