The culmination of the EHOA Martin Collins Novice Championship at Gatcombe this morning saw an Australian takeover bid not dissimilar to that of the Americans in the Advanced class yesterday afternoon.
By midway through the morning’s proceedings, an Australian one-two-three looked a strong likelihood, with Clayton Fredericks some way ahead of the field on 35.5. In spite of four penalties incurred during the show jumping, and 2.4 time penalties, his impressive dressage score of 29.1 had set him up well to take the top spot on Tennyson.(pictured)
“It’s so nice to have a horse that you can actually go into the dressage arena and have a crack at it. Most of mine are really hot, and you are just waiting for them not to explode,” explained the Australian. “He’s a great mover for a thoroughbred.
“He’s an ex-racehorse – I think he wasn’t fast enough – but he was fast enough cross country today. He’s got a lot of scope, and I really rate his potential,” added Fredericks.
The next move is to take the six year old to Le Lion D’Angers for the six year old championships.
Bill Levett set the pace early on with his first ride, Floating Fox, hot-footing it around Captain Mark Phillips’ testing cross country course to finish just two seconds outside the time. With a clear show-jumping round, the combination added just 0.8 to their dressage score, completing with a total of 37.5.
The veteran Australian took a cue from his first round, and with his second ride, Sparkling Opposition, finished dead on the optimum time. However, an unfortunate mistake in the show jumping had put these two out of contention for the top spot, although they held on near the top of the leaderboard.
However, British rider Francis Whittington, who is better known by some readers for modelling underwear, cut the mustard, showing the Antipodeans how to do it by finishing well inside the time. He slipped into second place with Sir Percival III , somewhat diluting the Australian dominance of the top spots.
It was perfect weather and the going was immaculate, in spite of the earth-scorching sun, and there were few upsets, with the exception of fence three, the Burleigh Court Hotel fence, over which horses are expected to drop down into a wood.
Several were forced to retire at this early stage of the course, showing just how tough a question jumping out of the light into the dark is for novice horses.