British Olympic team contenders will be in action at the first five-star dressage show of the year in Europe, which kicks off tomorrow at Compiègne, France. It will serve as the final outing for some of Britain’s top combinations ahead of Olympic team selection next month.
As well as elite British riders, several Olympic team and medal contenders from other countries will be among those contesting the CDIO5* Nations Cup leg – the first of three in 2021 (the others are at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in July and Aachen, Germany, in September) – and the CDI3* competition, which runs alongside.
The CDI3* grand prix will take place on Friday, 28 May, with the special and freestyle the following day, while the Nations Cup competition begins with the grand prix on Saturday and concludes with the special and freestyle on Sunday. Britain are the defending champions of the Compiègne Nations Cup leg, having won it in 2019 with Carl Hester, Richard Davison, Lottie Fry and Gareth Hughes. The show did not go ahead in 2020.
A live stream is available; meanwhile, we round up the best Brits and most exciting combinations to watch…
Britain’s Nations Cup team
Lottie Fry – Dark Legend (13yo gelding, Zucchero x Tango)
A member of the 2019 winning British team here, Lottie brings forward her 2018 under-25 European champion and 2019 British senior Europeans team horse, Dark Legend (pictured, above). This tall, elegant gelding is one of two horses with whom Lottie has already made a strong bid for a place on the Tokyo Olympic team, and a good performance here could help cement this. In 2019, Lottie was the rookie of the British team at this Nations Cup; now she returns as the rider who could lead this trio to victory in Compiègne.
Emile Faurie – Dono Di Maggio (14yo gelding, Dimaggio x Santander H)
This British-bred gelding is in the form of his life, and Emile will certainly have his eye on a place on another championship team – the pair were members of the British quartet that brought home team bronze from the World Equestrian Games in 2018. They missed their chance to compete in Belgium at the end of April, but enjoyed a super show at Wellington with plus-75% in the special. Compiègne could see their scores climb higher.
This lovable pair of former working hunter champions are always crowd favourites, but that’s not all they bring to the table. This will be their fourth time on a Nations Cup team, and having enjoyed a positive run at Wellington earlier this month to help blow away the lockdown cobwebs, finishing third in the freestyle, expect to see them put in a solid showing here.
Remaining British contingent in the CDI3*
Fiona Bigwood – Hawtins Delicato (13yo gelding, Diamond Hit x Regazzoni)
Olympic silver medallist Fiona made a successful international debut with Carl Hester’s former world medallist at Wellington in mid-May, and this will be the first time this new combination have ventured onto foreign soil to show the world what they can do. They make a good partnership and, while still getting to know each other, are capable of some very useful, and eye-catching, scores here.
Lottie Fry – Everdale (12yo stallion, Lord Leatherdale x Negro)
After 15 months away from competition, this striking stallion burst back on to the international scene this spring, and most recently scored a plus-77% grand prix special win in Exloo, the Netherlands. He is up against his more experienced stablemate Dark Legend in the fight for a place on the Olympic team, but arguably has more potential to access the very highest scores. Compiègne will be an important test for these British Olympic team contenders.
Laura and “Betty’s” 2021 Olympic selection campaign was delayed in getting off the ground, after the mare suffered a reaction to an EHV vaccine earlier in the year. Happily, she is back to fitness and ready to throw her hat in the ring for an Olympic team place. They have had limited international outings so far, and haven’t crossed the Channel since last September, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish among the leaders here.
Richard Davison – Bubblingh (15yo gelding, Lingh x Picandt)
Four-time Olympian Richard has exercised impressive patience in developing this talented, but quirky home-bred “Bubbles”. They had a quiet 2020, returning to the international arena for the first time since March last year at Wellington CDI3*, where they performed strongly in the grand prix, but withdrew from the special. It will be interesting to see the impression they can make here.
Best of the rest
Cathrine Dufour DEN – Bohemian (11yo gelding, Bordeaux x Samarant)
Her multi-medalled Atterupgaards Cassidy made have just landed a fifth Danish national title for Cathrine, but it is this young superstar who will likely spearhead the Danish team in Tokyo. This will be his first international outing of 2021, but as he has already exceeded 82% in the special, and 88% in the freestyle – twice – you can expect impressive things, and quite possibly a victory, from him in the five-star tour here.
Patrik Kittel SWE – Well Done De La Roche CMF (13yo mare, Furstentraum x Walt Disney)
Adding to the strong Scandinavian representation here is Patrik on his European team bronze medallist, who is expected to be his Tokyo contender. This will be an especially important appearance for the pair, who were eliminated on their first outing since last July, at Mariakalnok in Hungary, after traces of blood were spotted in the mare’s mouth. They have a good track record at Compiègne, having finished second in the five-star special in 2019 behind Britain’s Gareth Hughes.
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Andreas Helgstrand DEN – Fiontini (11yo mare, Fassbinder x Romanov)
Until late last year, it had been more than four years since world and Olympic medallist Andreas had competed internationally at grand prix level, instead concentrating on his rapidly expanding sales and breeding business. However, since taking over the ride on this talented mare from former Helgstrand head rider Severo Jurado Lopez, he has enjoyed a string of good results that could put him in contention for a position on the Danish Olympic team this summer. Another strong showing here in the CDI3* would boost those chances.
Hans Peter Minderhoud NED – Glock’s Zonik (13yo stallion, Blue Hors Zack x Romanov)
This will be Hans Peter’s first competition aboard his partner Edward Gal’s European medallist Zonik, having announced earlier this week that he would be taking over the ride on this imposing stallion. With Edward concentrating on younger grand prix rides, Zonik hasn’t competed since January 2020, where he scored over 85% to finish third in the freestyle at Amsterdam. It will be fascinating to see what Hans Peter can bring out of him in the CDI3* in Compiègne.
All seven US horses originally entered at Compiegne – three in the CDIO5* and four in the young rider section – have been withdrawn due to “adverse results” among the the horses’ EHV-1 test results, conducted before their departure.
In a statement, US Equestrian said: “In accordance with the FEI Return to Competition protocols, all U.S. horses were tested for EHV-1 prior to departure from their layover base to the competition venue. A limited number of PCR tests returned with adverse results. Horses within the US contingent have not shown any symptoms or clinical signs of the virus, are not febrile, and are all vaccinated. Out of an abundance of precaution, the team has decided to withdraw. US Equestrian is working directly with the FEI to determine appropriate next steps and an acceptable timeline for a return to competition based on the outlined protocols.”
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