The Rockingham Round-Up!
Rockingham rocked under the sound of many Fairfax & Favor foot steps. With perfect weather and stellar hospitality, Rockingham remains a firm favourite on eventing's castle tour.
Jonty Evans (IRL) is this year's Loomes Champion, winning a stunning Robert Loomes handmade watch as a result of finishing highest placed of the riders closest to the optimum time from the open and advanced intermediate competitors. Jonty and Cooley Rorkes Drift won the advanced intermediate in the process, coming home one second inside the time and finishing on their dressage score.
“I was very aware of the prize,” Jonty laughed. “I came here for a good run after Badminton didn't work out so let 'Art' run on across country. He floated round and after jumping the last fence I had to put the brakes on a bit so as not to be too fast.” This result makes Jonty the second Irishman to win the Loomes Championship in its five year history.
Third placed Kristina Hall-Jackson also came home one second inside the optimum on Slaney Cruise, while advanced intermediate runners, up Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel, were one second over.
Alexander Bragg made it a 1-2 in the Open Intermediate, both Barrichello and Shannondale Percy finishing on the same score. Barrichello had posted the better dressage score but lowered a showjump, while Shannondale Percy jumped a double clear but collected 0.8 of a time penalty, dropping him behind his stable mate.
“Guttingly I didn't know about the Loomes watch on my first horse, so was four seconds inside the time. Then on my second horse I was held on course and ended up two seconds over! That aside I'm chuffed to bits with both horses – it was my first visit to Rockingham, and today was about getting to know Barrichello and Shannondale Percy, who are both owned by Dr Sarah Hughes and new rides for me this year.”
Bubby Upton won the Under 21 Open Intermediate class riding Peter Hollingsworth and Charlotte Bathe's Mexican Wave, a horse Bubby took the ride on last summer. The pair upgraded to intermediate on their last run of 2017, and finished in the runner up spot at Belton Park's U21 class last month.
“Mexican Wave was bred by Charlotte, and is by Billy Mexico out of one of Charlotte's eventing mares,” said Bubby. “He's so talented but also quirky so I've had to take him slowly. I'm producing him for Charlotte's daughter Daisy and I am NOT going to want to give him back!”
Piggy French's run of fortune continued further today, with Graf Cavalier winning an intermediate section. It is the third win of the season for Trevor Dickens' mare who added just 2.4 cross country time penalties to their dressage score.
Japanese riders were the dominant force in both of the one-star classes. Toshiyuki Tanaka claimed section A with Riding Club Crane's Kinnordy Rhondo, a 10-year-old horse of Australian origin.
“He is a very good jumper but strong. The [optimum] time was tight today so I had to really ride fast,” said Tanaka.
The pair posted a dressage score completion, as did compatriot Ryuzo Kitajima who finished third on board Feroza Nieuwmoed, also owned by Riding Club Crane. Ryuzo has been riding this horse since the middle of 2016, and finished last season with a very competitive 11th place in the British Eventing seven-year-old championships at Osberton.
Kitajima topped the leaderboard in the second one-star section, which bodes well for the ever-improving standard of Japanese eventing ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This time he was partnering Riding Club Crane's Koko Doro. The partnership did complete a couple of three-star competitions last season and finished fourth in a one-star at Chatsworth last weekend.
Kitajima said of his horse, “He is a good dressage horse but [can be] difficult in the show jumping – he has a lot of individuality, but [I'm delighted] today we jumped double clear.”
Again the double act was in action, with Tanaka taking fourth place on Balla Star Bay behind Piggy French riding Emerald Jonny in second and Line Andresen (SWE) on Faere Spirit in third.
All four of these Japanese horses are qualified for this year's Asian Games, and both riders are also keen to represent Japan at the World Equestrian Games this summer.
Piggy French was back in the ribbons in the first of the two-star sections, taking the spoils on Susannah Paybody's Castletown Clover, another combination to add nothing to their first phase score. She nearly made it a double, having to settle for the runner up spot in the second two-star on board Jennifer Saunders' Cooley Monsoon due to an uncharacteristic dislodged showjump rail.
“Castletown Clover has gone great today,” said Piggy. “I only started riding him over the winter. He began his career with his owner at 90 and 100cm level, and then over the last couple of years Hannah (Norville, who works for Piggy) moved him up through the grades to intermediate. He's 13 now so credit to Susannah and him to let me jump him bigger and faster. We hadn't planned beyond Rockingham because we didn't know how he'd cope – this was his 'Badminton'. We may need to rethink – he made it feel easy.”
The final two-star went to a 2017 winner, James Avery (NZL). This year he was riding Vitali, a horse he describes as the best he has ever had. “He has lots of talent but is a bit arrogant. Last year we led the 7-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d'Angers until the showjumping where we had two rails down. He gets distracted in the arena – when he's focussed he's great. Today he was focussed.”