‘As a four-year-old he was a bit plain and boring – I nearly sold him’: Super youngsters triumph at the NEXGEN championships

  • Some of Britain’s most exciting young competition horses came to the fore in the multi-discipline NEXGEN championships, held at Hickstead on 23-25 September.

    The highest-scoring dressage horse was the NEXGEN seven-year-old winner, the stunning Dante Weltino x Jazz son Jagerbomb. Ridden by Becky Moody, Jagerbomb was awarded an overall score of nine from judges Isobels Wessels and Severo Jurado Lopez, as he added the NEXGEN championship – and £2,000 prize-money – to his seven-year-old title from the National Dressage Championships this month.

    “He’s a total legend. As a four-year-old he was actually a little bit plain and boring, and I nearly sold him – I’m so glad now I didn’t. He has the most incredible heart and is such a trier; you can’t fault his temperament,” said Becky of the home-bred gelding, also explaining that although his extensions are currently his weakest link as he continues to build strength, he is showing great talent for changes and pirouettes.

    The NEXGEN six-year-old dressage championships was also a repeat of the result from the National Dressage Championships, with another Dante Weltino offspring coming to the fore. Sadie Smith rode her own and Steve Reading’s British-bred Swanmore Dantina – six-year-old winner at the nationals – to victory here on 8.94.

    “The specially written tests are inviting, and I liked the option as to whether to do a flying change or a simple change, depending on what suits your horse at this stage of its training,” said Sadie. “I took the risk of the flying change today, which obviously paid off.”

    The winning NEXGEN five-year-old completed a hat-trick of repeat titles, with the recently crowned novice gold champion Full Moon II (Fürstenball x Gribaldi) taking the honours with an overall score of 8.5 under Sarah Rogers.

    “Moony is a real gentleman. He loves attention in the stable – he’d be happy if someone would just stay in his stable and cuddle him. We see huge potential in him and love his way of going,” said Sarah, who also rode the second-placed five-year-old, Forest Hill. Both horses are bred and owned by the Bechtolsheimer family.

    The NEXGEN four-year-old title was clinched by just 0.1 by Kerry Mackin riding Sandra Baxter’s DreamBoy x Jazz son Milano III. They finished on 8.44.

    NEXGEN championships: ‘He’s got everything’

    Horses representing Shirley Light’s Brendon Stud took showjumping titles, with the Coldstream seven-year-old winner, Emma Ziff’s Klent Kick On, having been bred by Shirley. The Warrior x Caretino stallion was ridden into the top spot by Ben Walker.

    “We bought him as a four-year-old, and he’s quietly come along ever since,” said Ben. “Every show he goes double clear; every time I’ve put him up a level he’s always jumped clear. He’s got the brightest brain — you only ever have to teach him something once — and the calmest, loveliest temperament. He’s the dream; he’s got everything.

    Brendon Stud also owns the Coldstream six-year-old champion Pandito Van’T Merelsnest Z, aka Wifi. Shirley bought the Plot Blue x Larino stallion as a foal, and he was piloted at Hickstead by Morgan Shirley, who described him as “naturally quick and super careful”.

    The chestnut Baloubet Junior x Renkum Off Centre mare Renkum Oriana came out on top of the Coldstream five-year-olds, ridden by Keith Doyle.

    “She’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous to do anything with – an old head on young shoulders,” said Keith. “She does everything with a smile on her face.”

    Another mare emerged victorious in the Coldstream four-year-old championship. Charlotte Foreman rode the Diamant De Semilly x Quickstar mare Diamantine Z to the win, banking £1,600.

    NEXGEN championships: A trio of Jacks

    Jack Mantel, 26, pipped Olympic gold medallist Oliver Townend to claim the seven-year-old event horse championship riding the aptly named Jack Daniels.

    The Dutch-bred Indorado x Kojak son, bought by his rider, and partner Jack Thomas-Watson, at Christmas, was praised for his fantastic gallop and scope, as his bold cross-country effort helped him overtake Oliver and Cooley Rosalent, who had led after the dressage phase.

    “The horse hadn’t evented at all when we bought him; I think Jack [Thomas-Watson] thought he might be his field master’s horse, but not now! He’s been so consistent all year,” said Jack Mantel.

    Isabel White described her Sulby Hall Stud six-year-old winner Kuno SMH as “super-brave”, and he certainly impressed judge Pippa Funnell.

    “One of the things that struck me from the word go was the horse’s attitude,” said Pippa of the Grand Slam VDL son, known as “Rolex”. “He was the sort that you would enjoy riding every day. On top of that, he could shorten and lengthen, he was uphill, light on his feet, and galloped well.”

    The Barrington Sport Horses five-year-old title went to “late starter” Uvera Z, owned by Sharon Honiss and rider Samantha Lissington.

    “‘Party’ was broken in in December, so he was a late starter. I saw him soon afterwards, just lunged over one fence, and said, ‘Yup, that’s the horse for me’. I just love him to bits,” said Samantha of the Quinlan Z x Andiamo gelding.

    “What I love most about him is that he’s very intelligent but he never uses it against you. He’s super-careful and clever and learns from every little mistake. He was lovely here – there is a lot of atmosphere and he did so well.”

    The NEXGEN four-year-old event horse championships was another closely fought affair, with Anna Stillwell and Watervalley Royal Guy, owned by James Golob, claiming the top spot.

    “We’ve only had him in the yard for a couple of weeks. He’s had very few outings, yet he’s been so good today; he jumped so confidently, and I’m super-proud of him,” said Anna of the Loughehoe Guy gelding, whom judge Harry Meade described as having no weaknesses.

    The NEXGEN series was launched in 2020.

    “We have big plans and high hopes for the future,” said NEXGEN director Victoria Wright. “We’d like to emulate Germany’s Bundeschampionat, and we will keep working towards producing an event of that significance.”

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