‘He could be epic’: prolific gelding scores hat-trick for Britain on international debut

  • Becky Moody and Jagerbomb scored a hat-trick of small tour wins at Hartpury CDI3*, part of the NAF Five Star Hartpury Festival of Dressage, with Gareth Hughes and Fiona Bigwood spearheading the British grand prix success stories.

    Becky and her own eight-year-old Dante Weltino gelding, who scooped a trio of national winter titles here less than three months ago, opened their account with a class-topping 75.24% in Friday’s prix st georges. As the heat and the competition built, so too did their marks. The pair headed Saturday’s inter I by an almost 6% margin, scoring 77.32%, before breaking the 80% barrier in Sunday’s freestyle to the sound of Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb.

    “He goes in there and he has a smile on his face and I think the judges love that as well,” said Becky. 

    This young, imposing horse has answered every question as he has progressed through his career. The number of times he has scored below 70% can be counted on one hand; he has 31 wins from 52 national starts and he has only finished outside the top three on two occasions. Add to that this hat-trick on his international debut and it begs the question of just how good this already exceptional horse could be.

    “That’s such a difficult question because small tour and grand prix are two very different things,” said Becky.

    “My concern has always been with him whether he would have a good enough engine; he finds the grand prix work really easy, but whether he’d have the engine to keep going all the way through, it’s a hell of a task. But rides like today [in the inter I] really give me confidence that he will, because I think the more atmosphere he has, the better he is. So that’s really exciting for the future. I think he could be pretty epic.”

    Plenty of hacking has been key to “Bomber’s” success, as has finding a balance of building his strength and sharpness.

    “We’ve had to work hard to make him like this,” said Becky. “He’s got a brilliant work ethic – he’s not the most naturally talented, but he just keeps on giving, so then you can keep making him better and better.” 

    His results are earned through consistently strong marks throughout his tests. The judge at C in Sunday’s freestyle, Canada’s Cara Whitham, was a big fan of their new routing, awarding a perfect 10 for music and interpretation.

    “I think it really suits him, it’s thanks to Kim [Masson, my groom] – she suggested Tom Jones,” said Becky. “I resisted for a long time, then finally accepted that cheesy was good!”

    Second to Becky Moody and Jagerbomb in the inter I freestyle was Australia’s Jayden Brown, who posted 76.23% aboard Terrence Snow’s intelligent Willingapark Quincy B.

    “He’s a bit of an attention-seeker when it comes to cuddles,” said Jayden, who has relocated from Australia with a string of Willinga Park horses to target World Championship and Paris 2024 selection. 

    “He was incredibly spooky when he was young. We regularly used to trot down the centre line, spin around and end up at A.

    “He’s a real German horse in the sense that he moves through his whole body. He is not sharp and zippy like the Dutch horses, but he’s got that fluidity and uses his entire body, and I think that’s what the judges like about him.”

    ‘It’s been a team effort’

    While Becky Moody and Jagerbomb dominated at small tour, the big tour titles here were shared amongst three riders. The giant Dante Weltino stallion Daytona Platinum put a huge smile on Fiona Bigwood’s face when winning the grand prix with 71.3%. The 11-year-old, who is taller than Fiona’s 18.3hh measuring stick, is a worrier and hasn’t had the easiest road to success. But Fiona hopes that with this win under their belts he will go from strength to strength as they continue their international career. 

    “It’s been a team effort with everyone at home; any situation where he gets worried we have let him relax and tried to find that relaxation point, and then today I could do all the work, do the extended walk, and he can relax and then pick up. I love this horse to bits,” said the Olympic silver medallist, who has been working with Claire Gallimore to help build his confidence.

    The stallion certainly fills the arena with his sheer size, presence and gorgeous scopey movement, but Fiona says he is light and easy to ride, and doesn’t find the advanced work difficult. 

    “He was nervous going around the edge as he hadn’t seen the judges actually in their huts – we did the arena familiarisation but they weren’t in the huts then – but then we went down that centre line and I could feel him saying, ‘OK, I trust you, Mum.’ That’s just the nicest feeling as a rider.”

    It’s testament to the horse’s temperament that Fiona’s daughter Mette was able to commandeer him to ride in international junior classes over the winter.

    “Mette wants him back but she’s not getting him back now – there’s a family war going on,” joked Fiona.

    ‘That was one of the best tests he’s done’

    Gareth Hughes and his 2021 grand prix national championship-winning ride KK Dominant, whom he co-owns with Claudine, Jessica and Martin Kroll, tasted Sunday special glory, bagging the win on 72.32%.

    This 13-year-old stallion is a living oil painting, with his good looks matched by his “sweetheart” personality.

    “That was one of the best tests he has done,” said Gareth, adding that Hartpury’s outdoor arena felt “like a cauldron” to ride in. “We had a few really nice highlights: the pirouettes, the changes and halts. He really stepped up from the grand prix the other day.”

    Gareth also took home third in the grand prix and a runner-up spot in the freestyle with the “real trier” KK Woodstock (75.24%), whom he also co-owns with the Krolls. 

    Germany’s Kathleen Kroencke and the 15-year-old San Royal dazzled on gala night with their powerful performance to a modern marching soundtrack.

    The gelding, owned by K&N Stables Ltd, showed real spring through his piaffe and passage with the crowd delighting in the high-energy routine, clapping to the beat on his final passage centre line.

    “He was really on fire today,” said Kathleen, who trains with her parents and Spencer Wilton.

    “He’s a rgentle giant, but really powerful, and he has really nice light movements. I loved his pirouettes and his passage – that was so powerful. It was powerful outside, but when he has his music he gets into another gear.”

    The pair, who were also second to Fiona in the grand prix, scored nines for their choreography and music, sealing the win on 77.36%.

    “I’ve had him since he was five, so we’ve really grown together and done everything together,” she said. “We’ve got a really close relationship and a tight bond.”

    British-based top Singaporean dressage rider Caroline Chew scored a new international personal best with the 18-year-old Tribiani, owned by Melanie and Tony Chew, finishing third on 74.35%.

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