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Sam Griffiths wins Chatsworth 3* horse trials

May 18, 2010

British-based Australian Sam Griffiths kept his country at the forefront of the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing rankings with a superb win at Chatsworth, his first ever victory in this series.

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times celebrate victory in the HSBC FEI World Cup eventing competition at Chatsworth. © Kit Houghton/FEI

Andrew Nicholson and Armada, who finished seventh. © Mike Bain

» More pictures from Chatsworth

This latest result means that Australian riders have won three out of the first five of the 12 events across three continents and 10 countries in the 2010 HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing.

Griffiths, fifth in the 2009 HSBC FEI Classics, has had extraordinarily consistent results, including third at Badminton and Burghley last year, on Happy Times, an 11-year-old bay gelding by the increasingly successful eventing sire Heraldik.

His aim now is to join the Australian squad for the first time, at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in September.

"Australia is proving to have such a strong hand that I thought I'd better win something," Griffiths joked after his Chatsworth success.

"The cross-country rode really well, but it was tough and I was pleased to be on such an experienced horse. It was the sort of big course you'd expect someone like Ian Stark to produce in that it favoured bold riding."

Griffiths rose from equal third after dressage to take the lead going into the final jumping phase, his task made easier by the departure of the overnight leader Nick Gauntlett, who fell from the stallion Chilli Morning going into fence 7, the Sunken Road.

Clayton Fredericks, the dressage runner-up, withdrew Bendigo lll because he is taking the horse to Saumur CCI*** next weekend, and Kitty King, equal third after dressage, was eliminated for a fall from Boondoggle at a house-rail-brush and drop combination three from home.

Lucy Wiegersma had re-routed Woodfalls Inigo Jones to Chatsworth after suffering an early run-out at Badminton and finished second, and Fiona Hobby was third on the Arab-Oldenburg cross Roma ML. New Zealand's Neil Spratt was fourth on Upleadon.

Wiegersma admitted she was pleased to have excised her "Badminton demon" on the big, rangy chestnut who, she says, has come out a stronger horse this season. Having been fifth at Kentucky and earned her first senior flag at the HSBC FEI European Championships last year, Wiegersma is also hopeful of a place at the WEG.

Hobby, whose sister Tina Fletcher is a successful in jumping for Britain, was third at Chatsworth back in 2006 on Smart Approach and hopes to enhance her chances in the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing rankings with a run at Haras du Pin in France in August.

"She may not look like a conventional eventer, but she's a fantastic jumper and mover," said Hobby, who bought Roma ML from Ireland having been impressed after seeing her on a DVD.

Ian Stark's revamped cross-country course, which utilises several historic features in the Duke of Devonshire's spectacular parkland at Chatsworth, was very well received, with the new combinations riding perfectly if boldly attacked; there were 20 clears from the 27 starters on this phase.

As usual on Chatsworth's undulating cambers, the time proved the most influential factor. New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson, seventh on the spring-heeled Spanish-bred Armada, was fastest with 6.4 penalties and was one of only three to score time penalties in single figures.

The order changed little in the final jumping phase, showing how well horses had come out of the big galloping cross-country just a couple of hours previously.

The new Badminton champion Paul Tapner, jumping out of order, kicked off proceedings with an immaculate clear on the skewbald Tiger Flynne to take 10th place, and there were to be four more from the 19 finishers, including from the winner, who held his nerve admirably in the pressurised atmosphere.

Nineteen horses finished the competition, three having withdrawn before the jumping phase.



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