An Extravaganza of Competition to Whet the Appetite before Olympics
With less than three weeks to go before the start of the Olympic Games, an extravaganza to whet the appetite! Three major 5 star international show jumping events were held last week and over the weekend, The Royal Windsor Horse Show, a Nations Cup in Rotterdam and a Longines Global Champions Tour meeting in Monaco. It was wonderful to see The Queen out visiting the Royal Windsor Show held in her back garden at Windsor Castle again. In dressage, a world CDIO 5 star dressage event was held incorporating a Dressage Nations Cup, also at Rotterdam.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show
Last year cancelled due to the pandemic, this event was back with vengeance in 2021 with a full schedule of show jumping and showing classes. The show started with a couple of extra classes for dressage. This was only for those selected to go to Tokyo, and was if you like a final dress rehearsal before going down the road to get on a plane to the Olympic Games. There were only 5 starters for the pure dressage competition and 6 for the eventing equivalent. There were no scores given at the end as this was ‘an experience’ dress rehearsal.
The first major showjumping class was a Puissance, something we have not seen for some time, which was won by Joseph Stockdale riding Florida VDL. In second of the 6 competitors was Guy Williams on Mr Blue Sky, the same horse he had some success with last weekend at Hickstead. Robert Whitaker was third. The main course for the weekend was of course The Grand Prix sponsored by Rolex.
There were 29 runners in the class, which was a bit lower than usual but the various European covid restrictions did not allow several nationals from mainland Europe to compete. However, the organisers must have been delighted to welcome the world’s number two and three from Switzerland – Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat among several of the top world riders for this prestigious Grand Prix. Of course, the top British riders and their horses were on display as well as others, recently selected to represent their countries in Tokyo in three weeks’ time. Although, not a big class, this was a class which reeked of quality. The course was big but not as difficult as many riders thought it would be, and the first three rounds were all clear from Harry Charles, William Whitaker and Emily Moffitt, all from the home nation, Great Britain. Although big but not too technical, the time was an issue for ten of the riders, as they failed to finish their rounds in the time allowed of 73 seconds set by Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral. Ten riders went through to the jump off including Ben Maher riding Explosion W, Martin Fuchs with Clooney 51 and Steve Guerdat riding Venard de Cerisy. Harry Charles riding Borsato set a good clear going first in 38.21 seconds. The time was beaten again several times in a very tight contest. Henry Von Eckermann riding King Edward, and trying to win this class back to back, ended coming fourth in37.45 seconds and clear. The top three, already mentioned were Steve Guerdat in third with fellow Swiss rider Matin Fuchs in second and the winner was Ben Maher winning in 35.16 seconds. This was an exciting Grand Prix and dare it be said, but probably the best Grand Prix of this year? The win will certainly give Ben Maher and Explosion W some great confidence before their next appearance in Tokyo in three weeks’ time, and on that running, it would be foolish to disregard them.
Showjumping was not the only attraction at the Royal Windsor Show. There were dozens of showing classes, and this year, musical rides by both The Household Cavalry and The Kings Troop Horse Artillery rounded off each of the five day’s competitions. In the showing classes, Her Majesty The Queen owned the winner of the Flat Ridden Sport Horse class, Daydream III shown by Katie Jerram-Hunnable. The same rider also produced Retired Racehorse Retrained class with First Receiver. The Queen is also the owner of the Cleveland Bay class winner, Hampton Court Ivy shown by Eve Rawston. This win must have given Her Majesty real pleasure as Cleveland Bay horses are among Her favourites. She was also in the winner’s enclosure again in The Private Driving Championships. Lucinda Perrett driving a pair of bay geldings with a Balmoral Dog Cart was the exhibitor.
