Piggy’s perfect ten becomes eleven during dramatic weekend at Hartpury

Piggy French recorded her tenth international victory of the season on Saturday, winning the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S competition onboard Quarrycrest Echo and also taking the runner up spot with Brookfield Inocent. Ten soon became eleven as she added the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L title to her 2019 count on Sunday.

Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo will head to Luhmühlen later this month to contest the European Championships, and it was notable that Piggy was the only rider to stop the clock inside the seven-minute optimum time, finishing easily in 6:53.

Piggy finished on her dressage score of 26.6.

Speaking to Eventing Nation after her round, Piggy said “‘Red’ was fantastic – he’s just such a pleasure to ride cross-country. He’s very easy, to be honest, and so it’s easy to be economical and to be quick.”

Piggy’s other ride, Brookfield Inocent is still a relatively new addition to her string, joining her yard in 2018.

“He may well follow in Red’s footsteps in being a quick and easy cross-country ride, to be honest. People say I’m so fast, but I’m really not – with some horses, you can get in a gear and change the gear so quickly. When they’re confident, you can ride so much quicker in the rhythm and in the lines, because you leave the adjusting so late. That’s what I can do with those two, and having the quality of gallop that they have helps, too. They’ve been great today, and to finish first and second is really exciting” Piggy explained.

Pippa Funnell may have relinquished her two-phase lead on time penalties, but solid rounds with the reformed MGH Grafton Street, who added eight time penalties, and overnight leader Billy The Biz, who added ten, saw her finish third and fifth respectively nonetheless. Pippa’s round on the striking grey Billy The Biz also included a lengthy forty-minute hold just after the corners at 13 and 14, due to a heavy fall for Tom Jackson.

Speaking to Eventing Nation, Pippa said “Being held for so long is never a good thing for someone my age. You have all these things going through your head – but my main concern was that I was being held for Tom Jackson, who I’ve helped a lot over the last few years. I was really worried about him, and so you have that going through your mind, and suddenly the dangers of the sport become very real, and it’s difficult – you just have to stay focused and positive and pick up and get on with the job. A few years ago I was held in exactly the same place with Biz, and then he picked up a little fresh, overjumped into the water, and I had a fall – so that was going through my mind as well. I was sort of a psychological mess by the time I started again! But I had a great spin on all of mine – I’m chuffed. I was never going to threaten Pig, I knew that, but I had great rides.”

Both Piggy and Pippa jumped clear rounds over Paul Connor’s showjumping track despite the second phase being moved indoors due to high winds. Intermittent heavy rain showers and relentless wind gusts created difficult conditions for riders, although the ground on the Eric Winter designed cross country track held up well.

Hartpury’s efforts to maintain good conditions and continue running were praised by Pippa.

“A few places got a bit cut up, but I thought they were great courses, and they encouraged positive riding,” she says. “We saw a few falls and no, we never like to see falls, and maybe it was a bigger track than we normally see, but we need to have these bigger tracks if we want to go to Burghley or to a big three-day. It was a very good track, and I thought Eric did a great job. Horses had to be fit because of the conditions.”

Alex Bragg, who finished fourth on the inexperienced King of the Mill, agrees with Pippa’s sentiments. Speaking to Eventing Nation, he said “The ground was great – they’d watered well anyway, and the grass coverage here has just gotten better and better over the last few years.”

Tom Jackson’s day was one of mixed fortunes. The Surrey-based rider took sixth place in the CCI4*-S competition with Pencos Crown Jewel, who cruised home in 7:09 to execute a stratospheric climb up the leaderboard. Celebrations were short-lived however when his second ride of the day, Newmarket Prospect, came down at fence twenty. While the horse was unharmed, Tom was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg. Tina Cook also took a fall from last year’s CCI4*-S winner, Billy The Red, with the chestnut pecking on landing after the final fence. Tina was taken to hospital and kept in overnight for observation.

Problems on the course were widespread and not infrequent across Eric Winter’s track, which is built with long-format prep in mind. 88 combinations started, and while 69 would ultimately finish – 48 would cross the finish line without incurring jumping penalties, flag penalties, or knocked-pin penalties.

