At Last Equine Competition Slowly Eases Forward with Covid Protocols

At last there seems to be some semblance of normality returning to the equestrian sporting calendar, Dressage, eventing and show jumping have all had headlines this weekend, as well as racing which has carried on fairly well regardless of the pandemic. All events have continued behind closed doors, but at least they have been able to take place.

Eventing

For the first time, in what now seems years, we were treated to the first 5 star event, The Land Rover Kentucky 5 star Horse Trials in the USA. There were over 60 entries from nations around the globe. A strong contingent from the UK travelled for the event including those based in the UK but ride for Australia and New Zealand. Sadly, as with all world events at present, this competition had to be held behind closed doors.

In the dressage, the USA were well ahead before the cross country phase with Marilyn Little holding the number one position with 21.7 penalties. She was riding RF Scandalous. The second place was also occupied by the USA with Tamra Smith riding Mai Baum just 0.1 penalty behind the leader. In third, going into the cross country was the first of the foreigners, Oliver Townend on one of his two rides, Cooley Master Class.

Oliver Townend – Winner of the Kentucky Horse Trials 2021 riding Ballaghmor Class

The cross country saw a total of 28 numbered fences. There were two withdrawals after the dressage and one retired during their round, Bruce Davidson on Errol Gobey. There were 15 eliminated during their rounds, one of which was William Fox-Pitt, not seen in a top eventing competition since his horrible fall in France a few years ago. He was riding Oratorio. Of the rest, Oliver Townend had a terrific round on his other ride, Ballaghmor Class, with no faults save 0.8 of a time fault. This put him in the lead after the cross country. Tamra Smith dropped from second to tenth, having had a refusal, and Marilyn Little, leader after the dressage, had a horrendous round collected 50 penalties for refusals and time. Oliver’s other horse, Cooley Master Class slipped from third place to 8th after having a run out. The second placed horse after the cross country was Boyd Martin riding On Cue for the USA. Tim Price from New Zealand riding Zavier Faer was sitting in third place and Britain’s Harry Meade riding Superstition was in fourth. All the top four were within once fence of each other, so the final day’s show jumping required some skilful riding. 44 of the original entries competed in the final show jumping round of which two were eliminated. Both Boyd Martin and Harry Meade had one jump down each, therefore, collecting another 4 penalties which dropped both down the leader board. Tim Price had a clear round which promoted him to second His wife Jonelle, who was riding Grovine De Reve and was in sixth place after the cross country with 25.5 penalties collected only 0.4 of a time fault penalty in her show jumping round to give her third place overall. Oliver Townend going last in the competition on Ballaghmor Class had a straight clear in the show jumping which gave him an outright win on 26.5 penalties. Boyd Martin dropped to fourth and Harry Meade went into fifth. Jonelle Price was also seventh on her second ride of the weekend on Classic Moet.

Dressage

Carl Hester, last week was ecstatic to be able to compete in his first CDI since March 2020, according to his social media earlier this week, so off to Hagen in Germany he went! Lorry full of three horses to travelled across the channel.  En Vogue for Carl and two for Charlotte Dujardin, Mount St John Freestyle and her latest Grand Prix horse Gio.

Charlotte Dujardin on Gio – took Grand Prix and Kur in Hagen

The Grand Prix was well attended by international riders from 12 different nations. There were two who obtained over 80%, the winner was Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl riding TSF Dalera BB with 81.652% just putting Charlotte in second place with Mount St John Freestyle on 81.457%. The Grand Prix victory gave Jessica a personal best for a Grand Prix test. Third spot was taken by Isabel Werth riding DSP Quantaz on 78.631%. There were 32 combinations forward. In the Grand Prix Special, the second and final class in this 4 star CDI where the top 15 from the GP went forward. The top two changed positions, with Charlotte just beating Jessica into second by .319 of a percentage point, winning on 81.872%. Isabel Werth maintained her third place. In a separate Grand Prix, Charlotte Dujardin confirmed her good form by winning with her other ride Gio, with 78.761% ahead of Germany’s Frederic Wandres riding Duke of Britain 3% behind. This Grand Prix did not have a ‘special part’ to it and the top 15 of the 27 starters went through to the Kur. Again Charlotte took the top spot on her small but incredibly active Gio with Frederic again coming second. In third place for this competition for both parts was  Nanna Skodborg Marrald from Denmark riding Blue Hors Zack. Although ecstatic to be on the circuit again, Carl Hester was unplaced in the Grand Prix, although he did secure a place in the special being in the top 15 from the first class.

