With no poles in hand, Sarah and the seven-year-old mare had to go clear to take the honours. Despite a rattle of the second last before the final treble combination, the pole stayed up and the pair flew across the finishing line, remaining on their 26.5 dressage score. Lucinda Atkinson and KGB Sandra took second, with Tom McEwen and MHS Brown Jack in third.
Sarah was “over the moon” with the seven-year-old mare, who showed no signs of tiredness from the taxing cross-country the day before.
“She is absolutely full of it after the cross-country. After the last fence to get to the timer I closed my legs and she shot off. Then we did an impromptu lap of the arena before she would come back again. She’s ready to go again!” Sarah told H&H.
“She jumped like a superstar. I watched a couple this morning and thought the time was tight, then they shortened it further, and I thought ‘oh my goodness’. Normally we keep her sort of slow to jump and sometimes can have a time-fault, but she was absolutely magic.”
Sarah’s husband Brett bought Evita AP, with the Seahorse Syndicate, as a three-year-old from Brightwells.
“There wasn’t a picture in the catalogue but she’s by Con Air, the same sire as our Conpierre and we love him. When they brought her out she was a real nice horse, but she wasn’t really my type,” she said. “Then the seller said she was in foal, and I mentally put her back. Brett was with me the next day, they loose jumped her and here she is. The foal has gone to one of my sponsors and I hope to get her back to start for them.
“This year we’ve taken an embryo from Evita AP. For the stallion we’ve gone with Murka’s Gem, the Gem Twist clone. Evita AP’s got everything there, but we’d like to lighten her a little and put a bit more blood in.”
Sarah had come to Blair as a last-minute entry with eyes on a qualification for the young event horse championships at Le Lion. The pair have had a less than ideal season after the mare was ruled out in June by a leg infection meaning the pair were lacking in “match practise”.
“I came here for the qualification, but to win is the icing on the cake. It was our last opportunity to qualify and I was feeling the pressure. We only got the other part of the qualification at Somerford Park last week.
“I was thinking don’t go and have three down or something stupid. At the end of the day if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. It’s all down to selectors now, and hopefully it’s meant to be – but at least we’re now qualified and can be in the mix.”
Lucinda Atkinson said Jane Crossley’s seven-year-old gelding KGB Sandro had overcome some showjumping challenges along the way to Blair.
“Dressage and cross-country are his strongest phases. He hasn’t had a clear showjumping all year. But I don’t mind if he saves it for the big days,” said Lucinda, who runs an event yard in Northallerton.
“We’ve been working hard. He used to stress about atmosphere, but he’s overcome that now. Helen Bell and Chris Bartle have been massively helping with the jumping and Judy Bradwell has helped me with the dressage.”
Lucinda also took fourth on Jane Crossley’s 13-year-old-gelding Dancing Revolution.
“He only came to me 10 days ago. I broke him in – his full brother is Spring Revolution, who I event at four-star,” she said. “Unfortunately his normal rider Martha Todd couldn’t be here this week and Jane wanted him to come here. I can’t take any claim to fame for him this weekend, it’s all Martha’s hard work.”
The popular CCI*-Intro rounded off with the cross-country on Sunday, with Katie Magee and Fairfield Mollymac taking the honours in section E. The pair enjoyed a double clear to finish on their dressage score 30.1.
The showjumping the previous day caused a shuffle of the leaderboard when Grace Botterell and Diamond Pippin had a pole, which led to Sarah Clark and Secret Affaer VII heading the section going into the cross-country. But a run out at the second phase of fence 11, the angled brushes, led to Sarah calling it a day on course.
County Durham-based trainer Katie has owned and produced Fairfield Mollymac since she was a three-year-old and Blair is the mare’s international debut.
“It’s been busier than I’ve ever known it so it was a real education. The dressage went really well, apart from me learning the test wrong! But she was brilliant, she went in and was really settled. You just don’t know when you’re bringing a baby,” Katie told H&H.
“It was unexpected to win. I had Nelson De La Pomme and Treworra coming for the CCI2*-L and decided Fairfield Mollymac would benefit from coming along. It was a lovely bonus to win on top of her getting the education. All going well we’re hoping to go to the six-year-old championship at Osberton.”
Katie said she entered the CCI*-Intro class with the aim to be able to advise her clients on the new class.
“You only have to have done three BE100s, and I thought it was maybe going to be quite tough to do off the back of that. Fairfield Mollymac has done a couple of novices, but I thought it was more a novice than a BE100. They didn’t have the same hills as the CCI2*-L but they still had to do some climbing,” she said.
“I certainly would probably recommend doing a bit more first, then you’d enjoy it and be more comfortable. It was a great class, and I was happy with it for my horse, but if I hadn’t done any novices I possibly wouldn’t have been.”
Section F was won by Charlotte Cooke on board legendary event pony Midnight Dancer II who finished on their dressage score 27.0 with a very speedy round across country.
Charlotte, who made a 14-hour journey to the event from Essex, was delighted with the 12-year-old gelding. The pair have been a combination since Christmas when he was bought for the young rider as a surprise. “Casper” is a multi-medallist, having won team gold at the 2018 Pony Europeans with Ellie Healy and double gold in 2019 with Finn Healy.
“I tried him in August 2020, but Finn still had a few trials left with him. I had resigned to the fact we weren’t getting him because I’d tried him so long ago, and then I came down on Christmas morning and he was in the stable,” Charlotte told H&H.
“We did our first international at Belsay in June, but it didn’t go to plan and I fell off so we’ve been training really hard. The dressage here went amazing. We’ve been getting the tests at home, but sometimes when I go to a show I get a bit rigid on him. But now finally when I came out I thought ‘that’s the test I’ve been wanting’ so I was really happy. The showjumping was the best round we’ve had. We’ve had some brilliant tuition leading up to this from Alan Fazakerley and John Thelwall so it’s really paid off. ”
Charlotte, who hopes to follow in Ellie and Finn’s footsteps with success on Casper, flew round the cross-country with the handbrake firmly off – so much so the pair had to overtake the rider before them in the latter stages of the course.
“He’s unreal cross-country, he’s out of this world. You just need to keep your legs on, eyes up and he’s on his way,” she said. “It was a testing course, and it was definitely tight but being on a pony makes it easier. The fences were big enough out there for them.”
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