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LeMieux UK National Championships: Day three

Super Saturday at the LeMieux National Championships didn’t fail to disappoint as Britain’s finest future horses battled for elusive places in the Shearwater Young Horse Finals, as well as the TopSpec Medium Gold title.

Charlotte Dujardin

Spectators were treated to an exciting start to the LeMieux Grand Prix Championships, an ever-popular Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle plus an educational Master Class with Anna Ross and a debut Nationals performance from Atkinson Action Horses.

TopSpec Medium Gold

The start list for this morning’s TopSpec Medium Gold featured a wealth of highly talented combinations, the class providing a big draw for spectators at the Stoneleigh Showground. With no fewer than 13 combinations breaching the 70% barrier, the class was a super competitive affair, with the top two still achieving a clear lead.

One of the hot favourites going into the competition was Charlotte Dujardin who already has two titles under her belt this week. With her own and Carl Hester’s Hawtins San Floriana, a San Amour x Florestan six-year-old, she certainly delivered, scoring a fantastic 78.45% for first with Michael Eilberg and Mount St John Valencia second on 77.18%.

About her tests Charlotte commented: “Well… I did the six-year-old test first today and she was very hot, a bit lit up with all the atmosphere! I worked her a bit more for the medium and if anything I did a bit too much. It was a good test but a little under-powered. She’s six-years-old doing only her third or fourth medium so again for a six-year-old to come here and do it all in this atmosphere – which is quite difficult – is amazing.”

When asked how Hawtins San Floriana stacks up against the rest of her incredible string she added, “She’s probably right at the top, she’s really special to ride. She’s so smooth through her body, everything moves, everything is so elastic and loose. It’s all so easy to her and she makes you smile every time you ride her.”

Michael Eilberg, who was not only second with Mount St John Valencia, but also seventh with Atterupgaards 02 (71.27%) commented; “It was a very competitive class, but then, I think all the classes here are quite competitive, in all the levels – it’s really good news for the sport.

“[In the TopSpec Medium Gold] Charlotte and I were a little bit out there with those two. The horse I rode in there today, Mount St John Valencia, she’s a real special one. She gives you a great feeling and she’s such a fun horse to ride. She’s a little bit sensitive, you have to ride her with a bit of feel and it’s taken a little while to gain the partnership and confidence,” he said.

Gareth Hughes

Talking about his test, Michael said; “What I loved about today is that from start to finish she [Valencia] kept breathing, she was more relaxed through the whole test. In the past she’s had moments of brilliance then spoilt it with a spook, or a moment of overdoing something. To be fair, the last few tests I’ve done with her, I’ve had really nice rides. To carry it out at a show like this, with this atmosphere, it was great to know.”

LeMieux Grand Prix Gold Championship

It may have been a 20 mile journey to a Championship rather than the 3000 mile one he was hoping for at the beginning of the season but the trip was a profitable one for Gareth Hughes today as he took the LeMieux Grand Prix title with Rebecca Hughes’s Classic Briolinca. In one of the most competitive classes of the show, Gareth earlier posted 70.4% with his first ride KK Woodstock, owned by the Kroll’s which set the early pace.
Fellow World Equestrian Games reserve rider Lara Butler then knocked him off the top spot with the Bechtolsheimer’s Rubin Al Asad, 2017 winners of this class, with a score of 72.58%.

A few horses later, Gareth then came in with Briolinca and produced a crisp, lively test with her trademark piaffe and passage work really impressing the judging panel of Stephen Clarke (E), Peter Storr (H), Elke Ebert (C), Maria Colliander (M) and Nicky Barratt (B) who duly awarded an average score of 74.3% for the lead.

New Grand Prix sensations Sonnar Murray-Brown and Erlentanz followed immediately and looked to be on course to challenge for the lead but a final score of 70.58% meant they couldn’t quite match Gareth.

The final rider was reigning National Champion Hayley Watson-Greaves with her own WG Rubins Nite and the duo were in fine form but again, just couldn’t match Gareth. 69.62% was the score which left them fourth overall, some 4.3% behind the winner.

“She’s had a great year but a foot abscess after Bolesworth must have been an influence on selection so it wasn’t to be. I was out in Tryon and exceptionally proud to see them win the medal. I guess you could say this is a great consolation prize for not making the trip! I was really happy with her today; she’s not been out since Bolesworth and being out in Tryon training two teams, I haven’t done a lot of preparation with her ahead of today,” said a delighted Gareth.

Charlotte Dujardin

“It’s a big atmosphere in there and she’s proved she can do it; I’m really proud of her,” he concluded.

Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle 

For the second consecutive year Charlotte Dujardin was crowned champion in the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Freestyle. Her win with her own Florentina, taking the tally to three over two days, also added the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I Supreme Champion title to her immense National Championships collection.

Today’s freestyle test saw the combination earn 76.67% from the experienced panel consisting of Sandy Phillips, Jenny Ward, Sarah Pidgley, Penelope Lang and David Trott.

Speaking about her Supreme Champion wonder horse Charlotte said, “Flora was a bit tired today but I was still pleased. We had no real mistakes and just the fact that she goes in there and she delivers every time is special. She’s very consistent and has also dealt very well with me being away which proves her consistency.”

Known for her ability to ‘wing it’ in a freestyle, today Charlotte proved her talent once again, “It was actually designed for En Vogue!” she said about her music created by talented composer Tom Hunt. “I just pinched it! I don’t have freestyles for all these horses and I’m never organised enough to get anything done, I just borrow what I can.”

Looking ahead to the final day of competition, Charlotte concluded “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve got four in the Equine Construction Advanced Medium so it’s going to be a busy day!”

Second place in the competitive Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I final went to Hannah Biggs with her own Don Caledonia (Don Schufro x What a Lark), whilst Alice Oppenheimer continued to build on her great form to claim the third spot with her mother Sarah’s eight-year-old Headmore Davina (Dimaggio x Rubinsteena).

Photos © Kevin Sparrow