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LeMieux UK National Championships: Day one

A slightly wet and windy forecast at the LeMieux National Dressage Championships didn’t dampen the spirits of those competing and enjoying a day out at Stoneleigh Park.

Day one: LeMieux National Championships

Dannie Morgan

The first five Championships were full of thrills, outstanding results and top quality competition (20 September 2018).

Equine Construction Advanced Medium Silver

Scoring an emphatic win in the first class of the LeMieux National Dressage Championships was Dannie Morgan with Lisa Morgan’s Knoxxs Figaro. The eye-catching pair scored 71.97% to top the Equine Construction Advanced Medium Silver Championship judged by Nikki Herbert, Linda Whetstone, Mary-Anne Horn, Sue McMahon and Jane McGarel-Groves.

Dannie, hailing from Southampton, was a dual winner at the Bicton Summer Regionals with ‘Fig’, an eight-year-old Dutch bred gelding by Jazz. Speaking about today’s winning test Dannie said, “He’s a phenomenal talent, it’s really nice when you’re sat on a horse with that sort of ability. He’s quite a nervous horse but we’re delighted with how he’s coped here. The changes were super today, they’re starting to feel much more established and he was very relaxed about them.”

Having only made their Advanced Medium debut in June, a Championship win at this level appears even more impressive.

Proud owner Lisa Morgan purchased her star horse as an unrideable four-year-old; her persistence and faith in her gelding’s quality paid off after a tricky start to his career. The elegant chestnut spent time with jockey Jamie Jenkinson, as well as dressage riders Kate Smith and Amy Schiessl at the start of his ridden journey.

Lisa was full of praise for Dannie following his test, “The main thing today was that he was much more relaxed and able to cope with the environment, that’s all down to Dannie’s riding – he’s so laid back with him and that passes on to the horse. To be able to see him go so relaxed today is just mega.

“It’s something else to see Dannie win with him and see the horse so happy. Being here is amazing but actually I can’t describe how special that felt today.”

The winning partnership also paid credit to their team at home as well as Nicky Barrett who’s played an invaluable role in the development of their Champion horse.

To complete a brilliant day, with Maeve Morris and Headmore Footloose crowned Backinaction Preliminary Silver Champion the news broke that the talented Dannie backed the winning horse aged three. Congratulations Dannie!

Second place in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium Silver went to Jayne Turney with Charlotte Dujardin’s Cruz III whilst Cornelia O’Mahony and Adam Signy’s Formidable claimed third.

Maeve Morris

BackInAction Prelim Silver

Working rider Maeve Morris took full advantage of being the final competitor down the centreline in the BackInAction Prelim Silver. Riding Headmore Footloose, who’s bred and owned by her step mum Nicola Morris, Maeve stormed to victory with a performance which impressed judges Fiona Lace, Paul Hayler and John Robinson for a final score of 72.64%, a full two percent ahead of her nearest rival.

“I never ever expected this; we just came for a nice day out!” said a delighted Maeve. Five year old ‘Eric’, by Florencio, is stabled at the Headmore Stud and Maeve is trained by Alice Oppenheimer. They have to fit training around Maeve’s full time London-based property development role which she commutes to daily from Hampshire.

Eric carries the Headmore prefix as his dam, Donato, was bought from the Oppenheimers as three day old foal and went on to be ridden by Nicola. He was bred using embryo transfer and they also have a yearling out of Donato, who’s now 18.

Proud trainer Alice Oppenheimer added; “They’ve just gone to a whole new level since the Regionals. We’ve work hard on the stretching in the free walk – I should think Eric is bored of that movement now but it’s really paid off today. They were consistent throughout and it was a lovely picture.”

Amy Daye was second with her own Prince William MBS on 70.51% while Jordan Kavanagh finished on the same score with his own Fluer but was just a mark behind on collectives to finish third.

Robert Barker

Childéric Saddles Elementary Silver

Gloucestershire rider Robert Barker took a one-two in the Childéric Saddles Elementary Silver Championship on day one of the LeMieux National Championships. Riding Chloe Walton’s Fidelius (by Fidertanz), he claimed the top spot with a score of 73.75% as well as securing second with Alison Haste’s Rousseau-sired mare, Woodlander Romance (71.56%).

