Comeback kings and upcoming stars – who to watch at this week’s Wellington CDI3*

  • The inaugural Wellington CDI3* that gets underway this week is set to be one of the most significant dressage events of the year. As the first dressage international to be held on British soil since October – and the first outdoor UK show since 2019 – the country’s top combinations will be out in force. 

    While not officially a selection trial, this will be a crucial opportunity for those riders campaigning for a place on the British dressage team at the Tokyo Olympics to prove themselves. For those who have opted not to make a trip across the Channel to compete this year, this show will be especially important. 

    A total of 34 combinations are entered for the big tour at Wellington CDI3*, of which 25 pairs are British. There are also riders representing Finland, Ireland, Greece and Poland. We have picked out a selection to keep a particularly close eye on…

    Charlotte Dujardin Mount St John Freestyle (12-year-old mare, Fidermark x Donnerhall) and Gio (10-year-old gelding, Apache x Tango)

    All eyes will be on Charlotte and her two rides. Both performed strongly at Hagen CDI4* at the end of last month, with Freestyle winning the grand prix special there (pictured above), and Gio the freestyle. At present, both horses are an option for Charlotte to take to Tokyo, although championship – and flying – experience would make Freestyle a more obvious first choice. Barring disaster, Charlotte is a shoe-in for the Tokyo team, but she will be keen to fine-tune her two superstars as she prepares to peak in Japan.

    Fiona Bigwood – Hawtins Delicato (13-year-old gelding, Diamond Hit x Regazzoni) and Fame (11-year-old gelding, Bordeaux x Rhodium)

    This will be Olympian Fiona’s international debut with the former championship ride of Carl Hester, Hawtins Delicato. The pair have had a few months to gel and it will be fascinating to see what they can bring to the table here. Fiona also rides her upcoming star Fame on what will be the horse’s international debut. 

    Gareth Hughes – Sintano Van Hof Olympia (11-year-old gelding, Sandro Hit x Silvano) and KK Dominant (12-year-old stallion, Diamond Hit x Rubin Royal)

    With Gareth’s top horse Classic Briolinca out of contention for this year’s championships, attention has now turned to his upcoming star Sintano, who made a super international debut in Belgium last month. Gareth will be looking to consolidate those good results here on home soil, with half an eye on selection, while also progressing the career of the striking stallion Dominant.

    Emile Faurie – Dono Di Maggio (14-year-old gelding, Dimaggio x Santander H)

    Having been denied entry to the EU while travelling to compete in Belgium last month, Emile will be keen to make the most of this second opportunity to show off his rekindled partnership with his 2918 World Equestrian Games ride Dono Di Maggio. Emile temporarily took back the ride from Dono’s Greek owner, Theodora Livanos, and they have already impressed behind closed doors this year at a practice grand prix event at Hartpury. 

    Steph Croxford – Mr Benn (12-year-old gelding)

    Wellington will be an international debut for this quirky horse and his popular rider. Nicknamed “Thug”, this gelding was bred for driving and is by a coloured Irish cob, and out of a Dutch warmblood/hackney, and presents a very striking picture in the ring. While Steph says she is looking forward to “propping up the bottom” in the grand prix here, this is just the beginning of this plucky pair’s international career together.

    Kate Dwyer (IRL) – Snowden Faberge (15-year-old gelding, by Foxcourt Fabelhaft)

    This adorable chap has Shire in his breeding but it hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of Ireland’s top grand prix performers. This pair haven’t competed internationally since Doha CDI5* in February 2020, where they made Irish history by winning the grand prix special. They were also a part of the Irish team that secured Olympic qualification at the European Championships back in 2019, and will be itching to get on the Tokyo team. 

    Theodora Livanos (GRE) – Robinvale (14-year-old gelding, Rubinero 2 x Wittinger)

    This pair have their sights set on representing Greece as an individual at this summer’s Olympics, and having being denied the chance to compete in Belgium along with Emile Faurie last month, Wellington is their chance to secure qualification for Tokyo. It’s been a long road to this point for 19-year-old Theo, who underwent surgery and months of recuperation after being diagnosed with osteomyelitis last year.

    Spencer Wilton was also due to compete for Britain with the 18-year-old De Niro son Super Nova II, in what would have been the duo’s first international appearance since March 2020, but has withdrawn from the competition.

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    What’s on at Wellington and how to watch

    The grand prix will take place on Wednesday 12 May, with the grand prix special and freestyle both scheduled for Thursday 13 May.

    Wellington will also host small tour classes at prix st georges and inter I level, which will take place on 11 and 12 May, while a full complement of youth classes, from under-25 level to ponies, will be held across the week and over the weekend.

    While the event is being held behind closed doors due to current coronavirus restrictions, it will be available to watch via Horse & Country TV’s live stream.

    H&H will also have a reporter on site, so don’t miss the 20 May issue of the magazine for full coverage.

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.

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