Great Britain Takes Centre Stage for Sport this Weekend
The centre stage of world sport this weekend was quite definitely Great Britain. There were major dressage, showjumping and horse trials around the country. Oh and there was also a football match, the Euro finals and the final of the men’s championships at Wimbledon. The dressage international CDI was held at Hartpury in Gloucestershire and a 4 star horse trial event at Barbary Castle nearby. Add to that, a senior show jumping event at Bolesworth in Cheshire, and a major race meeting at Newmarket; all kept equine enthusiasts happy whatever their preference.
Galileo The Sire of our Time
The racing and breeding world learned on Saturday that the great Coolmore sire Galileo had been put down after an injury to his left fore leg did not respond to treatment. In racing, Galileo won the Epsom Derby in fine style as well as many other group races and was the sire to date of 91 Group 1 off spring, an incredible horse and sire who will be sadly missed.
There were two major Group 1 races at the July course in Newmarket, the Falmouth Stakes, a mile race for 3 year old and up fillies and mares over 1 mile and The July Cup, a 6 furlong sprint for all age horses. In The Tattersalls sponsored Falmouth Stakes, Richard Hannon got revenge after several years with a win form Snow Lantern who appeared boxed in quite badly 2 furlongs from home. Alcohol Free led from the start, heading the eleven runner field with Mother Earth in second. Once Snow Lantern managed to free herself, she swept up the middle of the course, beating both the front runners by a half-length or so. Richard Hannon was very emotional after the race as he felt hard done by when a few years ago, Snow Lantern’s mother Sky Lantern was not awarded the same race when she was taken out by the winner of that year, Elusive Kate, (2013) and ended up being second of a four runner race. This time however, the competition was much stronger and with no doubt this was a great renewal of the Falmouth Stakes with a recent Coronation winner and a Thousand Guineas winner lining up. Mother Earth was second with Alcohol Free in third.
In the Darley sponsored July Cup, another Group 1 of note for sprinters, there were an unprecedented 19 runners for a Group 1 before the starter. There were several fancied runners in this with Starman being sent off as favourite and well touted for the race before hand by trainer Ed Walker with Tom Marquand on board. In the preliminaries he was very colty and did not seem to have his mind on the job at all. However, despite a very lack lustre first part of the race Starman came through with an electric burst of speed and took the race by ½ a length. He beat the unfortunate Dragons Symbol into second, (this was the horse disqualified at Royal Ascot) and Oxted, last year’s winner was third. This was the first Group 1 success for Ed Walker.
The Hartpury Festival of Dressage
Although no one would admit it, there must have been a huge sigh of relief among the Grand Prix riders this year that neither Charlotte Dujardin nor Carl Hester were in the line-up, as they are now officially on Olympic Games duty. This was a close competition for the 27 combinations and the winner with 74.084% was an Olympic hopeful, Fiona Bigwood, riding Hawtins Delicato, a horse once ridden by Carl Hester. In second was the veteran Olympic representative of days gone by, Richard Davison riding Bubblingh with 71.696% and third was Becky Moody, always knocking on the door for Olympic recognition riding Famke PF on 71.000%. These three were the only three to gain a mark of 70% or over from the five judges headed by Isobel Wessels at C.
In the Grand Prix Freestyle, the feature class of the whole festival, 15 combinations took part. Richard Davison took the honours in this class with 75.150% riding Bubblingh; a good 5 % ahead of his nearest rival, Jessica Dunn riding Jessica Whitaker’s Alicante Valley with 70.600%. Richard Davison always comes to the fore in the freestyle part of any dressage competition. He has been a past master at putting movements to music for more years than I am sure he cares to remember, and very successfully as well. The third was Alice Oppenheimer riding her own Headmore Dirubinio.
One of the last classes of the festival is the Grand Prix Special and this class attracted eleven combinations. The 13 year old bay gelding Hawtins Delicato ridden by Fiona Bigwood took this class with 72.958%. In second was Becky Moody 2% behind the winner and third was Mikaela Soratie from Finland riding Hot Casanova, just a smidgen behind on 70.490%. This is never a class which attracts a lot of numbers and actually, this year there were a couple more in the class than usual. None of the other riders achieved a score of more than 70%. Although the quality was a little below par for the norm, it was a competitive class and did allow others to take the glory without the Olympic riders participating.
