The highlight of the evening performance, the CDI4* Al Shira’aa Grand Prix Freestyle to Music, once again saw Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester dominate, taking the top two spots for the second night in succession. Earlier in the day, there was a popular victory for Her Majesty The Queen with her homebred mare, Balmoral Mandarin, in the Highland Showing class.
DRESSAGE: FREESTYLE BY NAME, FREESTYLE BY NATURE
Mount St John Freestyle lived up to her name, winning the FEI Al Shira’aa Grand Prix Freestyle to Music. Ridden by Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin, the pair dominated the class, running away with the victory and was the only one of the 12 combinations to break the 80% barrier with a score of 81.2%.
The nine-year-old mare produced a confident programme that made the most of her off-the-floor paces, impressive passage and extensions.
“That was only her second freestyle and it’s not something we practice at home so I am really happy. Everything she does, she does so well and I can’t ask for more, especially at this stage,” said Charlotte who rode the programme to the music ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ that was originally made for Valegro. “It was Valegro’s very first music and brings back many memories and always gives me goosebumps – and I just love riding to it.”
Carl Hester also chose to introduce Hawtins Delicato to freestyle using a former successful programme, originally used for his Olympic team gold medal horse, Uthopia. Delicato, like Freestyle, however also looked at ease performing to music.
“He felt much more rideable tonight,” said Carl who bought the British-bred gelding as a four-year-old from breeder Judith Davies, and has since bought a sibling. “He is a very exciting horse and at this stage just needs nursing along.”
Former British team rider Gareth Hughes finished one better tonight to make the top three with Don Carissimo and was ‘over the moon’ with the outcome.
“That is only his second outing this year and was a whole lot better than the first – he is a real trier,” said Gareth.
Once again the five British riders took the first five places, with British-based Dane Ulrik Moelgaard and Michigan completing the top six.
SHOW JUMPING: D-DAY AT ROYAL WINDSOR AS CSI5* GETS UNDERWAY
Daniel Deusser made a winning debut at Royal Windsor Horse Show, taking the feature class of the day, the 1.50m CSI5* Bahrain Pearl Stakes, in spectacular style. With 16 horses through from the first round, it was an exhilarating jump-off, with an open course encouraging forward riding and leaving no margin for error. As second to go, Canada’s Eric Lamaze and the brilliant Fine Lady 5, one of the fastest combinations on the international circuit, set the pace with a fast and faultless round that was sure to take some beating. Following him into the prestigious Castle Arena, Britain’s Robert Smith, looked like he might pose a serious threat, with an extremely tight turn to the double across the middle of the arena, but he crossed the line in a time 0.58 seconds behind Lamaze, enough for eventual fourth.
As fifth to go in the jump-off, Deusser, riding the fourteen-year-old mare Equita Van T Zorgvliet, rode a beautifully smooth and deceptively fast round to shave 0.15 seconds off the previous fastest time and take the lead, stopping the clock in 37.63 seconds. With 11 riders to follow, the win was by no means certain, but no-one could topple Deusser from pole position. The notoriously fast Emanuele Gaudiano, riding Chalou, posed the biggest challenge as last to go, but despite exceptionally tight turns throughout, his time of 38.22 seconds was only good enough for third place.
Speaking after the class, Deusser said,
“I am very happy with my horse Equita Van T Zorgvliet, I know she has a very big stride and is naturally very fast. I saw a bit of Eric’s round, so I knew I had to try hard to beat his time, but everything went well and I’m really happy about that. It’s my first time here at Windsor and I was very impressed when I walked onto the showground, it’s a beautiful showground, there’s a lot of space to ride and it’s great to see such a big crowd on a Friday afternoon. I must say congratulations to the organisers!”
Earlier in the day, it was a Belgian one-two in the opening CSI5* competition of the Show, the Manama Speed Stakes, a 1.45m two phase competition. As first to go, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor set the standard with a double clear aboard Veneno, however compatriot Bertram Allen was the first to lay down the gauntlet, knocking over eight seconds off O’Connor’s time, to put the pressure on the remaining competitors. Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr, a recent winner at CSI4* Hagen, jumped an impressive round, keeping his foot to the floor throughout and making an exceptionally tight turn to the Big Ben fence at 12, to post a time of 28.93 and take the lead. Crowd favourite, Britain’s John Whitaker, came close to challenging with a time of 30.25, but it was not until the penultimate to go, Wilm Vermeir, riding the twelve-year-old chestnut mare Gentiane De La Pomme, that the lead was jeopardised. Taking a stride out to the planks at 11 and galloping to the last, Vermeir managed to knock 0.27 seconds off Mathy Jr’s time to take the victory.
