American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen displayed their dressage class to take an overnight lead in the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.
Germany’s reigning world champion, Sandra Auffarth, fresh from winning team-gold and individual silver at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Scotland last weekend, saw her advantage after Thursday’s dressage action wiped out.
Auffarth and Ispo had posted an outstanding score of 37.2 penalties, but Montgomery stormed ahead on 33.8.
“He has put these scores in before, and this is what we were aiming for, but you never know on the day,” Montgomery said. “The atmosphere seems to help him.”
Loughan Glen was third at Blenheim Horse Trials in 2013, and Montgomery added: “Each time he has been here the cross-country course has been in the direction it is this time, so we know he likes it. I think the double of corners (fence 12ab) will be influential.”
Pippa Funnell, meanwhile, moved into third spot with Billy The Biz on 39.3, just five days after helping Britain claim European team gold at Blair Castle alongside Kitty King, Nicola Wilson and William Fox-Pitt.
“He’s one who showjumped through his younger career,” Funnell said.
“He’s come through the (eventing) grades pretty quickly as he has the mileage with the jumping, but I’ve had a couple of little blips where has been eager and over-jumped into water and we’ve had a dunking, so I am going to have to sit back and tight tomorrow.”
Last year’s winner of the CIC three-star for eight-and-nine-year-old horses, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price, leads that class again after dressage. This time around, she is riding The Marley and Me Syndicate’s Cloud Dancer II.
“He’s smart,” Price said. “He moves very well, especially for an event horse, so I feel a bit of a responsibility to produce something a bit special.
“He’s no Ferrari across country, but he gives it his best. A few seconds in hand would be handy!”
France’s Nicolas Astier lies second aboard Spes Addit Or, more than six penalties behind Price’s score of 33.2, while China’s Alex Hua Tian is third with Don Geniro.
Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo demonstrated the same cool-headedness that has won them six championship medals, including the world title in Normandy last year, to take over pole position at the end of the dressage phase at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships.
A punchy, flowing and completely mistake-free test earned the pair a mark of 31.4, leaving them 0.3 of a penalty ahead of yesterday’s leaders, Britain’s Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison.
“He was perfect and relaxed, and he really enjoyed the test,” said Auffarth, who spearheads Germany’s campaign to retain the European title it won in Malmö two years ago.
Unsurprisingly, Germany is out in front at the end of the first phase. Its score of 102.7, bolstered by anchorwoman Ingrid Klimke’s mark of 37.8 this afternoon, leaves them almost 10 marks ahead of the second-place British team. The reigning European and Olympic Champion, Michael Jung, is currently lying third individually with FischerTakinou.
The host nation couldn’t quite reproduce yesterday’s glut of scores in the 30s, but there were nevertheless some exciting performances from squad newcomers and young horses.
Pippa Funnell’s nine-year-old, Sandman 7, lived up to expectations and a great test left the pair in 19th position on a score of 41.
“I could feel he was a bit nervous, but he tried very hard and I think his performance shows the quality of horse he is,” said Funnell, who holds the distinction of being the only rider to win back-to-back European titles on the same horse (on Supreme Rock in 1999 and 2001).
British individual Oliver Townend pulled off a great test on new ride Fenyas Elegance to score 38.7. The chestnut mare, a winner of Blenheim and Bramham with Irish rider Aoife Clark, can be difficult to manage but the Scottish Highlands obviously suits her as she was soft and biddable, stopping to eat grass as she came out of the arena.
“The place seems to work in her favour as she felt light as though there could be even more improvement,” said Townend.
Squad debutant Francis Whittington followed Townend’s lead, scoring 37.5 to lie in seventh place. Of tomorrow’s cross-country test, he said: “It helps having ridden round Burghley last week, which was huge and puts this course in perspective.”
The loudest cheer of the day was reserved for local rider Wills Oakden, the sole Scottish representative at the championship.
Oakden, who hails from Fife and is trained by Blair course-designer Ian Stark, was given a rousing reception when he left the arena after his test on Greystone Midnight Melody, which earned him a mark of 46.4.
“I was expecting to be more nervous than I was, but I put myself into a bubble and tried to stay there,” said the 25-year-old. “I’ve always wanted to ride for Great Britain, but if I’m honest I didn’t think I was quite ready yet. The selectors have shown a lot of faith in me and I hope that I can justify that.”
France currently leads the race for Olympic qualification – there are two spots up for grabs at Blair – and lies third in the team rankings. Its trailblazer, Thibaut Vallette, a 41-year-old lieutenant-colonel in the French army, is currently the best-placed of the quartet, sitting in fifth place on a score of 36.8 on Qing de Briot ENE HN.
“I’m very proud to be on the team. I don’t mind going first, as I like to concentrate on myself at a competition rather than watching other people,” he said.
1. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo on 31.4
2. Holly Woodhead (GBR) and DHI Lupison on 31.7
3. Michael Jung (GER) and FischerTakinou on 33.5
4. Nicola Wilson (GBR) and One Two Many on 34.6
5. Thibaut Vallette (FRA) and Qing du Briot on 36.8
6. Kitty King (GBR) and Persimmon on 36.9
7. Francis Whittington (GBR) and Easy Target on 37.5
8. Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Horseware Hale Bob on 37.8
9. Laura Collett (GBR) and Grand Manoeuvre on 37.8
10. Niklas Lindback (SWE) and Cendrillon on 38.1
1. Germany on 102.7
2. Great Britain on 112.5
3. France on 115.2
4. Sweden on 119.4
5. Italy on 140.9
Image: Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo take the lead after the dressage phase at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI
The Queen of British eventing looks set to make her bid for the European crown. After a stroke of bad luck kept her out of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 World Equestrian Games — her top horses got injured in the run-up to both events — Pippa Funnell has been selected for the European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle with Sandman (and Second Supreme as a reserve).
Few riders can rival Funnell’s achievements. She was the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam when she bagged victories at Rolex Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley in 2003. A year later, she became the first rider to win four Blenheim titles — while also landing team and individual medals at the Athens Olympics, after having bagged the team silver at Sydney in 2000.
Named Sportswoman of the Year in 2003, she was then awarded an MBE in 2005. Now she returns to the European team, with whom she has already won several medals.
But Funnell is not just an accomplished competitor. She also helps produce horses at the Billy Stud, the joint venture between her husband, international showjumper William Funnell, and breeder Donal Barnwell, stars in her very own Pippa Funnell video games and has written a delightful series of books for children, Tilly’s Pony Tails.
Here are some of Funnell’s best moments:
At this year’s Badminton
Funnell rides across country at Badminton 2015 with her European Championship reserve, Second Supreme. She was 12th with Redesigned at 23rd with Second Supreme.
Sir Barnaby, pictured here with Funnell in 1990, was the first horse that the Sussex-born eventer rode to victory when she earned the title of European Young Rider Champion at Bialy Bor, in Poland, in 1987.
Eventing’s northern lights are set to shine brightly next week with confirmation of a stellar entry for the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth and current world number one William Fox-Pitt lead an outstanding cast-list that features six former Bramham winners across the headline CCI and CIC three-star classes.
It provides further confirmation of Bramham’s high-profile status on the eventing map, with riders flocking to a competition that was founded 41 years ago and takes place in glorious Bramham Park, which is situated between Leeds and Wetherby in West Yorkshire.
Auffarth is currently spending time in Britain with German eventing team coach Chris Bartle, the Yorkshireman who masterminded recent Olympic, World and European titles, and she will contest the CIC three-star aboard Opgun Louvo.
German ace Auffarth and Opgun Louvo were individual bronze medallists at London 2012, and then won the world title in Normandy last September. She rarely competes in Britain, so her appearance represents a major coup for Bramham organisers as they put the finishing touches to preparations for this year’s event, which runs from June 11-14.
Fox-Pitt, who this week reclaimed the world number one spot from Auffarth’s fellow German star Michael Jung, has a remarkable record at Bramham.
He has won the CCI three-star a record seven times, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with his reigning Badminton champion and likely 2016 Rio Olympics ride Chilli Morning, and this year he arrives with a former Bramham CIC three-star for eight and nine-year-olds winner Fernhill Pimms.
The CCI three-star offers a first prize of just under £6,000, in addition to a year’s use of an Equi-Trek Sonic horse box, and it promises to be eagerly-contested.
Yorkshireman Oliver Townend, who has never won Bramham’s three-star, will arrive with Skyhills Cavalier, Dunbeau and ODT Ghareeb, while New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – a previous champion on Nereo – has MHS King Joules and Perfect Stranger, while former European individual gold medallist Tina Cook is on Star Witness and Calvino II.
There are potential winners throughout the entry list, with Pippa Funnell aiming her recently-crowed Chatsworth champion Sandman 7 at the Bramham title, while the chances of Kitty King (Persimmon), Sarah Cohen (Treason) and Francis Whittington (Fernhill Highlight) also cannot be discounted.
Visitors to Bramham will also have an opportunity to watch some of eventing’s brightest young talent in action, courtesy of the Bishop Burton College Under-25 CCI three-star, with Tom Jackson looking to successfully defend his title amid a strong challenge from riders like Dani Evans, Emily King and Holly Woodhead.
The action starts at Bramham on Thursday, June 11 with dressage for the CCI and CIC sections, while the under-25s are all day Friday, and Saturday sees riders in all sections tackling Ian Stark’s stunning cross-country challenge, before Sunday’s showjumping finale.
