British double as first winners crowned at Gatcombe’s Festival of British Eventing

History repeated itself at the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe today (Saturday, 3 August), with last year’s winners of the novice and intermediate championships retaining them a year later, on different rides.

Francis Whittington won his third Dodson & Horrell British novice championship title in four years on Sarah Arrowsmith’s beautiful dark brown Brother Bertie. The 11-year-old gelding was formerly his owner’s own eventer, and has competed here with her previously in the Corinthian Cup. He came to Francis this season owing to the amount of travel Sarah was doing for work.

One of only two inside the time, he made it comfortably, and was able to throttle back over the last two fences.

He gallops like nothing else,” agreed Francis, “and this class was really the goal for this year.”

Second and third went to mares. Susan Eggleton’s 17hh seven-year-old mare Grafennacht, by Grafenstolz, with William Fox-Pitt, was pipped into the runner-up spot by just three seconds.

“Not quite fast enough!” rued William. “She’s very precocious and consistent and this was quite a soft target for her.”

Vittoria Panizzon was third on Mandy Morrison’s pretty eight-year-old Dutch-bred Gebaliaretto, on form having won three of her previous four outings.

“She was my 50th birthday present,” said Mandy of the horse they’ve had three years. Recently upgraded to intermediate, she will now aim for three-stars.

Louise Harwood took a nasty fall from Brechfa Baruch when he also left a leg at the coffin at 18, falling on landing. She was taken to hospital where she was found to have broken her arm.

McEwen takes intermediate title

The Dodson & Horrell intermediate championship went, as last year, to Tom McEwen who lead from beginning to end on Barabara Cooper’s Dreamaway II.

“He’s a lovely horse but this was a huge step up for him,” said Tom.

The runner-up was Harry Meade on Red Kite, a Wesphalian he bought as a four-year-old and who is now owned by Alexandra Robinson and Nigella Hall.

“He’s absolutely not bred for the hills and yet he’s the best galloper,” said Harry. “He can also be a monkey, but he’s incredibly brave.”

Third was Tom Rowland on Naomi Watkins’s Very Good Tempo, a ride he took on only last last year.

Tom got to know his owners as he teaches sometimes at their riding school. Though feeling the victim of third-itis — this was their fourth such placing on the trot — Tom is hugely excited by him: “He’s a really good horse, and not at peak fitness yet, but there’s so much more to come.”

This was the first time Tom really pushed him across country, and apart from a hesitation over the log into the first water, he answered every question with confidence.

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Tomorrow sees the conclusion of further championships at the Festival, including the RoR/ NTF retrained racehorse Eevent championship, the TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup, and the showpiece class, the Magic Millions British open, for which there have only been 25 entries.

Check back tomorrow for a further update from the Festival. Full report in next week’s Horse & Hound (dated 8 August).