New Zealand’s Tim Price has won his first CCI4*, taking out Germany’s Luhmühlen International Horse Trials at the weekend on Wesko.
Price was the only competitor to finish on his dressage score, of 43.8, in a thrillingly tight finale to the DHL Paket sponsored event, the fifth and penultimate leg of the FEI Classics 2013/2014.
Cross-country leader Michael Jung (GER) looked the picture of concentration as he had fischerRocana FST jumping on springs, but a groan from the crowd signalled that a pole had fallen – the first part of the double at 12a – and that it was not to be a German victory.
Price was evidently thrilled to win, but he was quick to acknowledge the host nation in a gracious acceptance speech, in which he dedicated his victory to the young German rider Benjamin Winter (GER), who died as the result of a fall on the cross-country on Saturday.
“I would like to dedicate this win to Benjamin. It was a very sad day yesterday,” he said.
Price also thanked the event’s organisers “for making us all so welcome. I first came here as a visitor eight years ago and I’ve been waiting ever since to ride here.”
He also thanks his support crew, including wife Jonelle, who was also competing at Luhmühlen “Full credit to my horse, Jonelle and our team who keep everything organised which allowed me to achieve this,” he said.
It was his first start at Luhmühlen and something he had looked forward to for a long time.
The only other four star start for Wesko was at Badminton, where the two parted company at the water.
“I had a real need to right that ship. There was the added pressure of it being world champs year too, and there is so much hinging on a big solid result.”
Instead of a lap of honour, the leading riders, all wearing black armbands in honour of Winter, were escorted quietly from the arena.
Boyd Martin (USA) proved to selectors that he is fully recovered after breaking his leg in the spring by finishing in with third place on new ride Shamwari 4 and 15th on Otis Barbotière.
Martin picked up just one time penalty to rise four places from seventh on Shamwari 4. This exciting prospect was bought from Swedish rider Ludwig Svennerstal by a syndicate during the winter, but this was Martin’s first opportunity to try out the horse at an international competition.
Oliver Townend (GBR) hit fence 10 on the 13-year-old Black Tie, but he remained in fourth place and left the ring with a broad smile on his face.
Indeed Townend has plenty to smile about: this was the second time this year that he has been the highest-placed British rider at a CCI4*, having finished as runner-up at Badminton on Armada. As a result, he has now leapt into second place in the FEI Classics, just 10 points behind William Fox-Pitt (GBR), which means that the series will go right to the wire at Burghley in September.
Elaine Pen (NED) must be delighted with her first CCI4* performance. She rose three places to fifth on her former Young Rider horse Vira with just one rail down.
A four-fault round was good enough to move Andreas Ostholt (GER) and So Is Et up five places to sixth, while the USA’s Phillip Dutton (Mighty Nice, seventh), Germany’s Bettina Hoy (Designer 10, eighth) and Australia’s Bill Levett (Improvise, ninth) all dropped down the order with three rails down each.
Promising Belgian rider Lara de Liedekerke, riding Quella Langonnaise, enjoyed her second 10th placing at CCI4* level this year, following an excellent Badminton debut.
Jonelle Price was the best placed of the other New Zealand eventers, placing 12th on Classic Moet with 70.5 penalty points, and 16th aboard The Deputy on 74.5. Mark Todd and Oloa were 21st with 81.4, Kate Wood and Easy Tiger were 27th on 96.3.
Wesko a former showjumper
Tim Price found Wesko “by chance at the end of a long, cold day” in a jumping yard where he was being competed by British rider Siobhan Edmonds. Price said he had turned to eventing like a “duck to water”.
“Everything comes quite easily to him – I wish I had 10 more like him!”
The white-faced bay gelding proved “flawless” in his early eventing competitions and went on to win twice at three-star level, at Blair Castle (GBR) CCI3* last year and at Tattersalls (IRE) CIC3* a fortnight ago. The pair contested Badminton, but took an early ducking in the Lake.
Owned by the Wesko Syndicate, the 11-year-old Dutch-bred gelding is by Karandasj, and out of Kolien, who is by the thoroughbred stallion Mytens, a son of Spectacular Bid.
