Gareth Hughes pilots upcoming star into competitive position in grand prix special at Europeans

  • Gareth Hughes was the first British rider into the arena to ride the grand prix special at the European Dressage Championships. He and his own and Judy Firmston Williams’ 11-year-old Sandro Hit son Sintano Van Hof Olympia scored 73.72%, enough to put them third at that stage. There were plenty of highlights in their test, including the pirouettes and tempi changes, as well as some very smart trotwork.

    “To be honest I thought it was going to get a few more marks,” said Gareth, who was grateful for Sintano to have had his chance to perform at his first championship having been travelling reserve for the Tokyo Olympics.

    “He felt very different in there today, in some ways more with me, but he was more tired so he didn’t have the electricity about him that he did in the grand prix, which made the grand prix harder to ride. It was a nicer ride as in it felt quite confident and easy, but he’s a very rangy, slow-moving horse on his own, so maybe that’s why I didn’t quite pick up the marks because he lacks that snap. But he’s never been in this situation before.”

    Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg had taken the lead ahead of Gareth’s test riding the lovely 13-year-old Conteur mare Annabelle to a score of 75.23%. They had two expensive mistakes that kept their marks lower in the grand prix – though still won team gold as part of the German side – but here they were on great form, showing super piaffe-passage work and a gorgeous extended canter.

    “It was really my goal to do it without mistakes,” said Helen. “I’m so pleased today; she felt amazing. The feeling was great: she was relaxed, she was with me, she was listening, but willing and really focused and concentrated and I’m so proud of her.”

    Carl Hester will ride Charlotte Dujardin, Sandra Biddlecombe, Lady Anne Evans and his own En Vogue at 8.10pm (7.10pm BST). Charlotte Dujardin and Renai Hart, Carl Hester and her own Gio, third-place finishers in the grand prix yesterday, will go at 10pm (9pm BST), while Lottie Fry and her own and Van Olst Horses’ Everdale are the penultimate combination into the arena tonight at the European Dressage Championships, at 10.20pm (9.20pm BST).

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