British Showjumping classes are also on the Bramham schedule, highlighted by the Wetherby Skip Services Grand Prix and the Bramham Classic. Entries include a remarkable seven members of the Whitaker family – Ellen, George, James, William, Joe, Steven and Louise – in addition to Robert Smith, Kerry Brennan and Pippa Allen.
And Bramham additionally hosts a number of classes in the Hunter Show on Thursday, including Horse of the Year Show qualifiers for light, middle and heavyweight and working Hunters, and a Dubarry Burghley young event horse four and five-year-old qualifier ahead of the prestigious championship final at Burghley in September.
Image: Pippa Funnell riding Or Noir de la Loge in the CCI*** at Bramham last year
1. Nine former winners are included in the entries. They are; William Fox-Pitt-GBR (2004), Pippa Funnell-GBR (2002& 2003), Sam Griffiths-AUS (2014), Andrew Hoy-AUS (2006), Mary King-GBR (1992 &, 2000), Jock Paget-NZL (2013), Paul Tapner-AUS (2010), Mark Todd-NZL (1980, 1994,1996& 2011), Oliver Townend, GBR (2009).
2. British rider Lucinda Green has won the event on six occasions. Mark Phillips and Mark Todd have both won four-times.
3. Italy, Ecuador, South Africa and Brazil are each represented by one rider
4. New Zealander Andrew Nicholson holds the record for the most completions – 33 – but has yet to win.
5. Four horses have completed Badminton on seven occasions; Ballycotton, Comanche, Lenamore & Over to You.
Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images
6. Ninety-nine horses are geldings and 12 are mares including last year’s winner Paulank Brockagh. Three other mares have previously won the event; 1952 Emily Little (Capt Mark Darley), 1954 Bambi (Margaret Hough), 2007 Headley Britannia (Lucinda Fredericks) 2014
7. There are two stallions entered; the German-bred Chilli Morning (William Fox-Pitt-GBR) and the Polish-bred Debiut (Regis Prud’hon-FRA). No stallion has ever won Badminton although Welton Apollo (by Welton Gameful) completed on three consecutive occasions (1990, ’89 &’ ’88) with Leslie Law and the pair was eighth in 1989. Yarlands Summersong (by Fleetwater Opposition) with Christine Duroy was also eighth in 1985.
8. The stallion Ricardo Z (Rebel II Z-Furioso II) is the sire of three entries; the mare Fenyas Elegance (Aoife Clark-IRL), The Lion (Matthew Heath-GBR) and Sportsfield Othello (Joseph Murphy-IRL). Belgian-bred Ricardo Z, stands at the Kedrah Stud in Ireland.
9. There are 12 riders entered for the first time
10. French rider and former world champion Jean Teulere (61) has the honour of being the oldest rider this year. He is three-times the age of the youngest, first-timer Niklas Borscher who is 20. Sir Mark Todd is the oldest winner (55 in 2011). His 21-year-old pupil, Brazilian first-timer Gabriel Silva Cury, will be riding his trainer’s former Badminton horse, Grass Valley.
11. German first-timer Claas Hermann Romeike (22) is the son of 2008 individual three-day event Olympic Champion Hinrich Romeike. German rider Ingrid Klimke is the daughter of 1984 individual dressage Olympic Champion Reiner Klimke
12. British first-timer and amateur rider Ben Way is a Chartered Surveyor and works full time for Butler Sherborn in Cirencester. Swiss born Nicolas Wettstein who rides for Ecuador works for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare as a pharmaceutical representative for Western Switzerland.
13. Martin Plewa (GER), Andrew Bennie (NZL) and Anne-Marie Taylor (GBR) will be the Ground Jury. All are former international competitors and have represented their country at senior championships. Former Badminton rider Tim Randle (GBR) is the FEI veterinary delegate.
14. Former rider Giuseppe Della Chiesa (ITA) will be designing the course for the second time – the first time in the anti-clockwise direction. He took over the course design last year from Badminton Director Hugh Thomas.
15. The entry fee is £420.00 – shavings and hay are provided free of charge
16. The groom of each horse receives free accommodation and food and £200 if their horse starts the cross country.
17. The length of the cross country is approximately 6500m and will have 30 obstacles (45 jumping efforts) and the time allowed will be approximately 11min 30secs.
18. The total prize money is £327,250. The top 20 receive prize money; first prize is £80,000 and 20th is £2,000. The winner of the inaugural event in 1949 received £150.
19. The Mitsibishi Motors Badminton trophy was designed by Wiltshire based sculptor Judy Boyt. The silver trophy of three horses representing each phase of dressage, cross country and showjumping, was first presented to the winning owner in 1992 when Mitsubishi Motors took over the title sponsorship.
20. Last year the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was voted the ‘Best event of 2014’ by international publication L’Annee Hippique.