Emma Raducanu and Jessica Bredow Werndl Cap a Momentous Weekend for Female Athletes
As the world marvels at the new tennis sensation Emma Raducanu from Great Britain, equine sporting competition was in full swing. After last week in Riesenbeck in Germany, for the showjumping European Championships, the dressage European Championships took place, again in Germany, this time in Hagen. There were several Group 1 races in Europe including the final British classic, The St Ledger. There was plenty of showjumping action as well, both in Rome, Italy and at Spruce Meadows in Canada putting on top drawer 5 star international classes.
The Dressage Europeans
Unlike the showjumping, this was a European Championships where the top riders with their top horses, recently seen at the Olympic Games were all out in force. The horses though, did have an extra two weeks to recover from their Tokyo exploits, so it was not unreasonable that they should appear on the world stage once again. The competition was set up in very much the same way as the Olympics. There was a round of Grand Prix for all the riders which acted both as a team event and an individual one to establish the top combinations. The Grand Prix also acted as a qualifier for the team and individual finals later in the week. The one main difference was that there were four riders in each country’s team and unlike the Olympics, where all the rider’s score counted. This championship allowed for the worst score of each team member to be discounted. There were sixteen countries putting forward a team, all obviously from Europe. There were seven judges, so every movement would be scrutinized with absolute candour by each judge. The chairman of judges, and stationed at C was Isabelle Judet from France, assisted by Susanne Baarup from Denmark; Thomas Lang (Austria); Maria Colliander (Finland) Isabel Wessels (Great Britain) Henning Lehrmann from Germany and finally, Mariette Sander Van Gansewinkel from the Netherlands.
The Grand Prix produced only one rider with over 80% over the two days of Grand Prix and that was the world number one Jessica Bredow-Werndl riding her successful Olympic horse TSF Dalera TB. She ended the competition at the head of the leader board for the individual medals with 84.099%, well clear of her German rival Isabel Werth riding Weihegold OLD, who ended up with 79.860%. In third on the leader board was Charlotte Dujardin from Great Britain, again riding her Olympic horse Gio, and only just behind Isabel Werth with 79.829%. Out of the 73 combinations starting, both riding as team and individuals, there were a total of twenty four nations represented. Isabel Werth was to have ridden Bella Rose, but following a colic problem with the horse, she changed horses. This was to have been Bella Rose’s retirement competition.
At the end of the first day, 35 riders had been judged and the top rider of the day was Charlotte Fry riding her Olympic horse Everdale with 77.671%; a personal best for the rider. Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald riding Atterupsgaard Orthilia was second with 75.078% and Dorothee Schneider on Faustus from Germany was third 74.985%. Just behind Dorothee was Gareth Hughes from Great Britain in fourth. He rode Sintano Van Hof Olympia and was delighted to at last have a chance to go down the centre line as he was the travelling reserve for Tokyo and he never actually set foot in the competition arena! At last he said. He wouldn’t have been the only rider not to actually compete in Tokyo! The second day brought out the big guns from each country. The scores were improved as a result and as expected with the top three taking the high 70s to early 80% bracket. The fourth in the final list was Catherine Dufour riding Bohemian on 79.721%. This result meant that the silver and bronze medals positions were going to be very hard fought with the second to fourth riders within less than 1%. So with all the riders gone, the team result was as expected Germany taking the Team Gold medal. The final member of the German team was Helen Langehanenberg. Dorothee Schneider’s score was the disregarded score giving the team a final total of 238.944. The Team Silver medal went to Great Britain. The only member not mentioned thus far was Carl Hester riding En Vogue. He was the second team member to go on the second day and scored 74.845%. The teams ended with a final score of 232.345 with the disregarded score coming from Gareth Hughes. Only just behind Great Britain in Team Bronze medal was Denmark, and only just by a whisker! They ended the day with a final score of 231.165 – so very close. The other two Danish team members not mentioned thus far were Daniel Bachmann-Andersen riding Marshall Bell and Charlotte Henning riding Bufranco. All the classes so far were sponsored by Fundis Reitsport.
With the team event out of the way, the individual championships could begin in earnest, starting with the Grand Prix Special ridden under flood lights. The top 30 from the Grand Prix qualified to run, and the top fifteen would then qualify, to go on for the final part of this individual championship to ride in the Freestyle. Jessica Bredow Werndl won the class with 84.271% She collected several 10s throughout her test, particularly for passage/piaffe, where she collected no less than six 10s collectively from the judges. The second was Isabel Werth with 81.702% and Catherine Dufour ahead of Charlotte Dujardin for third with 81.079%. In fact the British riders ended the day in fourth, fifth and sixth places.