Fence 8AB, a hanging log to the first of two skinny triple-bars on a downhill related distance, proved the most influential, with six eliminations and two retirements occurring here. The first water at 6ABC saw four refusals or run-outs, which took place largely at the latter two skinny elements within the water, but in at least one case, the issue occurred at the first element, a rolltop in the water.

I was really pleased with the three courses actually” said Eric Winter, reflecting on a busy cross country day.

“I thought we stepped the levels up in all three classes and they were definitely at the top end. I love the long format two-star, I thought there was a lot of education in it. We had triple brushes through a bunker and I sat on the hill for a long time and watched how the horses just lowered their head and necks and popped through it. All the horses I saw learned from it.

“Some horses coped better than others, but that’s the nature of competition; some find it easier than others. As we went up through the levels, it was very similar really. I thought that the big competition, the four-star, was a great competition with some fantastic horses. As I’ve said in previous interviews, the one thing about Hartpury, and it happened again this year, you actually watch the best horses in the world. A lot of these horses are off to the Europeans next and it’s not often you get to see those horses. And when you see them, it’s not often that you get to see them run fast and take the risk. It was a good day, really.”

Best of the rest…

The competitors in the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L had the best conditions of the day on Sunday with a sunny morning for their show jumping phase. A clear round sealed the deal for Harriett Beaumont on Annaghmore Bonita who finished on their dressage score of 29.6. Mark Davidson and Striding Edge finished in second on a score of 29.9 and Charlotte Rowe finished in third on Redbarn Luxury Biscuit with a score of 31.3. Harriett celebrated her first-ever international win.

Heavy rain and thunder on Sunday afternoon forced competitors to shelter in the indoor arena during intermittent halts in proceedings. However, unseasonable weather couldn’t stop Piggy French winning the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L on Brookfield Quality. It was, however, a win of ‘totally mixed emotions’ for Piggy who was delighted for the owners of Brookfield Quality but was disappointed for Susie Berry, the talented young Irish rider based at Piggy’s yard who so nearly won the class. Susie Berry finished in second place on a score of 31.6 with 0.8 time penalties proving costly in the final phase. Charlotte Dennis and Mount Panther finished in third with a score of 37.7.

Hartpury Equine Director, Philip Cheetham, was quick to praise competitors and the Hartpury team.

“Running an event such as this is a huge team effort, particularly when the weather presents challenges like it has this week. We are very grateful to the entire team.

“We’d also like to thank the competitors and their supporters who showed understanding and flexibility throughout. This allowed us to run a successful event which provides such an important preparatory run for those riders heading for championship events and autumn three-days” he added.

While the event’s summer fair and family-friendly activities may have had to be streamlined, Teddy the Shetland still made a popular appearance (pictured below with Eric Winter).

Click here to see the full results from the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials.

Image Credits: Sally Newcomb Photography & Celeste Wilkins

Pippa Funnell retains dressage lead, but with Billy The Biz

Pippa Funnell retains her grip on the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S competition after the second day of dressage, albeit with her third 4* ride – Billy The Biz. The striking grey looked effortless on Friday afternoon earning a score of 23.3 and setting the standard going into Saturday’s showjumping and cross country phases.

Sarah Bullimore had a busy but successful Friday finishing with her least experienced horse in third place. The first on the board was Sarah’s top horse and reserve on the British squad for the European Championships, Reve Du Rouet who scored 28.5 but it was the homebred eight-year-old Corouet who moved into the lead just before lunch with a score of 23.6.

Tom McEwen soon matched Sarah’s score of 23.6 with Toledo De Kerser moving ahead due to collective marks.

Speaking to An Eventful Life after his test, Tom said “There was nothing I wanted to particularly aim for this year so we’ve just kept him ticking along at national level.

He’s got a really expressive medium canter so I really tried to show it off today”.

The final hours of the CCI4*-S dressage phase with a host of top-class names including Piggy French, Tina Cook, Tim Price and Sarah Bullimore who returned with her final ride, Conpierre.

Last year’s winners of this class Tina Cook and Billy The Red put in a solid test to earn a mark of 23.7 ahead of Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street.

This year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials winners, Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, lie in ninth after dressage on a score of 25.8. Piggy’s other ride Quarrycrest Echo goes into the showjumping in 11th with a score of 26.6.