At Bolesworth, a show which has been up and coming for a few years now in the UK, its importance seemed exenterated with the lack of FEI showjumping CSIs left on the calendar this year. Unfortunately, the UK international equestrian events have been hit by a double whammy of difficulties in 2021 with covid restrictions and the Europeans still smarting over the fact that the UK has left their cosy little club of the EU and taken their money with them. So it doesn’t’ matter what it is, including horse movements, it appears than if the EU can put a spanner in the works, they will, which has made things very difficult for those Brits wanting to compete in Europe and vice versa!
Although only a CSI 3 star Grand Prix sponsored by feed merchants Dodson and Horrell, there were 48 starters for the class. The course was designed by Louis Koninckx from The Netherlands, who designed a 13 obstacle circuit. This was competition where the top twelve in the first round would automatically go into the jump off round. In fact in round one, there were only two clears and a further two who left all the poles up but collected one penalty each for time. The Irish contingent certainly took this class by the scruff of the neck as they had 5 in the jump off and actually won the class with David Simpson riding Foudre F winning the class as the only rider of all to get a double clear round. Holly Smith riding Fruselli was the other clear in the first round but as she had a fence down in the jump off, she ended up in fourth. William Whitaker for GB riding Galtur, was one of the one faulters in the first round and managed to keep a clean sheet in the second, so he ended up being the runner up in the class as he had a faster time of Daniel Coyle riding Oak Grove’s Carlyle for Ireland, who was the other rider with one fault in the first round and finished in third.
In Paris at Chantilly, the French put on a 5 star CSI to include a Rolex sponsored Grand Prix, one of the four major Grand Prix Rolex sponsor each year, and for which they offer a tasty bonus on 1 million Euros if a rider can win them all. This class had 47 starters representing 12 countries. The course was designed by Gregory Bodo from France. Thirteen of the combinations went clear in the first round as did three in the second. The winner, from France was Nicholas Delmotte riding Urvoso du Roch in 42.30 seconds with Martin Fuchs riding Leone Jei from Switzerland in second in a time of 42.66. In third was Marie Demonte from France riding Vega de la Roche.
Barbury Castle Horse Trials
This is always a popular venue as you can see pretty well the whole course for the cross country standing at the bar, so no unnecessary walking for miles! 65 combinations came forward to the dressage for the 4 star (short) competition. After the dressage, Tim Price riding Vitali was in the lead with 25.6 penalties. Andrew Nicholson was second with Swallow Spings on 27.7 penalties. The only other rider with less than 30 penalties after the dressage was Laura Schroter riding Willem Van Wup on 28.4. In the showjumping, Tim Price collected a further 8 penalties and in fact withdrew and did not go on cross country. Andrew Nicholson had a pole down in the showjumping which pit him up to 31.70 and Laura Schroter had 8 faults to add making it now 36.4 before the Cross country phase. After the showjumping going into the cross country, Kristina Cook riding Billy The Red was well up the leader board with several others with only scores in the low 30’s. The leader was in fact Aaron Millar riding Kec Deakon on 30.8 penalties with Tom Rowland riding Quintilus on 30.9 penalties and Fiona Kashel riding Drumhowan Black Magic in third. The cross country changed the leader board once again and obviously the final placings. None of the remaining 48 runners managed to get round the course in the time allowed and everyone picked up time penalties. Andrew Nicholson faired the best though as he jumped clear and with only 7.60 time penalties, the lowest of everyone, he was able to steal the win. He competed on a score of 39.30 penalties. Another, who was clear cross country but with 8 seconds to add was Wills Oakden riding MacGregors Cooley. The combination got 32.9 for their dressage, but left both the showjumping and cross country fences standing. They ended second with a total of 42.30 penalties. Aaron Millar, Tom Rowland and Fiona Kashel all had clear jumping on cross country which left the top of the board for the placings very tight. In fact Fiona was third with Aaron fourth and Tom Fifth, all with under 43 penalties.