International competition got well underway on the second day of CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show. The CDI4* Dressage kicked off with the Al Shira’aa Grand Prix which saw Britain’s best duo, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, take the top spots aboard their exciting new partners, Mount St John Freestyle and Hawtins Delicato.
DRESSAGE: BRITISH RIDERS LEAD THE WAY
It might have been only the third grand prix together for Charlotte Dujardin and Mount St John Freestyle but it was another winning one. The pair gained their third victory in The Al Shira’aa Grand Prix with Charlotte heading off trainer, mentor and British team mate Carl Hester with Hawtins Delicato.
Freestyle, a nine-year-old mare owned by Emma Blundell of the Yorkshire based Mount St John stud, belied her main ring inexperience impressing the judges with her ground covering paces and relaxed attitude to the atmospheric arena to produce a winning score of 78.58%.
“I am chuffed to bits with her,” said the British Olympic gold medallist. “She’s so chilled and really takes everything in her stride especially as she has really done next to nothing at this international level – I am so, so happy.”
Carl was equally happy with his ride, the British-bred Hawtins Delicato, who was also competing in only his third Grand Prix and was not far behind the winning score – some judges even had the pair of riders and horses on near equal terms.
“You literally have no idea with these young horses how they will react but this is such a good arena and space and does give you an idea of how they will cope with the big occasion,” said Carl who is aiming Delicato for a team place for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ that will be held in the USA in September. “He is such a lovely horse with so much presence and the judges must, like me, also think highly of him.”
Richard Davison rounded off a British one-two-three, taking third place with his homebred Bubblingh (70.8%) while British riders Hayley Watson-Greaves and Rubins Nite, and Gareth Hughes with Don Carissimo were fourth and fifth respectively.
Iranian rider and Windsor first-timer Litta Soheila Sohi might have finished at the other end of the leader board but was simply thrilled to be competing at the Show.
“I will never forget this moment,” said Litta, who is aiming to compete in the Asian Games in Jakarta later in the year. “This is no ordinary Show – there is so much going on at the same time, it is overwhelming. Just to be a part of it is as good as winning and I am just thrilled to be through to the freestyle tomorrow night.”
SHOWING: ROYAL WINDSOR DEBUTANTE TAKES VICTORY
Royal Windsor debutante Vikki Smith, from Hapton, Lancs, was as surprised as she was delighted to head the largest section of the Show so far. Riding Michelle Cuerden’s 14-year-old traditional stallion Del Boy, Vikki beat more than 100 entries to take the coveted Coloured Ridden Championship, having topped a line of 35 in her Native and Traditional class.
“I can’t believe a traditional pony could have beaten all the plaited horses,” Vikki said, “but Del Boy is an out-and-out showman and just loves his job.”
She now takes her place in Sunday afternoon’s Royal Windsor Ridden Supreme Showing Championship.
Oxfordshire-based working hunter specialist, Rory Gilsenan (pictured), went one better than last year to regain the section title he last won in 2016 with Aoife, the Land Rover Lightweight Working Hunter. His partner this time was Christian Kwek’s versatile mare Kenlis Carrera, class winner and reserve Champion last year, whose fluent clear round was one of only seven over a testing course in a strong Lightweight class. A storming gallop in the Castle Arena finale then clinched the overall title ahead of the Heavyweight class victors, Katy Green and I’m a Diamond, who produced one of only two clears in her division.
Sofia Scott, of Norfolk-based Team Hood, partnered her own former flat racer L’Amiral David to win the ROR Tattersalls Thoroughbred Ridden Show Series, and then stand Champion.
SHOW JUMPING: BRITISH DUO VICTORIOUS ON FIRST DAY OF INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION
The opening Show Jumping class of day two, the Land Rover Grades B & C Jumping Competition, went to British Olympic team gold medalist, Ben Maher, riding Eracantos, a horse recently acquired from The Netherlands for which Maher has high hopes for the future. With 12 double clears in the 36 horse class, Maher’s second-half draw proved advantageous as he shaved 0.05 seconds off runner-up, Georgia Thame’s round. Tracy Priest, who set the pace from an early draw finished in third with her grey mare Diamants Aurora.
The first CSI2* Class of the Show, the St George Two Phase, went to Joseph Davison (pictured), riding Vilenco, a homebred Je T’Aime Flamenco mare owned by his father, Dressage supremo Richard Davison. Davison’s double clear in a time of 31.20 seconds was 0.14 seconds faster than South African Charles Luyckx in second, with Scarlett Charles daughter of London Olympic gold medal winning Show Jumper Peter Charles, in third.
Luyckx secured his second runner-up placing of the day in the following class, the CSI2* Thames Speed Stakes sponsored by Suregrow Fertiliser Ltd, which was won by Britain’s Tracy Priest on Caristo VDL. The twisty course allowed riders to take a few risks with tight turns throughout, but it was Priest who negotiated the quickest route to take the victory.
Later in the day, the focus shifted to the young horses of the future, with the Jumping Competition for Six-Year-Old horses. 49 combinations started the 1.20m single phase competition, which proved challenging, with only eight combinations jumping a double clear. William Rekert’s exceptionally speedy round with Hot Bluebird took the spoils, over two seconds faster than Megan James in second, with Alfie Bradstock a further second behind in third.
DRIVING: WORLD-CLASS START FOR WORLD NO.1 IN THE LAND ROVER INTERNATIONAL DRIVING GRAND PRIX
Reigning world champion and eight times Royal Windsor winner, Boyd Exell (AUS) got off to the best possible start in the Horse Four-in-Hands in the Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix, storming to the top of the leader board a clear five penalties ahead of his closest challenger. Driving his mixed team of black Swedish and Dutch horses, his dressage test earned him top marks from all five judges.
“The horses moved beautifully as a team,” remarked President of the Jury, Bert Jambon from Belgium. He continued, “it was an accurate test with, above all, excellent transitions.”
Following him into the arena was Chester Weber (USA) winner at the Show in 2014 and 2015. His bay Dutch horses completed a fluent, forward test, but a few small mistakes put him in second place. Only these two competitors posted scores in the thirties.
In third place, seven penalties behind Weber, is France’s Benjamin Aillaud with his impressive Arab x Friesians. He last competed here ten years ago, after which he took a break from competing horse four-in-hands until just a couple of years ago. GB’s highest placed competitor is Wilf Bowman-Ripley, in 18th place.
Also completing this first dressage phase today were the Pony Four-in-Hands which saw last year’s winner Tinne Bax (BEL) take the lead from the Netherlands’ Jan de Boer who has recorded five previous Royal Windsor wins. Less than two penalties separate these two with Jacqueline Walter (GER) driving her eye-catching palamino team of Welsh Bs taking third place. Great Britain’s Roger Campbell is well in touch in this class in 5th place.
Tomorrow the 17 horse pairs competitors – representatives from 13 countries – will undertake their dressage phase. Saturday sees all competitors compete on the Cross-Country Marathon which includes eight gated obstacles situated within the idyllic setting of the Home Park.