Flora Harris walked away £5,000 richer and with the keys to a Jeep for a year in her pocket after winning the much talked about Express Eventing competition at the Royal Festival of the Horse.
Flora, 22, secured first prize by jumping an immaculate showjumping round with Law Choice, which included clearing the 1.35m eraser fence.
“I came here thinking I had a chance of doing well, but I’m lost for words — I can’t believe I’ve actually won,” said Flora.
The competition, which has not been without controversy — the first prize was slashed by some £45,000 during the run-up to the event and several riders threatened to boycott it — was nevertheless hailed a success in terms of format.
The first phase, a freestyle dressage to music, was judged by Liz Day and Jeanette Watson, with Clare Balding awarding marks for artistic impression. This was followed by a simulated cross-country course with an optimum time, followed by a final showjumping test.
Portuguese rider Duarte Seabra led the dressage with Carol Gee’s Fernhill Gloster Rebel, ahead of Flora in second and H&H eventing blogger Alex Hua Tian (Magenta) in third.
David Evans’ 16-fence simulated cross-country course required accurate and positive riding. An optimum time of 100sec, which had a 5sec window either side where riders could remain penalty-free, resulted in five combinations adding nothing to their scoresheets, including Flora, Alex, Gemma Tattersall (Chamrock) and Phoebe Buckley (Little Tiger).
In the end, though, it all came down to the final showjumping. A brilliant clear from Flora and Law Choice, who were runners-up in the Under-25 National Championship at Bramham this year, ensured Duarte had to jump clear to win. When Fernhill Gloster Rebel knocked fence three, plus the last, the title was hers.
1. Flora Harris 18pen
2. Alex Hua Tian 26.5
3. Duarte Seabra 28.25
4. Tamsyn Hutchins 30.5
5. Georgie Spence 37
6. Phoebe Buckley 38.5
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