One of the main events at Rotterdam is possibly the major Longines FEI Nations Cup round in Europe this year. There were ten nations competing but one of the usual participants, Great Britain did not send a team. This was partly due to the British not being very welcome in Europe at the moment due to the ever rising cases of covid in the UK and also, and may be more important, the British had their own 5 star event at Windsor, one of the main British shows in the calendar. Japan was the replacement team, a country not usually noted for sending a team to the European Nations Cup. Each rider needed to complete the course set by Spaniard Santiago Varela and his team of 12 obstacles with 15 jumping efforts required. The riders were expected to ride 400 meters per minute with a top height fence of 1.60m. Swiss rider Bryan Balsiger set them off collecting 8 faults, so not a great start for the Swiss. Sweden, France, Germany and the United States ended round one with no faults, so a second round looked a mouth-watering prospect. Surprisingly Switzerland were in last place on 16 faults at the end of round one and so they started the second round. They did improve on their first round efforts and ended up with 32 faults for the two rounds, lifting the team up one position. Norway had a cricket score of 29 faults in round two, (one of their team, Johan-Sebastian Gulleksen, retired during the round), so ended up in last place. The United States dropped from joint first to seventh as their riders too had disappointing rounds, all except Lucy Delauries who managed a double clear. Their cause was not helped in that Bezzy Madden elected not to ride in round two. Japan only started with three riders in the team, so there was no discount score and they put up a creditable performance in coming sixth with only 14 faults.
The German team all collected faults and slipped from one to four with a total of 12 faults collected in round two. The French also came home with 12 faults, but as Penelope Le Provost had a double clear they took third. Sweden came second as they too collected faults in round two, this time 9, again with all their riders collecting penalties. The winners were the home team Holland who actually only had 1 fault at the end of the first round, managed to keep the score to a minimum only adding 6 more penalties to their first round score. Maikel Van de Vleuten riding Beauville Z made no mistakes. Both Willem Greve and Marc Houzanger collected time faults, and Marc also had a fence down in the second round with final team member Frank Schuttert having fences down in both rounds, but able to have his score discounted. The Netherlands ended on 7 faults.
In the Longines Grand Prix of Rotterdam, there were 42 taking on the Santiago Varela designed course. There were 15 who went on to compete in the jump off and this ended up being an exciting and close run thing for the top three places. The first clear in round one came with the fourth horse in, Sanne Thihssen riding Con Quidam Rb and the pair were first to go in the jump off. They set a blistering pace over the nine jumps in round two in a time of 33.10 seconds for the Netherlands. This was a time never to be beaten although it was challenged hard by the 14 others who came in after. McClain Ward of the United States riding Contagious had the best effort and came second with a time of 33.13, so close! Finally, Kim Emmen riding Jack Van Het Dennehof was third for The Netherlands with 33.52 seconds. All things considered, The Netherlands must have been delighted with their results at their home venue? The won the Nations Cup and the Grand Prix and also won in the dressage. Read on.
Dressage in Rotterdam
The dressage Grand Prix and Nations Cup round was a very low key affair compared with days gone by. In the individual dressage, there were only 12 to start and the team event saw only three countries competing against each other. Germany and The Netherlands sent strong teams to Rotterdam. Belgium were the third team and were told just this week that they could now have a team in the Olympics following a dispute between Ireland and the FEI of qualifications scores. Ireland has withdrawn from the Olympic competition. At the end of the Grand Prix, Isabel Werth took the lead on Weihegold Old with just over 80% and two Dutch riders coming second and third, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal. Edward Gal beat a field of 9 to take the Grand Prix Special with fellow Dutch team mate Dinja Van Liere coming second. The Grand Prix Freestyle saw ten combinations attempting to dance their way to glory. The top three gained marks of 80% over including the winner Isabel Werth gaining 87% with Edward Gal riding Glock’s Total Us coming second and Dorothee Schneider coming third riding Sammy Davis Jnr. In the final analysis for the three in the Nations Cups, The Netherlands took the top spot with Germany just behind and the Belgian team in third. Holland’s team total was 15 from the three parts of this Nations Cup with Germany on 19 and Belgium some way behind on 46. The remaining member of the Netherland team was Marlies Van Baalen.
Longines Global Champions Tour in Monaco
In Monaco, the Longines Global Champions Tour was the feature of this meeting with the Grand Prix being the main course despite several hors d’oeuvres being served at CSI 2 star level. As usual for this type of class, there were 13 obstacles with 16 jumping efforts required in the first round in which there were 33 taking on the Uliana Vezzani designed course. Six of the 33 went clear and through to the jump off in which only the top three took a double clear for the class. The winner was Darragh Kenny from Ireland riding Idalville D’Esprit taking his first Global Tour win. He won and finished his jump off round with 37.89 seconds on the clock. In second was Max Kuhner from Austria, who is having a purple patch in his riding at present riding Eic Coriolis Des Isles, finishing on 38.07seconds.In third, and the only other double clear was Olivier Philippaerts for Belgium riding H & M Legend of Love. There were 16 different nationals taking part.