Oliver Townend has taken out the national novice title for the fourth time and the intermediate title for a third time at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park.
For good measure, Townend also finished second as well in the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship at the event on the Princess Royal’s estate. He led throughout to finish on his dressage score of 27.7 on Belgian rider Stephanie D’Andrimont’s Sonic de Sermentol, a nine-year-old by Ainhoa Ahkarad, and rose four places to come second on Karyn Shuter’s seven-year-old Ridire Dorcha, by Limmerick.
“I told Stephanie that Sonic De Sermentol would win here two months ago. She was excited even though she didn’t know what the Novice Championship was!” Townend said.
Former British team rider Polly Stockton was back in the big time with third place on Stanhopes Mr Macoy, a seven-year-old by the dressage stallion Stanhopes Diddicoy owned by Mafra Smithers, a regular member of the scoring team at BE events.
Stockton, who was National Champion at Gatcombe Park back in 1999 when she was still Polly Clark, rose from fourth place after dressage with a clear showjumping round and a fast cross-country round for 1.6 time penalties.
Townend landed the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship with Andrew Cawthray’s Note Worthy, an 11-year-old by Limmerick. His dressage score of 23.3, to which he added just 1.2 time penalties across the country, left him 12 marks clear of the rest of the field.
“He has an endless gallop and although he needs a squeeze at times, he’s class,” Townend said. “I had quite an early draw and I knew I had good ones around me, so I couldn’t afford to hang around.”
British-based Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon proved she is right back on form after breaking her collarbone in June, rising from ninth place after dressage into the runner-up spot with Patricia and Amy Lambert’s Chequers Play The Game.
Tom McEwen recorded his best championship result at Gatcombe, finishing third with Frank and Jane Inns’ Toledo De Kerser.
“When he turned up at my yard he was totally unrideable; I still can’t jump him at home,” McEwen said. “He hates crowded warm-up areas and I only jumped three practice fences before the showjumping here, but he is becoming very consistent and reliable.”
Andrew Nicholson finished eighth on Swallow Springs with Dan Jocelyn and Beaucatcher right behind him in ninth. Britain’s Tina Cook in 10th on Billy The Red, split the next two Kiwis in the rankings, with Lizzie Brown 11th on Princeton II and Neil Spratt 12th on Barones II.
Meanwhile, the scene is set for a fantastic British Open. Australia’s triple Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy leads on Rutherglen, but he has little margin for error over Oliver Townend, bidding to be the first rider to win all three titles at Gatcombe in one weekend. He is second on Mr Hiho and third on Armada. Nicola Wilson is also in close contention, in fourth place on the skewbald mare Beltane Queen.
Andrew Nicholson, the defending champion, has withdrawn Avebury because the popular grey has an abscess in his hoof, but he has plenty of other good rides.
Mark Todd and NZB Campino is sixth in the 44-strong field with 36.1 penalty points. Next in the rankings is fellow Kiwi Jock Paget with Clifton Lush on 36.5. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet are 11th with a score of 37.8 efforts, with Nicholson filling places 12 and 13 with Perfect Stranger on 37.9 and Cillnabradden Evo on 38.
“The British Open is the most prestigious CIC in the world and only the most experienced horses and riders tend to win it, which is a tribute to Mark Phillips [course-designer],” said Hoy, who last won the title back in 1997 with Darien Powers. “I’m very pleased with how my horse’s test went, but I’m not counting any chickens too soon.”
• Noah Brook is set for the thrill of a lifetime; he leads the inaugural Top Spec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup on Deo Volente lll.