“I’m very pleased with both horses,” said Robert after the prize-giving. “I felt they would do well but just wanted to do two good tests for the stages of their training. To win is such a bonus. I’m very happy – over the moon”

The blustery conditions that whipped across the Stoneleigh Showground didn’t pose much of a problem for the top-placed pairs. “He was a bit tense last night and she was very relaxed, then today, she was very relaxed and he a bit tense. But they were both very focused in the arena. They were both very good in there, and I’m pleased actually that I didn’t let them down,” he smiled.

Robert is based in Upleaden, Gloucestershire and is stable rider for Charlotte Dujardin. “I’m very fortunate to ride some of her young horses,” he said

Fidelius, now seven-years-old, has been ridden by Robert since February 2017. The pair were second in the Novice Silver here last year and are now working to step up to Advanced Medium. “Fidelius is a little ahead of six-year-old Woodlander Romance in his development, but they’re both lovely horses that try very hard,” he added

Lara Butler

Cavalor Intermediate II

Lara Butler claimed the penultimate class of day one at Stoneleigh – the Cavalor Intermediate Championship. She rode a beautifully fluent test aboard Wifried and Ursula Bechtolsheimer’s Kristjan for a score of 71.60% ahead of Georgia Stokes with Talented Mr Ripley in second and Sadie Smith with Keystone Dynamite making up the top three.

“They were very tricky conditions today,” said Lara. “The wind certainly picked up this afternoon, so I’m really pleased with him considering the flapping flags behind him. It literally sounded like something was going to explode behind us we came up the centreline. But he was so good, and he was focused.

“We had a few little blips – he spooked at one of the flower plots that had blown over – but you can’t complain in these conditions, and he produced everything else perfectly for me. We’ve been working hard at home getting everything secure in his mind and in my mind, so that it’s all natural to us, and hopefully we showed that in the arena.

Describing the best bits of her performance with the 13-year-old son of Polarion, Lara said; “The trot half passes are always one of his highlights – he finds them really easy. He just sort of floats across, then floats the other way. And he’s so secure in his changes.”

Lara acquired the ride on Kristjan as a six-year-old and has trained him under the tutelage of the Bechtolsheimer family. “Our next thing from here will be to go to Grand Prix which is really exciting.

”I won the Inter II title here a few years back with Rubin Al Asad, so it’s a good sign,” she smiled. And here today, this means a lot. I’ve come second to Charlotte [Dujardin] a lot of the time at Small Tour, so it’s nice for him [Kristjan] to have his moment.”

Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold

On her return from Tryon, Charlotte Dujardin produced her usual magic in the Fairfax Saddles Prix St Georges Gold class filling not one, but two of the top spots.

Her winning ride, Floretina, impressed once again in the LeMieux arena to add another title to a growing collection. The striking grey by Vivaldi scored 76.18% to finish two percent ahead of stable mate River Rise Nisa, co-owned by breeder Sarah Tyler-Evans. Charlotte also grabbed the fourth place ribbon with Carl Hester’s Brioso II to complete a great first day at the Championships.

Speaking about her return to British soil and British competition Charlotte said, “I just got back on Sunday, I’m really lucky that Sadie Smith and Katie Bailey have kept them ticking over while I was away. It’s been a very quick turnaround! It was certainly not my normal Championship preparation but I’m so happy with them having not ridden for ten days.

“I’ve trained them and I know them all really well but the fine tuning was missing a little today, a couple of mistakes happened that wouldn’t normally happen but I’m still really happy overall. The weather definitely had an affect too – I’ve gone from hot and humid to gale force winds… hurricane Florence has come to find me here!”

The multi-medalled starlet was full of applause for Florentina, who hasn’t cantered up the centre line since Bolesworth due to a flat out calendar and World Equestrian Games preparations. “She’s a lovely horse who really tries, she’s really reliable,” Charlotte enthused.

A WEG takeover saw fellow team medallist Emile Faurie claim third place with rising star Café’s Caletta (Café au Lait x Calato). The nine-year-old bay mare displayed all the signs for a successful future at Grand Prix level and her potential was reflected in the score – 73.71%.

Photos © Kevin Sparrow/Tanja Davis

Charlotte Dujardin