Oliver Townend rules the novices at Gatcombe

  • Oliver Townend made the afternoon his at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe today, dominating the Martin Collins and EHOA Novice Championships from start to finish.

    For a large part of the afternoon he was filling the top three spots, but in spite of a variety of attempts to split his reign by stalwarts of the eventing world, Townend clung on to the two top spots.

    In an extraordinary turn of events, the soon-to-be twenty-three-year-old finished on equal scores with two of his rides – Best of Spirits and Haveray Park Beau. But a marginally quicker cross-country round on Best of Spirits handed the eight-year-old

    It has been an awe-inspiringly successful season for Townend, who has shown guts and determination worthy of any of his senior counterparts, a point proven this afternoon when even Andrew Nicholson, a demon across country, couldn’t begin to match his speed. The New Zealander had to eventually settle for fourth place with Armada behind last year’s open champion Ruth Edge on Impromptu.

    These two riders tapped away at Townend’s dominance of the leaderboard, but he nevertheless finished the day with three of his rides in the five top places. Seven-year-old Woodhouse Ben flew across country, and was one of only two horses to finish within the optimum time.

    “I had expected Woodhouse Ben to do the best out of my four rides, but Best of Spirits has been a star this season. We have worked hard at his jumping, and he is on fabulous form,” explained Townend. “This is my first national title, and I am delighted with all of the, Haveray Park Beau was perhaps the biggest surprise – he was fabulous too.”

    The Advanced Sections earlier in the day proved a scrap between Daisy Dick and William Fox-Pitt. Daisy set the pace with an extremely fluent round on her European Individual prospect Spring Along, giving them a major confidence boost ahead of the European Championships in just five weeks.

    “I was absolutely thrilled with him,” said Daisy. “He did a good dressage test and show-jumped like a God. I didn’t push him too much on the cross country as you always have at the back of your mind that you need to look after them, and now it’s just a case of plenty of dressage lessons in preparation for Blenheim.”

    William Fox-Pitt and Birthday Night made a vain attempt to snatch the lead ahead of Daisy, but a show jump down in the morning left him less than one penalty point out of the lead. But he got his revenge at the very last minute, with a speedy round on Mr Dumbledore to snatch victory from Daisy.

    “I was absolutely furious”, she said. “It’s always him, even though he did beat me fair and square. He’s a tough man to beat and Dumbledore is a very good horse.”

    Daisy got her own back in Advanced Section 1, though, cruising to victory on Hope Street, a new ride for her this season. “At 17.3Hh, he’s an absolute giant, but his owner Jo Holmes has always maintained that he’s a woman’s ride. Fortunately he really is quite sensitive, otherwise he wouldn’t notice me, a little fly on his back.”

    Hope Street and Daisy Dick have been going from strength to strength this season. But although they have been in the money on virtually every outing, this is their first victory, and inspired a lot of love in Daisy for the gentle giant. “It’s so great to be handed a quality advanced ride, and he is fabulous in so many ways. But no specific plans for the future at present, so we shall see!”

    Results Novice Championship
    1. Best of Spirits (Oliver Townend) 41.0
    2. Haveray Park Beau (Oliver Townend) 41.0
    3. Impromptu (Ruth Edge) 42.0
    4. Armada (Andrew Nicholson) 44.8
    5. Woodhouse Ben (Oliver Townend) 45.2

    Results Advanced Section 1
    1. Hope Street (Daisy Dick) 42.9
    2. Ashdale David’s Way (Cindy Rawson USA) 45.1
    3. Slight of Hand (Matt Ryan) 46.7

    Results Advanced Section 2
    1. Mr Dumbledore (William Fox-Pitt) 38.3
    2. Spring Along (Daisy Dick) 43.4
    3. Birthday Night (William Fox-Pitt) 44.0

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