Princess Anne Celebrates Champions at British Festival of Eventing

It was in 1983 that The Princess Royal opened her home at Gatcombe Park in the Cotswolds for the first time as a venue for the Festival of British Eventing as it has now become known. Since then it has gone from strength to strength with several championships. The main championship is the Magic Millions British Open Championship, a 4 star event run over two days. CSI4*S. This is open to the top riders in the world, many of whom come to compete at this eventing extravaganza.

H.R.H. Princess Anne.

At Gatcombe, the event tries and succeeds in providing something for everyone in the equestrian world and those not necessarily involved with horses. As a result is very popular with the thousands attending. The event has a particularly relaxed atmosphere whether a competitor, owner or simply watching. The other championships on offer, is an Intermediate Championship for horses which are up and coming into the top echelons of eventing and a  Novice for amateur rider The Corinthian Cup; and the ROR Championships, for thoroughbred horses who have run under the rules of racing, This championship is now in its eleventh year; and for the last two has found its home at Gatcombe.

Peter Philips with his daughter Savannah

The event director, Princess Anne’s son Peter Philips, has put together a huge mix of sport and entertainment to appeal to horse lovers and others alike. The first thing I noticed was the different and interesting food stands available. Not just the usual rather boring and expensive burger bars, but foods from around the globe, both different and more appealing. The main ring events also show an eclectic mix. This year, as it is the 90th anniversary of the Pony Club. There was a big parade of over 200 pony club members. To add further excitement to the Pony Club members, many were presented to H.R.H. Princess Anne, the Pony Club Patron.  There was also a ‘dressage to music’ feature with top British rider, Lara Butler and right at the other end of the scale to beauty and poise was the ‘Tug Of War’ feature. So together with some other main arena exhibitions not mentioned here, the menu provided something for everyone.

90th Birthday Celebration of The Pony Club

The main attraction is of course the cross country element of these championships. The course is set in the lovely grounds of Gatcombe House and Park. It is very undulating and there is certainly no point in turning up with a horse which is not 100% fit. Designed by Captain Mark Philips, the course is long and narrow, but still provides spectacular viewing for spectators because of the hilly nature of the course, allowing spectators to see most of the action from the very high vantage points around the whole course.

The Dodson & Horrell Novice Championship

The first championship to be decided was The Dodson and Horrell Novice Championship. With 20 fences to jump, the winner was Francis Whittington riding Brother Bertie. The combination were one of only two who got round in the allowed time, with no jumping errors. Afterwards Francis commented that “He gallops like nothing else and this was really our goal for the year”. In second was William Fox Pitt riding Grafennacht and third was Italian rider, Victoria Pannizon riding Gebaliaretto. This was Francis Whittington third Novice Championship in the last four years. He won with a total of 30.2 penalties.

The Intermediate Championship

Tom McEwen on Dreamaway II

The Smith & Williamson Intermediate Champion had the most competitors. The cross country element had 23 jumps and as this championship is really about horses just under the very top level, this was a testing course for both horse and rider. Fence 6a and 6b caught out a lot of riders, a double corner using the natural ground inclined contours. The winner, was the same rider as 2018, although with a different horse this time; Tom McEwen riding Dreamaway II. He held the led from beginning to end. Afterwards a delighted Tom said “He’s a lovely horse, and this was a big step up for him”.  Harry Meade was second riding Red Kite. Harry admitted that “the horse is absolutely not bred for hills and yet he’s the best galloper. He can be a bit of a monkey but he is incredibly brave.” Third was Tom Rowland riding Very Good Tempo. Tom McEwan ended with 35.6 penalties and second Harry Meade finished with 42.0.

The ROR Championship

Tina Cook with David Cricket following her win

In the National Trainer Federation sponsored ROR Championship, there were 21 entered. There are over 7000 horses a year retired from racing, and the ROR is a charity to encourage owners to find another life for these horses once their racing career has concluded. Many thoroughbreds find themselves eventing as their new challenge and this Championship is the culmination of several qualifiers up and down the country. Unlike most championships, this one has four parts. The dressage, showjumping and cross country as normal, but the fourth is a final showjumping round for the top ten after the first three rounds. In the dressage,

Tina Cook on her cross country round

Tina Cook took the lead with 28.5 penalties riding David Cricket, a 7 year old gelding by Shirrocco. In second was Claire Fielding riding You Never Said, a 15 year old gelding by Dushyantor with 33.0 penalties. In third equal was Italian rider Robert Scalisi with 30.3 penalties riding Alamein and Judith Barker riding My Diss Desire. In the second part the showjumping, Tina Cook jumped a clear and so inevitably went into the cross country in the lead. Claire Fielding had two poles down and collected another 8 penalties, and unfortunately she was eliminated in the cross country. In Robert Scalisi showjumping round, the wheels came very loose, adding a further 12 penalties to his score and Judith Barker went to the cross country faze on her dressage score. In the cross country, all but four had clear rounds with varying time penalties. Tina Cook was one of two who got round within the allotted time, so she still maintain her lead going into the final showjumping round. Fourth and fifth placed horse in the dressage pulled up to second and third after the cross country.

Jodie Amos on Highland Patriot

Jodie Amos riding the Pursuit of Love gelding, Highland Patriot was second with 32.7 penalties and Harriet Colderick riding Watergate Bay by a gelding by Definite Article with 34.3. In the final showjumping faze, it was Tina Cook’s title to loos with over a fence in hand, and she dually obliged, although she did drop one pole. Jodie Amos kept her second place and was also third with her second ride Ballyvaughn, a 9 year French bred gelding by Robin des Pres, both with clear rounds in the final faze.

The British Open Championship

In the Magic Millions British Open Championship, sponsored by the Australian thoroughbred auction company, 20 runners started. Izzy Taylor was in the lead after the dressage, but withdrew after that faze which left Pippa Funnell in the lead following the dressage and showjumping with Oliver Townend in second, 0.4 penalties behind with Ben Hobday in equal third with Tim Price, another 0.8 penalties further back. The cross country turned the whole competition on its head. Pippa Funnell had a run out with Billy Walk On, so that was the end of their chance. Oliver Townend withdrew Cooley Master Class and the wheels totally came off Tim Price’s mount Xavier Faer, collecting 60 jumping penalties over cross country. Finally, Ben Hobday riding Shadow Man II went clear with 11.6 time faults and kept second place. None of the combinations went round in the allotted time.

Champion Jonelle Price on her round in the Showjumping

Jonelle Price riding Classic Moet rose like a phoenix to take the championship with a total of 35.6 penalties. Afterwards, Jonelle said that “Gatcombe is her cup of tea and you only enter the open if you’re giving it a crack!” In the dressage she was in eighth place and after the showjumping she dropped to ninth, after having a pole down. In the cross country the combination went round in the quickest time and collected only 4.0 penalties and let’s remember that this is the horse that took Jonelle to victory at Badminton in 2018. Nicholas Lucey riding Proud Courage was totally out with the washing after the dressage and showjumping fazes, but they did an awesome cross country which pulled themselves up to third podium position. They ended up with a total of 40.8 penalties.

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