“I’m thrilled for my horse. This is his first four-star completion, and my first visit here, and I certainly didn’t expect to be standing here as the winner,” he said.
It was not all smooth sailing, though, as Price had an agonising four hour wait while it was reviewed whether he had missed a flag on a skinny brush in the main arena.
“They couldn’t review it until the class had finished, so I was on the edge of my seat for a while there,” he said.
The win was also a celebration of a lot of hard work. “It is a long old road from starting in New Zealand, coming over here with nothing, working out how to make a living out of what we do and to get the quality of horses we need to achieve these sorts of things. Now to have that realisation it is possible to have a four-star win … it hasn’t properly sunk in yet.”
New Zealand has provided the winners of eight CCI4*s since Mark Todd set the ball rolling at Badminton in 2011. Now this tiny country with such a huge legacy of horsemanship has another hero to salute.
About the winner
Tim Price, 35, grew up on a farm near Canterbury in New Zealand’s South Island and began his riding career in jumping, up to FEI World Cup level, before deciding that most of his horses were better suited to eventing.
He paid for his first trip to the UK by selling a good horse, Vortex; they were later reunited and competed at CCI4* level together, finishing 20th at both Badminton and Pau in 2009.
This year he was ninth at Badminton on Ringwood Sky Boy and a member of the winning New Zealand team in the FEI Nations Cup at Houghton (GBR). He also won the CIC3* at Tattersalls in Ireland and the CCI3* at Blair Castle last year.
He is now based in Wiltshire in the UK with Jonelle (nee Richards), another South Islander, and a yard full of horses; Jonelle was a member of New Zealand’s bronze medal team at the London 2012 Olympic Games and finished 12th (Classic Moet) and 16th (The Deputy) at Luhmühlen.
• A brilliant clear round by Andrew Hoy and Cheeky Calimbo earned the pair this year’s Meßmer Trophy for the CCI3*.
The Australian had led after the cross country and headed off a class field of German riders, with Ingrid Klimke second on FRH Escada JS, and Andreas Ostholt third on Pennsylvania. the next placings went to Peter Thomsen on Horseware’s Barny (42.90) and Claas Hermann Romeike with Cato (46.00).
After his win Hoy said: “First of all I would like to thank the brilliant team behind this event for organising this wonderful competition each year. We are all still in shock and upset for the terrible loss of Benjamin and we are all thinking of his family at these sad times. Ben loved the sport and his horses and so do we.”
The German Championship title was suspended this year in consideration of Benjamin Winter.
Additional reporting: Diana Dobson, Luhmühlen Horse Trials
Final 4* Results
1 Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 43.8 + 0.0 + 0 = 43.8
2 Michael Jung/fischerRocana FST (GER) 41.5 + 0.0 + 4 = 45.5
3 Boyd Martin/Shamwari 4 (USA) 47.8 + 0.0 +1 = 48.8
4 Oliver Townend/Black Tie (GBR) 45.0 + 0.0 + 4 = 49.0
5 Elaine Pen/Vira (NED) 43.2 + 4.8 + 4 = 52.0
6 Andreas Ostholt/So Is Et (GER) 50.5 + 0.0 + 4 = 54.5
7 Phillip Dutton/Mighty Nice (USA) 46.0 + 0.0 + 12 = 58.0
8 Bettina Hoy/Designer 10 (GER) 43.3 + 1.2 + 15 = 59.5
9 Bill Levett/Improvise (AUS) 47.7 + 0.0 + 13 = 60.7
10 Lara de Liedekerke/Quella Langonnaise (BEL) 50.2 + 0 + 12 = 62.2
FEI Classics 2013/2014 Leaderboard (after 5 of 6 events)
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30 points
2 Oliver Townend (GBR) 20
3 Tim Price (NZL) 17
4 Sam Griffiths (AUS) 15
5 Christopher Burton (AUS) 15
6 Phillip Dutton (USA) 15
7 Maxime Livio (FRA) 12
8 Lauren Kieffer (USA) 12
9 Michael Jung (GER) 12
10 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12