Jonelle Price wins eventing’s British Open champs

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet have taken out the British Open Championship CCI4*-S at Gatcombe. 
Jonelle Price and Classic Moet have taken out the British Open Championship CCI4*-S at Gatcombe. © Festival of British Eventing

Kiwi eventer Jonelle Price has added another trophy to her growing stash, taking out the Magic Millions British Open Championship CCI4*-S at Gatcombe Park aboard her 2018 Badminton winner Classic Moet.

“It is the quintessential British event and I have never won here before,” Price said. “It is Classic Moet’s cup of tea and is really vital Burghley preparation for us. Obviously, I have had a bit of a quiet year with her – she missed Badminton in the spring so I am just delighted to have her here, to put in such a good performance over all three phases and to have the win.”

Price added only four time penalties in clocking up the fastest cross-country round of the day on the 16-year-old British-bred mare, whom she co-owns with Trisha Rickards. She was full of praise for the course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips.

“Mark is getting very clever at slowing us down. When I came home with four time faults I thought I had done quite a lot to get that but I had some very fast guys to come behind me with Chris (Burton), (husband) Tim and Ollie (Townend), so I thought there was every chance someone might get it but testament to Phillips. It was a demanding track in all the right places – there were some real pinch points and certainly, Classic Moet probably showed all her experience and speed to do what she did today.”

Price is now eyeing the prestigious Burghley Horse Trials next month. “It was very disappointing having to withdraw from Badminton in the spring but we don’t know sometimes why things happen and I keep looking ahead to Burghley and thinking maybe it is her year. It is just fantastic to have her here – she looks a picture of health and is obviously feeling very well. Hopefully, this really ticks the box in terms of our Burghley prep so we can consolidate from here and line up there in a month’s time.”

Price and Classic Moet were eighth after the dressage and slipped to ninth after taking a rail in the showjumping but their brilliance shone in the cross-country to finish on 35.6 penalties, taking both the one-day crown and the £10,000 winner’s purse.

Ben Hobday, who maintained second place and, as the highest-placed Briton, won the British Champion Trophy, conjured a beautiful round from Shadow Man ll, a horse who won the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship in 2017.

“I could hear that a few riders had had run-outs and that took the pressure off me,” explained Hobday, who incurred 11.6 time penalties. “He’s a fantastic horse and does everything I ask of him.”

Tina Cook and David Cricket won the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship at Gatcombe.
Tina Cook and David Cricket won the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship at Gatcombe. David Cricket is is named after leading racehorse owner David Johnson, who owned the dam, successful National Hunt mare Lady Cricket. © Festival of British Eventing

Nicholas Lucey, who collected a saddle from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers as the best under-25 rider, enjoyed one of the most notable results in his career when finishing in third place on Proud Courage with the third-fastest time. Jonelle, Nicholas and fourth-placed Ludwig Svennerstal from Sweden riding Stinger were the only riders with time penalties in single figures.

The clock proved the undoing of many with no-one inside time, despite nine clear rounds. Tim Price and Xavier Faer had two run-outs at a brush corner early in the course when lying second and picked up both time and jump penalties to finish 12th.

Oliver Townend, fourth after the first two phases, retired Ulises after a run-out. Last year’s champion Christopher Burton from Australia, was fifth on new ride Lawtown Chloe.

Tim had predicted after the dressage that Jonelle would be the one to take the crown.

Last to go across country, Pippa Funnell was enjoying a superb round on the magnificent home-bred Billy Walk On when a glance-off at the tricky corner at fence 23 ended her chances of victory.

But she was compensated with a superb victory in the Advanced class on Majas Hope, the horse with whom she has been named as a reserve for the British team for the European Championships.

“I often take too many pulls and ride like a 50-year-old, but he’s such a fantastic horse that I felt I must give it a crack,” laughed Funnell. “Cross-country courses like this are what eventing is all about – they teach you to sit up and the horses to balance and are invaluable experience as well as being the perfect fitness preparation for Burghley.”

Ashley Harrison finished second, eight penalties in arrears, on Zebedee lX and, in a good day for the Hobday family, Ben’s wife Emma was third on Shadow Puppet.

Two other champions were also crowned: Kristina Cook won the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship on David Cricket, and Saskia Davies had the thrill of a lifetime when winning the TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup for amateur riders on Singing Usk.

Francis Whittington and Brother Bertie won the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship title.
Francis Whittington and Brother Bertie won the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship title. © Festival of British Eventing

A new record was set at the event when both the British Intermediate and Novice Champions retained their titles.

Tom McEwen was masterful when leading from flagfall on Dreamaway ll to score a second successive victory in the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship and Francis Whittington produced an accomplished performance on Sarah Arrowsmith’s Brother Bertie to defend his Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship title.

Harry Meade came close to winning his first national title, finishing second on Nigella Hall and Alexandra Robinson’s eight-year-old Red Kite, a horse he bought four years ago from Germany.

Both winners were generous in their praise of the going provided by David Evans and his course-building team. “I think it’s some of the best ground we’ve ever seen here,” said Francis.

William Fox-Pitt, who has won 16 Festival titles since 1995, narrowly missed out on another and was ruing being a few seconds over the time on German-bred mare Grafennacht.

Louise Skelton, a competitor in the Novice Championship, was taken to hospital after a fall from Brechfa Baruch and was reported to have broken her arm.

There was a poignant presentation made in memory of one of the sport’s most dedicated grooms, Karen Hughes, who spent part of her career at Gatcombe Park, working for Australian Olympian Andrew Hoy. The Karen Hughes Memorial Grooms Award went to Lucy Seddon, who looks after Dreamaway ll.

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