Greatest Jockey Lester Piggott Dies. Top Competitions Abound In Europe

Lester Piggott, many would say was the best jockey of all time sadly died yesterday in a Swiss hospital. The out pouring of adulation for ‘the greatest’ is a testament to the brilliance of his jockeyship. We offer our condolences to trainer William Haggas, Lester’s son in law and his daughter Susan as well as the rest of his extended family. Meanwhile, it has been a busy past week for all sport horse top international competitions. In the UK, the three day eventers were busy competing in the latest round of the Eventing Nation’s Cup at the Houghton Horse Trials. In Hamburg, Germany, the dressage riders were out in force to compete for the CDI 4 star along with the show jumpers in round six of the Longines Champions League. In Rome, other top show jumpers were out in a CSI 5 star competition. In Munich, dressage was also at the fore with another FEI CDI 5 star.

Lester Piggott

Lester Piggott with Frankie Dettori

We start with the sad news that at 86 years of age, the great Lester Piggott died in his sleep early Sunday morning in a Swiss hospital. Lester was possibly the most remarkable jockey of all time. He made the Derby at Epsom his own by winning the race no less than nine times. It is 52 years since the Colts Triple Crown in the UK was won, by Nijinsky ridden by Lester Piggott, a feat that no other jockey has managed for all that time. He rode no fewer than 4,493 winners, only bettered by Sir Gordon Richards and Pat Eddery. Lester Piggott won no less than 30 British classics, the Derby as already mentioned, he won the Oaks on 6 times; the St Ledger on 8; the One Thousand Guineas twice and the Two Thousand Guineas on five occasions. In a career which spanned nearly 50 years, perhaps Piggott’s most impressive victory was in New York when after spending a period in prison for de-frauding the tax man, he won the Breeders Cup with Royal Academy in the most scintillating style. Before the race, Lester Piggott was ridiculed by many saying that he hadn’t got a chance in the race to which he simply replied “watch and learn – watch and learn” and boy did they watch and learn how the maestro plied his trade. We will pay proper tribute to Lester in the next few weeks.

Nations Cup Eventing Round Two at Houghton Hall

At the Houghton Hall three day event, an FEI 4 star international event incorporating The Eventing Nations Cup of Great Britain. The event is considered to be one of the top events in the UK with over 700 horses competing each year. The FEI Eventer Nations Cup is a series of nine events taking place between mid-May and mid-October each year and this at Houghton Hall was the second in the series. Each event is conducted with competitors competing at CCI 4 star. The organisers can opt either to use the short format or long depending on what they want. Each team from a nation must have at least three riders in the team but most have four riders and as with other FEI competitions, the worst score if there are four riders, is dropped. After each event, each nation will be allocated a number of points. 100 points for the team in the top position, ie: the winners of that event, going down to 20 points for the less successful teams. In the first round in Italy at Pratoni del Vivaro, Switzerland took the honours in a very tight finish with France in second and Sweden in third.

Tom McEwen leads the British Team to victory

At Houghton Hall, The British Team took the win a total of 114 penalty points with only three riders for the cross country and show jumping sections following Phoebe Locke’s fall on another horse at the venue and being stood down by the medics. The all-female riders from the United States took second place with Sweden taking third. Currently with two third places, Sweden are top of the leader board in the series with Great Britain and Switzerland in joint second place. The next round takes place later in June in Poland.

Dressage from Hamburg and Munich

In the CDI dressage from Hamburg, all but five of the twenty one combinations starting were from the home nation, Germany. This was not a very high scoring Grand Prix with the winner from Germany – Frederic Wandres riding Hot Hit OLD with a final percentage score of 72.565. German riders filled the next four places including another ridden by Wandres in fourth with Dom Perignon with 69.935%. The second place was taken by Kathleen Kroncke riding San Royal with 71.044% and third was Hendrik Lockthowe riding Bricco Barone with 70.130%. In the Grand Prix Special, nine came forward, mostly German riders, all of whom were put in their places with a winning ride by Finland’s Emma Kanerva riding 10 year old Feldrose FRH on 71.936%. The next two on the podium were both from Germany; second was Hendrik Lochthowe on 70.021% and third was Felix Kneese on 67.702%. In the second part of the spin off from the Grand Prix held earlier in the week, there were seven forward for the Grand Prix Freestyle, all from Germany. The winner was Kathleen Kroncke riding San Royal with 78.700% with the second, Frederic Wandres on Hot Hit with 77.785% and the third was Carina Scholz riding Du Ciel on 72.460%. Kathleen Kroncke took a personal best score ever to win this class.

Benjamin Verndl wins in Munich

In Munich, dressage put on a 5 star FEI competition and it could be argued that this was the better standard than that of Hamburg. Thirteen combinations came forward for the Grand Prix – again mostly from Germany, but it was Swedish rider Theresa Nilshagen riding Dante Weltino who took the top spot with 75.783%. Germany’s Benjamin Werndl took the second place riding Daily Mirror 9 with 74.457% and fellow German team mate Dorothee Schneider riding Faustus 94 took third with 73.326%. In the Grand Prix Freestyle, only six presented themselves before the judges. This was taken by Dorothee Schneider with fellow German Franz Trischberger riding DSP James Bond in second and an Austrian rider, Florian Bacher riding Fidertraum in third.

Show jumping from Hamburg and Rome

The show jumping from Hamburg consisted of the sixth in the series of the Longines Global Champions League with a series of classes culminating in the final Grand Prix of Hamburg sponsored by Longines. The course was set at the maximum level of 1.60m by Frank Rothenburger of Germany where there were 13 obstacles requiring 16 jumping efforts to complete for the 33 riders entered.

Christian Ahlmann wins in Hamburg

The first round saw eight go clear, and of those eight, four went clear to secure double clear rounds. The fastest on the clock was Christian Ahlmann riding his Dominator Z in 50.51 seconds followed home by Andre Thieme, also from Germany riding Chakaria. The best of the foreign raider was from Ireland – Michael Pender riding HHS Calais.

Meanwhile in Rome, another 5 star showjumping event took place. This time the course was designed by Italian (what a surprise) Uliano Vezzani, who set 13 obstacle 16 efforts required course in a time allowed of 75 seconds. This Grand Prix, sponsored by Rolex had 49 runners of which 16 riders went clear in the first round. So the second round, which felt rather like a separate class in its own right, only five went clear. The quickest clear was from Ireland – Denis Lynch riding Brooklyn Heights in a time of 42.52 seconds. This was the first major competition Lynch has won for some years. No doubt he now hopes his wilderness years may have come to an end? The second on the podium was Jana Wargers from Germany riding Limbridge in 43,19 seconds – easily the best result the combination have ever had. Finally in third, stood Piergiogio Bucci from Italy riding Cochello in a time of 45,78 seconds. The other two clears in the jump off was Nicola Philippaerts from Belgium and Emanuelle Camilli from Italy.

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