Team Hester/Dujardin ruled supreme at Olympia tonight when Carl Hester won the FEI World Cup dressage grand prix freestyle, supported by Horse & Hound, as Charlotte Dujardin’s double Olympic individual champion Valegro retired in an emotional ceremony.
Carl was thrilled with his own and Jane de la Mare’s Rio team silver medallist Nip Tuck, who scored 84.669% to repeat his victory in this class last year.
“He had a higher score in Lyon but that’s by the by — that happens when you have different judges, but it’s still a very, very good score,” said Carl. “These are scores I dreamt of getting with Nip Tuck, they weren’t scores I presumed were just going to be handed to me.
“I think the horse is so good at the difficult things. It just suddenly covers any of his weaknesses up, because to do a difficult programme with him highlights how intelligent he is, it doesn’t highlight his physical side.
“He’s so tuned in to me. Luckily it’s so spooky out there that I think he literally clings on to me for help, because he’s looking at absolutely everything so he needs my guidance. I’ve had him since he was one year old so I know him inside out — I know what he’s looking at 60m away and so I can adjust what I’m doing because we know each other so well.”
The top three were unchanged from last night’s grand prix, with the Dutch partners Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal in second and third.
The reigning World Cup champions, Hans Peter and Glock’s Flirt, scored 81.88%.
“I heard Carl’s score and I knew I had to give it everything,” said Hans Peter. “The horse was really going for me and there were no mistakes.”
Edward was the last to go in the class and found Glock’s Voice became a little upset when he was left in the warm-up alone, which meant he didn’t halt at the start of his test. Nevertheless he recorded the third plus-80% score in the class with 80.467%.
“There was a little bit of tension, but for the rest I was really happy with him,” he said.
Ireland’s Judy Reynolds has been showcasing a new freestyle this autumn, but tonight she performed the same floorplan but with a crowd-pleasing twist — Christmas music. She scored 78.269% for fourth with Vancouver K.
Team GBR claimed fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, courtesy of Hayley Watson-Greaves (Rubins Nite, 77.574%), Henriette Andersen (Warlocks Charm, 76.987%), Michael Eilberg (Marakov, 75.934%) and Emile Faurie (Weekend Fun, 75.831%).
The crowd were treated to “double Valegro” tonight as he retired from competition — Charlotte Dujardin rode her London 2012 freestyle on the horse before the class. She then returned with the multi-medalled star at the end of the night for the retirement ceremony, which featured interviews with Richard Waygood, Richard Davison, Carl, Charlotte and groom Alan Davies, as well as Valegro and Charlotte performing their best moves under lights.
Full report of dressage, showjumping, showing and driving at Olympia in H&H next week, plus special 16-page Valegro section (22 December issue).