Chris Burton takes out Gatcombe’s British Open horse trials

Chris Burton and TS Jamaimo on their way to winning the British Open at Gatcombe.
Chris Burton and TS Jamaimo on their way to winning the British Open at Gatcombe.

Chris Burton has won the British Open eventing title at Gatcombe, only the third Australian rider to take the British Open, following Andrew Hoy in 1997 and Clayton Fredericks in 2006.

Riding TS Jamaimo, Burton, 33, who is based near Godalming, Surrey, rose steadily through the ranks from ninth place after showjumping as a dramatic competition unfolded in the Festival of British Eventing’s showpiece class.

Marlborough-based New Zealander Jonelle Price, competing in the British Open for the first time, was second on Classic Moet, and Nicola Wilson from North Yorkshire finished third on the skewbald mare Beltane Queen and, as best British rider, becomes National Champion.

Oliver Townend, bidding to win a historic third title at the Festival, had to settle for fourth on Armada, the only horse to achieve the 6min 28sec optimum time. Townend withdrew joint leader Mr Hiho after the dressage and jumping phases, because the horse was coming back from a lay-off.

Burton was quick to offer his commiserations to his compatriot Sam Griffiths, who, as the leader going into cross-country was last on the course but suffered a frustrating fall at fence 21 with Paulank Brockagh.

Only 22 of the original 44 starters completed the competition. William Fox-Pitt lost his chances of adding to his impressive tally of national championships with run-outs on both horses (Luxury FH and Fernhill Pimms) and defending champion Andrew Nicholson was taken to hospital for observation after suffering a heavy fall at the last fence with Cillnabradden Evo. Dressage leaders Andrew Hoy and Rutherglen had three jumping rails down and also had a fall on the cross-country.

“It’s a bit of a shock win – I was quite cross at having a showjumping rail down,” Burton confessed. “But this is a very exciting win for me. Gatcombe is an event that gets us riders fired up.”

He described the Burghley-bound Jamaimo, a 16-year-old Australian thoroughbred, as “very careful and fast, although he’s got a bit of a hair-trigger and can turn too sharply”.

It was their best result since Burton took the horse on as a chance ride at the Adelaide four-star in 2013 after which a syndicate of owners clubbed together to buy the horse for him.

Jonelle Price agreed that it takes a specialist horse to do well in the British Open. “Classic Moet is fast and light on her feet and I had a beautiful ride. I couldn’t believe my luck.”

Nicola Wilson, who was also ninth on a hard-pulling Bulana, was bubbling after her super ride on Beltane Queen – if they’d gone clear in the show jumping they would have won. “She was phenomenal; she’s just getting better and better. I can’t believe it!”

Rose Carnegie, who finished 13th on Landine, won the Horse Trials Support Group prize for the best British rider aged 25 and under.

British Eventing’s chief executive David Holmes summed up after a great weekend: “Gatcombe really is the showcase for our national sport. Everyone wants to win here because the competition is always so exciting and so hard fought, and the huge crowds here is testament to this.”

Noah Brook rides Deo Volente III to Corinthian Cup win

Noah Brook and  Deo Volente.
Noah Brook and Deo Volente.

Noah Brook is the inaugural – and runaway – winner of The TopSpec Challenge for The Corinthian Cup riding Deo Volente III, a seven-year-old owned by Paul Crompton.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself this morning before the showjumping as I was in the lead after the dressage at Chatsworth CIC1* earlier in the year and had two fences down,” said the Huddersfield-based rider, who could have afforded two rolled poles on this occasion, such was his winning margin (of more than 10 penalties).

Brook, 19, has just set up on his own having previously worked for showjumper Andrew Saywell and spent two years under the tutelage of renowned trainer and producer Judy Bradwell. He took on Deo Volente III at the end of last season from the horse’s previous rider Piggy French.

“His owners weren’t sure how far he’d go initially, but he keeps getting better and better,” Brook said. “I’m very grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to ride him.”

Runner-up Sarah Chittleburgh partnered possibly the smallest horse ever to gallop across Gatcombe’s hallowed turf. Her mare Sari De Lobelle stands at just 14.1hh, but that didn’t stop her producing a fast, faultless double clear.

“I bought Sari four years ago as a five-year-old thinking that I’d quietly produce her for the pony market while enjoying competing her myself,” explained Chittleburgh, 25, who works an equine osteopath and massage therapist. “She’s got so much scope; she’ll happily go on to intermediate level.”

Of the new National Restricted Novice Championship, Chittleburgh added: “To ride alongside the best in the world and feel included – and be part of – the main competition has been such a fantastic experience.”

Cathrine Taylor followed her third place in the BE100 Badminton Grassroots Championship with a third place aboard Lynn Ferguson’s 12-year-old mare, Lorelei.

“She’s such a fun horse to be around and never has a bad day,” said Taylor, who is based at Somerford Park Farm in Cheshire.

Captain Mark Phillips’ new cross country course caused relatively few problems among the 63 cross country starters – there were 46 clear rounds but the combination of Gatcombe’s undulating terrain and unique atmosphere ensured there were still a few thrills and spills, especially at the water.

“The TopSpec Challenge for The Corinthian Cup has been a fantastic competition and one that we are very proud to sponsor,” said Nicola Tyler of TopSpec. “It has been great to watch amateur riders take the stage alongside the seasoned pros and I look forward to seeing some of them returning to The Festival of British Eventing next year.”

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