“I have never been so excited — this is the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Richard Davison as he was crowned national champion and gained the use of a silver Mercedes soft-top for a year.
Despite a European team silver medal in 1993, this year’s triumphant team bronze and a British number one ranking on several occasions, this is the first national champion title for the British team veteran.
“I just wanted Royale to fire as much as that car will and she certainly did. She just comes out and delivers the goods every time,” said Richard as he crowned an outstanding year with the 13-year-old Danish mare Ballaseyr Royale.
The Grange Hotels Grand Prix proved it was going to be a competitive fight to the finish with four big guns emerging at the top.
Just a handful of marks divided Richard (Ballaseyr Royale), Carl Hester (Escapado) and Peter Storr making a return to the nationals with twice former champion Gambrinus, while team stalwarts Emile Faurie and Rascher Hopes were snapping at their heels.
Emile and ‘Streaky’ – first of the pack to go in the Mercedes Benz Freestyle – turned up the heat scoring over 72%.
Despite having been sidelined for a year and having had just one recent competitive outing, a relaxed Gambrinus made his risky routine seem like a stroll in the park. The score of 75% set an exceptional target.
Escapado could not quite match the mark set by his more seasoned opponents and, as at Hickstead, Richard was left with it all to do.
The experience was put to good use, as the pair – unflappable throughout the familiar South Pacific routine – scored a whopping 77% and a personal best.
German international judge Christoph Hess said: “All four riders are real international contenders. Richard was a true winner especially after Peter and Gambrinus set such a high standard. But Royale has the better piaffe and the triple canter pirouette — that is the absolute limit of difficulty — won the class.
“It was a pleasure to see Carl and Emile so close and Escapado showed the best passage we saw all weekend.”