Tom, Piggy and Tina are all headed to the European Championships at Luhmuhlen and all three have brought their Championship horses for a run. A number of other combinations are Burghley-bound.

Twenty-seven riders in the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S earned sub-30 dressage scores setting up exciting showjumping and cross country phases tomorrow.

With the Met Office forecasting high winds on Saturday, organisers have taken the decision to move the CCI4*-S showjumping phase indoors. The cross country course remains in good condition with near perfect going.

In the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L  and NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L competitions the leaders remain unchanged from Thursday with Sarah Holmes and Harley Brown, and Piggy French and Brookfield Quality, leading respectively.

To see the full results click here.

(Photo Credits: Sally Newcomb Photography)

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street lead after first day of dressage

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street lead overnight in the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S competition. Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s Burghley-bound gelding put in an eye-catching performance during Thursday’s morning session setting the standard with 24.8.

Pippa also lies in tenth place with the S.H.E Eventing owned Maybach who scored 28.8.

“I was very happy with MGH Grafton Street’s test” said Pippa, speaking on Thursday evening.

“He is improving and getting stronger with each test he performs. He’s always been pretty solid in this phase, it’s just getting the other phases to come together.

“Maybach had a bit of time off in the spring and as he’s only a nine-year-old is still getting stronger.

“I was really delighted with the trot work in particular although he just became a little bit bright in his canter and broke in the counter canter. The system I’ve got with him is absolutely right and it’s just a case of being patient and waiting for him to build in strength”.

With an eye to the weekend, Pippa Funnell also paid tribute to Hartpury as an eventing venue.

“It’s astonishing how Hartpury has grown over the years to now be one of our top venues in the country. Fortunately, we have got the facilities to hand if the rain does come this weekend” she said.

It was a good first day for Emily King too who lies in second and fourth place aboard Brookleigh (24.9) and Dargun (25.4) respectively. Australia’s Kevin Mcnab sits in third place following Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam’s best performance at this level scoring 25.4. Will Furlong and Collien P 2 (26.5) and Millie Dumas and Artistiek (27.5) lie fifth and sixth respectively.

Elsewhere on the first day of dressage, Piggy French leads the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L competition aboard Brookfield Quality (27.0) and Sarah Holmes leads the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L competition aboard Harley Brown (25.6).

The action continues on Friday from 8.30am. Click here to view the full results.

Powells’ enjoy a perfect start to the week with Burghley Young Event Horse wins

Caroline Powell and Rodney Powell kicked off the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials in fine style by taking the Burghley Young Event Horse 4 and 5-year-old classes respectively. Both combinations will now head to the final at next month’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Caroline Powell’s impressive Legally Grey marked consistently across the three sections earning a total score of 80. By the thoroughbred stallion Munther, the grey gelding held off strong competition from nearest rival Caroline Harris and W Be Individual who finished with an all-around score of 76.

In the 5-year-old qualifier, Rodney Powell’s Wanham Freebie finished in top spot with a score of 88. Wanham Freebie is by Ramiro B, sire of top event horses including Ballynoe Castle RM (3rd in the 4* at Kentucky in 2014), Cooley Masterclass (winner of the CICO*** at Ballindenisk in 2014), and Westwinds Hercules (winner of the CIC2* at Mallow in 2014).

In 2018 Cooley Master Class won the Land Rover Kentucky Horse Trials on his CCI**** debut, finishing on his dressage score of 28.7 and Cooley SRS finished 2nd at the Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials on his CCI**** debut, jumping double clear to finish on a score of 33.1. Ramiro B passed away in 2018 but his legacy continues with a number of exciting young horses such as this.

Tina Coudray and Cabaret finished in second on a score of 81.

“We always enjoy seeing so many talented young horses at our Burghley Young Event Horse qualifiers,” said Equine Director, Philip Cheetham.

“We wish all those horse and rider combinations who qualified today the very best of luck at Burghley in the autumn” he added.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the first horse inspection took place for the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L and NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L. Two horses were spun at the first horse inspection, one from the 2* competition and one from the 3* competition. Dressage gets underway in both long-format competitions on Thursday alongside the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S.