In the Freestyle, the final class of the Championships, the top 15 riders from the Grand Prix special qualified, but the rules also said that only three riders from each nation could compete, which meant disappointment for both Gareth Hughes, who was in fact 15th in the GPS and Dorothee Schneider from Germany as all of the other team members in both countries had already qualified with better scores. The exclusion of these two athletes did mean that 16 place in the GPS, Hans Peter Minderhoud from the Netherlands riding Glock’s Dream Boy and Jose Antonio Garcia Mena riding Divina Royal for Spain were able to compete.
This ended up being an exciting class to watch. It has to be said that there was a certain fatigue with a lot of the horses with most of them competing in Tokyo and flying around the world. Charlotte Dujardin was the first of the top five who would be the medal winners, into the arena, and who posted a score of 87.246%. She took the gold spot at the time, and was followed in by Catherine Dufour who rode a test judged to be slightly better that Charlotte’s, so took over the top spot with 88.436%. The next to present was Jessica Bredow Werndl who rode a near perfect test and scored 91.021%, an unbeatable score, so as expected she took the individual Gold medal.
There were still two to go, Isabel Werth and Charlotte Fry. Isabel had a very awkward day at the office and she knew it. Despite being expected to ride a test close to the value of Jessica, her horse Weihegold OLD was simply not on form, and looked stiff throughout the test and as a result made silly mistakes throughout. This left Isabel with a score of 84.846% and out of the medals. With Charlotte Fry, the last to go, producing a correctly executed test in terms of movements, the test was rather lumpy throughout and the judges marked her accordingly with 84.721%. The Gold Medal therefore went to Jessica Brewdow-Werndl for Germany, with the Silver to Denmark’s Catherine Dufour and the Bronze was won by Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain.
The last of the British Classics was run at Doncaster on Saturday, The St Ledger Stakes over 1 mile 6 ½ furlongs. This is the oldest classic race in the world and this year there were ten runners. Irish Derby winner, Hurricane Lane ridden by William Buick kept his charge fairly near the rear of the race for the most part until the final furlong and a half, when he produced the horse who had the speed to sweep past all the other runners and win in the end with consummate ease.
In Ireland, the famous Leopardstown weekend took place with a plethora of Group 1 raced including The Irish Champion Stakes over 1 mile 2 furlongs. This was won by Ryan Moore riding St Mark’s Basilica for Aidan O’Brien. The second Group 1 at the meeting was the Coolmore Justify Stakes over a mile which was won by the outsider from Jessica Harrington’s yard – No Speak Alexander – a 3 year old filly. The race was for fillies and mares only. There were two other Group 1 races at Leopardstown over the weekend, both the main races for 2 year olds only in the country.
The first, for the colts, the Vincent O’Brien National stakes over 7 furlongs was won by Native Trail, another Group 1 win over the weekend for trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick. The colt won by an easy 3 ½ lengths from Point Lonsdale, depriving Aidan O’Brien of another top race win. There were 7 runners. The fillies equivalent race, The Moyglare Stud stakes over the same distance with 8 runners; was won by Jessica Harrington trained Discoveries who was ridden by Shane Foley and won by a smaller margin of ½ a length from Ahartha. Native Trail is by Oasis Dream out of an Observatory mare and Discoveries is by Mastercraftsman out of a Rahy mare.
Finally, our roundup of Group 1 races ends in France with the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp; a race used by many trainers as a prep race for the Arc. The race over 1 ½ miles, (2400 M) run on the Arc course itself is for mares and fillies only. There were 7 runners, three of which were sent from Ballydoyle by Aidan O’Brien. The winners was from Roger Varian’s yard, the 3 year old Teona ridden by Olivier Pellier. The filly ran freely for much of the race but knuckled down in the final furlong and beat Snowfall, the hot favourite. The leader of the race until the final 100 yards was another O’Brien runner, La Joconde ridden by Hollie Doyle who came third.
In Italy, Rome, the Longines Global Champions Tours continued with a stiff course designed by Uliano Vezzani for the 31 starters. 7 of the starters retired and there was one elimination. Of the 23 left, there were eleven clear to go through to the jump off, seven of which went double clear, so it was all down to the time. Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson riding H&M Indiana won with Christian Ahlmann coming second. Malin’s time was 36.74 seconds with the German over a second behind on 37.82 seconds. Just 0.2 of a second behind Christian was Harrie Smolders from the Netherlands taking the third spot.
At Spruce Meadows, in Calgary, Canada, Leopoldo Palacios from Venezuela designed a course which included jumps of 1.70m. There were 31 starters from 12 nations in the Rolex sponsored class. The top 12 combinations went for a second round whether clear in the first round or not. Steve Guerdat riding Venard de Cerisy from Switzerland took the honours with a double clear and a winning second round time of 65.84. He was the only rider to complete with a double clear. He beat the United States’ Kent Farrington riding Gazelle, who had 4 faults in the first round, but was clear in the second. In third, was another from the United States, MaCain Ward, who also had 4 faults in the first round but went clear in the second.