Dressage Big Guns Out – Palace Pier Makes it Look Easy
This weekend saw real excitement as the easing of Covid restrictions start to happen. The final of the FA football cup allowed some spectators into Wembley stadium and all outside sport can continue from today with limited crowds – something not seen now for over a year. The British Dressage big gun riders were out in force in the hope of being noticed by the selectors for the up and coming Tokyo Olympic Games and there were a plethora of European Group 1 races including the first of the French Classics at Longchamp, Paris.
Dressage has had limited exposure over the last year, but all the qualified nations for the Olympic Games are starting to ramp up their competitions to select those who will represent their nations in Japan. Until the likes of Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester came on the scene a few years ago now, the Great Britain dressage team was never taken too seriously, bar the occasional accomplished rider like Jennie Loriston-Clarke. The Dutch or Germans were always considered to be the champions; perhaps with Swedes and Danes as possible contenders. Now, however, when the British have a selection trial as they did at The Wellington Riding Club in Hampshire last week, the dressage world tends to sit up and take some notice. It also happened to be the first ever FEI competition at the venue, a CDI 3 star, so there was a lot to play for.
In the Grand Prix, there were 31 combinations lined up for the five judges. At C and chairman of the judges for this class was Suzanne Baarup from Denmark, ably assisted by Peter Storr, Isobel Wessels , both from the UK, Mariette Sanders Van Ganswinkel from the Netherlands and finally Maria Colliander from Finland. All the British big guns and Olympic hopefuls were present except Charlotte Fry, who is based in Holland and has been competing recently very successfully on the mainland European circuit. She took the Grand Prix Special over the weekend at the CDI 3 star Exloo in the Netherlands riding Glock’s Toto. At Wellington, Gareth Hughes had two rides as did Charlotte Dujardin. Others riders were Carl Hester, Emile Faurie, Laura Tomlinson, Emma Hindle and Richard Davison, all having represented GB in the recent past at FEI events. Charlotte Dujardin was favourite with both Mount St John Freestyle and her latest Grand Prix ride Gio, a horse we saw first in January 2020, and we believe will have an amazing future. Luckily for us, Gio, otherwise known as ‘Pumpkin’ took the first place with Charlotte’s other ride coming second. Her winning score was 79.130% and Freestyle getting 77.935%. Carl Hester was third on En Vogue with 77.500% and Gareth Hughes riding Sintano Van Hof Olympia was fourth with 73.783%.
In the Grand Prix Freestyle, there were 13 combinations forward, and naturally, Charlotte Dujardin split her two rides between this class and the Grand Prix Special. Mount St John Freestyle took this class with 88.345% well ahead of her nearest rival, Gareth Hughes riding Kk Dominant gaining 77.080%. In third was Louise Bell riding the now well-known but becoming an older stallion, Into The Blues, who is now 15 years of age.
The Grand Prix Special appeared to be more the business end of classes for the British selectors to ponder. There were 15 forward in this class, and yes, Charlotte Dujardin took the top spot with Gio with a score of 81.426%. She was well ahead of Gareth Hughes on Sintano Van Hof Olympia, who took second with 75.298% In third was Emile Faurie riding Dono di Dimaggio with 75.192% In the Grand Prix this combination were fifth behind Gareth. The fourth went to Carl Hester riding En Vogue.
The week saw the last of the main Epsom Derby trials with the Dante Stakes and yet again Aiden O’Brian was considered to have the race all but won with High Definition, a colt by Galileo. In fact, it was not to be and the hot favourite was turned over by the Godolphin runner, Hurricane Lane, (trained by Charlie Appleby,) a colt by Frankel out of a Shirocco mare; so he will no doubt have the pedigree for the mile and half at Epsom and is a neat compact and well-furnished colt. He would have our vote for beating the Bally Doyle fancied duo? It makes for an interesting Derby to come on June 5th, with no outstanding 3 year old colts this year, and may end up being a rather sub-standard affair?
There were Group 1 races in Australia and more particularly in France over the weekend with the French 2000 and 1000 Guineas, or to give them their full titles, The Poule d’Essai de Poulains, (the 2000 guineas) and The Poule d’Essai de Pouliche for the fillies, both races run over a mile (1600 meters) at Longchamp. There was also the Group 1 John Porter Stakes run at Newbury. This was the only Group 1 race not to take place in 2020 due to the Covid, so this year’s renewal was most welcome. There were 11 runners, with last year’s European Champion Miler, Palace Pier sent of as favourite. Frankie Dettori went to win the race some 2 ½ furlongs from the line as the pace in the straight mile was so slow. “A married man’s canter” as one pundit described it. Anyway and easy win for Palace Pier, again trained by John and Thady Gosden as he was last year. Palace Pier is by Kingman, and is likely to be crowned champion again in 2021, judging by this performance. The stand out horse of the race was the filly who came second, a totally unexpected achievement from the William Jarvis trained filly, Lady Bowthorpe, and ridden by Oisin Murphy. The improvement in this filly was astounding as she had only won two small races previously, and to make such a huge jump from that, to a Group 1 was brilliant. The filly is by Nathaniel, also the sire of Enable!! One other comment from Newbury was the Group 3 race, The Aston Park Stud Stakes, a good pointer to the major Group 1 long distances races later in the season. This was won by the William Haggas trained Al Aasy, who was ridden by Jim Crowley, and who won in a hack canter. He hardly even had to use hands and heals at the business end of the race, his victory was so consummate.
In France, the English 1000 Guineas winner for the fillies mile was thought to have the race well sown up before the off, but Mother Earth did not oblige for the Bally Doyle maestro, and the race went to French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget with his filly Coeursamba ridden by Christian Demuro, winning by 1 ¼ lengths from Mother Earth. There were 13 runners, and the winner is by little known Irish Stallion The Wow Signal, a 5 furlong specialist out of an Anabaa mare, another 5 furlong specialist, so how this won a mile race, we will probably never know!! In the colt’s mile, the Poule d’Essai Des Poulains, there were 9 runners, and this time Aiden O’Brian did score with the much touted St Marks Basilica. He won by 1 ¾ lengths beating the 80 to 1 outsider Colloseo, trained in France by Gianluca Bietolini. The winner was ridden by Ioritz Medizabat and is by Siyouni out of a Galileo mare.