Racing

Paul Nicholls – Champion Trainer

The end of the National Hunt Racing Season and the early group racing for the flat saw some interesting results. The UK Champion trainer was for the twelfth time Paul Nicholls and the Champion jockey for the first time was Harry Skelton, a dream he has always had. Harry Skelton is of course the son of the famous show jumper Nick Skelton, the current holder of the Individual Olympic Gold show jumping medal. Nick Skelton put his prize money from show jumping into a training yard for his two sons, Harry is the jockey and his brother Dan is becoming a very successful National Hunt trainer and surely, it will not be too long before he is champion trainer? The final big race of the season was The 365 Bet Fair Gold Handicap Cup at Sandown. The favourite was Enrilo, who happened to be both trained and ridden by the two champions of the year. The ground was given as good, good to firm in places, but it looked pretty hard to the viewers. In the final furlong, Enrilo took the lead with Kitty’s Light coming up fast on the outside. In an extraordinary event, Harry Skelton seemed to lose all control of his mount when he veered violently across the course and wiped out the fast approaching Kitty’s Light. This took him way off his line and not having enough time before the line to make any corrections, he came in a gallant third, well ridden by Jack Tudor. Without this mishap, Kitty’s Light would have won quite comfortably. The second horse at the line behind Enrilo, who did cross the line first, was Potterman ridden by Tom Cannon and trained by Alan King. Potterman was well out of the way of the fray which was going on the other side of the course and came a comfortable second.

Harry Skelton – Champion jockey for the first time

There was a steward’s enquiry in which Harry Skelton was demoted to third which allowed Alan King’s charge to win, giving the trainer his second win of the race in as many years. It was rather bad luck on Kitty’s Light, as he should and would have won without the interference. However, the rules of racing stipulate that if a horse is disqualified, for whatever reason, the horse which comes second is automatically awarded the win, never mind the circumstances. Hence the Christian Williams trained Kitty’s Light was promoted only to second. In the other races of the final day at Sandown saw, the old favourite Frodon win the Oaksey Chase and the well-known Altior beaten in the Celebration Chase, a Grade 1, by Greaneteen.  Both these winners were ridden by Bryony Frost, another example of how the female jockeys are now coming to the fore! Herbiers won the final Hurdle race of the season for Oliver Greenall, a small trainer from the north of England ridden by Paddy Brennan.

The pick of the worldwide Group 1 flat races was in Randwick, Australia, the Moet et Chandon 1 mile race in which the Peter and Paul Snowdon training duo won with Captivant ridden by James MacDonald. The other Group 1 of note over the weekend was in Hong Kong at Sha Tin were the FWD Champions Mile was run, and won by the hot favourite, Australian bred, Golden Sixty. There have been classic trials for the European classic races which have largely been won by those horses expected. The famous Newmarket Guineas meeting is next weekend.

Show jumping

Max Kuhner of Austria takes first major European CSI of 2021

An FEI 5 star CSI Dutch Master’s was held in Holland, the first international competition to be held in Europe since the outbreak of EVA at the Sunshine tour in Spain in February. Another well attended competition, behind closed doors once again, with 43 starting for the main class, The Rolex Grand Slam of show jumping at S’ Hertogenbosch. This was another class of real international flavour with 16 representatives from world countries in the class. The course designers were from the Netherlands, Louis Konickx and Quintin Maertens, who provided a tough 13 fence course with 18 jumping efforts required. Of the 43 starters, only eight achieved a clear round in the first, so went on to the jump off. Of the eight in the jump off, five went into have double clears; the best of which was from Austrian Max Kuhner riding Elektric Blue P and in 32.52 seconds. In second place came Marian Mondolo Zanotelli from Brazil riding VDL Edgar M, a further 0.18 seconds behind the winner. In third was Christian Kukuk from Germany riding Checker 47. It was a close competition with five retiring and one being withdrawn just before the start. The other two double clears came from Philipp Weishaupt from Germany and finally Willem Greve taking fifth for the home nation.

General News

London’s famous Christmas show is moving from its home at Olympia to the Excel Centre in London’s east end starting this December. A huge mistake we think, as the attraction of the West End of London and all that goes with it, will be removed for the spectators, even if the Excel Centre does give more room, parking flexibility?

New doubts have been raised again this week as to whether it is possible for the intended delayed Olympic Games to go ahead following a huge increase in Covid cases in Tokyo, and that only 1% of the Japanese have actually been given the anti covid jab. Many are saying that the games should not go ahead, and neither should they given the current circumstances in Japan. The problem is if they do not happen this year, they will have to be cancelled altogether. The games are scheduled to begin in late July and are to be staged behind closed doors in any event.

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