SHOWING: ROYAL WINDSOR DEBUTANTE TAKES VICTORY
A Welsh Section C stallion was this year’s judges’ choice as Horse & Hound Mountain and Moorland Supreme In-Hand champion. Moorcroft The Master, a 13-year-old bay stallion owned and bred by the Howard family from Wales, looked majestic in the sunshine as he strode away with this most prestigious award.
Janine Sehne’s versatile Connemara mare, Tyan Ma’Lady, was reserve in the capable hands of Sue Deakin, who will partner the eight-year-old in tomorrow’s BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland section.
Her Majesty The Queen, who as always took a keen interest in these classes, posted her second win of the Show when her home-bred mare, Balmoral Mandarin, headed her Highland class and stood reserve champion of the breed.
Oxfordshire-based producer Jo Bates clinched The Count Robert Orssich Hack Championship for the second year running with Suzanna Welby’s 2016 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) champion, Elusive, after some of the strongest classes seen for some years. In the Castle Arena finale, the elegant bay pipped the reigning HOYS victor, Young Lochinvar, who won the Small Height division.
The Martin Collins Enterprises Cob Championship went to Lancashire-based home producer Anne Gilliver after a sparkling performance on Sue Benson’s “low-mileage” lightweight winner, Whitegate Dazzler. Although Anne has ridden at the Show before and judged here three times, this was her first Royal Windsor Championship and her joy was clear to see.
“I think a lot of this horse — we don’t show him much but he’s so sensible and straightforward that he takes it all in his stride,” she said of the seven-year-old. “However you never know what’s going to happen so this is the most tremendous thrill.”
DRIVING: A CLOSE CONTEST IN THE LAND ROVER INTERNATIONAL DRIVING GRAND PRIX
Competitors in the Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix horse pairs class face a close competition after today’s Dressage phase as just five penalty points separate the first four names on the leader board. In first place is last year’s winner here – Lars Schwitte from Germany – who counts his 2017 Royal Windsor win as his most memorable sporting achievement. Driving his KWPNs he drove an accurate test to take the lead less than two penalties ahead of experienced Swiss horse pairs competitor Beat Schenk.
Schwitte’s win was all the more satisfying for him in that he was a late entry. Eager to compete here, he was put on a waiting list by his Federation and the Show, with his entry confirmed only in the last few weeks. As a warm-up, he competed in the Dressage phase at a GB national competition in Essex last weekend where his smooth test impressed those watching. With four international wins to his credit from 2017, he was a member of the silver medal winning team at the Horse Pairs World Championships in Slovenia.
Second-placed Schenk first competed here in 2006, when he won the horse pairs class, repeating this achievement in 2009 and 2011. In 2017, he was third at Royal Windsor, won the international event at Saumur, France and was a bronze medallist at the Horse Pairs World Championships in Slovenia.
Only just behind him in third place is Baroness Amely von Buchholtz from Argentina, a regular competitor here over the years. She took third place in the dressage phase in 2017.
ENDURANCE: ROYAL WINNER AT ROYAL WINDSOR ENDURANCE
Royal Windsor Endurance, supported by The Kingdom of Bahrain, provided another memorable day of sport, and Bahrain itself celebrated a win in the CEI2* with HH Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa riding Vipper De Luriecq coming in first in a time of 05:04:48. Portugal took top honours in the CEI1* with Rui Pereira riding a sublime three laps on Bloodie Mary finishing in 03:33:13.
HH Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said,
“It was an absolute pleasure to be able to ride in WindsorGreat Park today and to be able to shake hands with her Majesty the Queen. What a pleasure, aside from winning, to come here and raise my flag and perform.”
British riders were also out in force with 68 entered across the three classes. One notable success was Carri Ann Dark from Wiltshire, who finished a brilliant third in the CEI1* on former Team GB Gelding, HS Drift.