Lucy Wiegersma heads the British open field at Gatcombe

  • Lucy Wiegersma will be looking to take home her second British national — and first British open — title at Gatcombe’s Festival of British Eventing, supported by BETA, this weekend.

    Badminton runners-up Lucy and Shaabrak (pictured) were originally selected for the British team for the Olympics, but when the horse suffered a poisoned foot she was taken out of the squad. However, the pair went into quarantine as reserve combinations.

    But with no last-minute call-up, Lucy will bring the chestnut to Gatcombe to contest the British open championships. The pair were fourth in this class last year, and the fastest round the cross-country course — could they improve on that this year?

    Other leading contenders for the £10,000 first prize include Chatsworth World Cup qualifier winners Oliver Townend and Flint Curtis and Australian pair Paul Tapner and Inonothing, who won Belton’s Grantham Cup this spring. Zara Phillips will also ride in the open, competing her two Badminton runners, Ardfield Magic Star and Glenbuck.

    New Zealand Olympic team members Andrew Nicholson and Joe Meyer are riding at Gatcombe before heading out to the Games, and Andrew has the prodigious nine-year-old Armada, as well as new ride Muschamp Impala, in the open.

    Andrew will also make a strong assault on the Martin Collins International and EHOA intermediate championship, bringing three horses including last year’s runner-up for the novice title, the Jumbo grey Avebury.

    The Dodson & Horrell novice championship also looks set to be a competitive class with 100 horses lining up for a chance to win.

    The novice and intermediate championships are often the first prestigious step for horses who go on to achieve great feats: Tamarillo won the intermediate in 2000, while in 2006 William Fox-Pitt scored a double across these two classes with Navigator and Macchiato, who have both gone on to win Bramham.

    “The course and competition at all levels will be as challenging as ever and the winners at Gatcombe will be deserving champions,” says director Tim Henson. “Who could resist the idea of a picnic in the park while watching some of the world’s top riders in action, without having to travel to Hong Kong?”

    Keep an eye on www.horseandhound.co.uk/gatcombe08 for online updates from Gatcombe over the weekend and don’t forget to buy H&H next Thursday (7 August) for a full report from Gatcombe, including a column from former British open champion Ruth Edge.

    Full Gatcombe entries

    Gatcombe website

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