Eventing’s biggest names were out in force at the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing as the first champions were crowned today in the novice and intermediate finals.

Gatcombe local Tom McEwen turned in textbook cross-country rounds on all his five rides today, with three in the top 10 in the Dodson & Horrell Novice Championship and his first ever festival title in the Smith and Williamson Intermediate Championship on Vicky Bates and David Myers’ CHF Cooliser.

His day had started less auspiciously, with his first and second places overnight after dressage in the novice championship slipping away through ‘four fault-itis’. But Cooliser’s win soon eclipsed all that, her third successive victory on the trot.

“She got a bit tired up the final hill, but she was super — as last year, she’s coming into her own in the second half of the season,” said Tom.

One place behind them, by virtue of turning in the fastest round of the class, was Alexander Bragg with former William Fox-Pitt ride Shannondale Percy owned by Sarah Hughes.

“I only got him at the end of February but we’ve really clicked now,” said Alexander. “A double clear here is really special.”

Australia’s Sam Griffiths missed Gatcombe last year after a serious neck injury earlier in the year, but was third in this class with another mare, Gurtera Cher, who used to be competed by Sam’s former head girl. Like his other top mare Paulank Brockagh, she is by Touchdown.

“It didn’t really go my way today, we hit a few holding strides,” said Sam, “but she’s a really fast horse and is really coming good this year.”

Pippa Funnell, who had lead going into the final phase, finished sixth with Maybach, after a stylish clear with a few too many time faults.

Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship

Wreathed in smiles about his Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship win was Francis Whittington, on board the handsome DHI Purple Rain, owned by Beryl Chapman, Belinda and Amy Drummond and Ro Audley.

“This has been our objective all year,” said Francis of the normally erratic show jumper. “He’s a big horse and it’s taken time for his brain to grow into his body. He’s very sensitive and if he gets crowded in the showjumping warm-up he can get very tense.”

He voiced the view of many riders that Mark Phillips’s cross country involved “one too many twists and turns. The ground is fast but it really takes it out of them. I don’t really think the time is doable.”

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Cornwall’s Katie Hancock came closest, just one second over to catapult her up 19 places to finish second behind Francis on her own Coddstown Pet. The pair also finished second last year here in the Corinthian Cup.

Katie hunts the mare with the Four Burrow — her father is senior master — and fits her eventing in around a young daughter and working three days a week for a recruitment firm.

“I rode a hard as I could from beginning to end — I knew from last year you have to gallop hard as you can down the hills as well as up,” said Katie.

Third was David Doel on the eight-year-old Galileo III.

Tomorrow sees the conclusion of the Topspec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup for amateur riders, the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship, the BE Trophy for advanced horses and of course the Magic Millions British Open.

Full report from the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing will be published in Horse & Hound on Thursday 9 August