“When I say go she says, How far, how high and how fast?” — meet Gemma Tattersall’s Bolesworth-winning superstar

The "quirky" Santiago Bay puts her "game face on" to produce a rocketing victory for Gemma Tattersall in the Eventing Grand Prix at Bolesworth International

Gemma Tattersall and the “quirky” 11-year-old mare Santiago Bay rocketed round in tremendous style to land the £2,000 first prize in the Cazenove Capital Eventing Grand Prix at the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show on Thursday (13 June).

Captain Mark Phillips set a testing mix of coloured poles and imposing rustic obstacles which snaked the length and breadth of the international arena — even daringly close to the surrounding moat — and the dual-discipline experience of Olympic eventer Gemma told as she jumped a quick and precise penalty-free round for victory, leading the 19-strong field by over eight seconds.

“It was amazing, a lot of fun – Santiago Bay is such a great little horse and we have a brilliant partnership,” said Gemma, who endured a seven-hour journey to pay her first visit to Bolesworth. “When I say go she says how far, how high and how fast.”

The Irish-bred daughter of Ars Vivendi is not without her quirks however and has a “great sense of humour” says Gemma, who had to lead the mare up to the arena for the prize-giving before re-mounting in the arena.

“It’s not that she’s naughty, or even nappy in any way, she’s just genuinely excited and it all bursts out of her,” said Gemma, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at WEG in 2018. “She’s the same at the cross-country start, where she spins round like a 12.2hh pony. She’s very bright, very sharp and the first fence in the warm up is just a complete joke — we have to put it literally on the floor because she’ll spook and buck over it.

“But she loves her job — she has her game face on, which is ears back and nose out. She’s not putting her ears back because she’s being grumpy, she’s putting her ears back because she’s being competitive. She’s being streamlined! When she goes up the gallops at home alongside another horse, if she wants to beat that horse she’ll put her ears down and nose down to get her head in front! She is really cool, I love her.”

The top five riders from Thursday’s competition all qualify for the final at the TheraPlate UK Liverpool International Horse Show in December and chasing her home was another rider experienced in both showjumping and eventing, Jay Halim riding Abrisco. Australia’s Bill Levett and Athleet V took third, having set a strong target from first draw, while Emma Hyslop-Webb (Waldo) and Hannah Bate (Barones II) filled fourth and fifth.

Don’t miss the full report in next week’s Horse & Hound (out Thursday 20 June) with all the action from Bolesworth’s five-day spectacular.

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