Eventing is back! Check out who was winning over the weekend *H&H Plus*

  • Riders are delighted to be eventing, as Dani Evans and Harry Meade are among the winners at Tweseldown

    Tweseldown (3), Hants, 10–13 July

    Dani Evans kicked off her campaign in style on the opening day of the restarted eventing season at Tweseldown. The Somerset rider led throughout to take intermediate section F on C Born Fresh Z (Frankie) and landed the runner-up spot in intermediate section E on Hollywood Dancer (Holly).

    “They are two very straightforward horses – it makes my life easier as you’re only as good as what you’re sat on and they help me,” she said.

    Heather and Kirk Ehrlich bought Frankie as a young horse for their daughter Taylor, who competed him until she went to university and handed the reins to Dani in 2018.

    “He went from novice to advanced quickly and I think he’s a very good horse,” said Dani of the 10-year-old.

    Ann Butler’s Holly has been with Dani from a four-year-old and already has eight wins to her name, including being British five-year-old champion in 2017. Her long-term aim is the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old class next year, with a possible tilt at the equivalent at Burnham Market this September.

    “It will depend how confident she feels,” said Dani. “She’s a very special horse and one for the future so I’m not going to chase her to get there.”

    Dani’s cross-country rounds over Eric Winter’s track were sped up by taking the faster route inside the tree to the log roll spread at fence seven.

    “My eye was naturally drawn to that line and it’s a credit to Eric for being clever with his designing and giving us the option,” said Dani. “It’s good practice to turn the horses on tighter lines, prepping them to step up a level, and to get near the time by being clever rather than going like a bat out of hell.”

    Dani gave all her horses two weeks off at the start of lockdown and then worked them five days a week before upping their fitness in anticipation of events restarting.

    “I’m grateful to the owners for sticking with the system and trusting me – they made my life easy at what could have been a tricky time. Overall we’ve been very lucky to have our lifestyles, out in the country, and now to be doing the sport we love again,” said Dani, who was among many riders paying tribute to the organisers for putting the new protocols in place to allow eventing to restart smoothly.

    “Laid-back dude wins”

    Dani and Hollywood Dancer led the dressage in section E on 26.8, but were pipped to the win by Surrey-based French rider Gaspard Maksud, who put in the only cross-country round of the day inside the 5min 6sec optimum time.

    Gaspard’s winning ride was his own eight-year-old Selle Français Cado Louvo, who shares his breeder Yves Berlioz with Sandra Auffarth’s 2014 world champion Opgun Louvo. The son of Epsom Gesmeray has been with Gaspard since he was four.

    “He’s such a dude – very laid back and genuine in his attitude,” said Gaspard, who warmed up with a placing in a 1.30m showjumping class at Felbridge the previous weekend.

    “He is always strong cross-country – normally it’s quite manageable, but today he was wild. But he’s very straight and has not had a run-out at this level.”

    Millstreet stars triumph

    The horses who took the top two places in the CCI3*-L at Millstreet last September topped the two open intermediates.

    Georgia Bartlett and Spano De Nazca won that international section in Ireland, and a fast cross-country round here and a 28.6 dressage resulted in victory in section G.

    Two Toms shared the dressage lead on 25.5, but Tom McEwen gave last year’s British intermediate champion Dreamaway II a steadier cross-country run for sixth, and Tom Crisp had two showjumps down on five-star campaigner Coolys Luxury before also running quietly in the final phase.

    Georgia and Spano De Nazca have twice been junior team silver medallists. The rider – who is 19 and has been riding full time since A levels last year – acknowledged that her first year of young riders was not the worst time for this interrupted season, with those in their final year in an age category hit harder by the loss of the championships.

    “We will hope to move up to four-star now, probably at Burgham, and then aim at Bramham under-25s next year,” she said.

    The 14-year-old chestnut Spano De Nazca is a French Anglo-Arab.

    “He can be grumpy in the stable, but as soon as you are on him he’s so willing,” said Georgia.

    “He’s only 15.3hh, but is quick and nimble across country. This was the perfect track to get us started again, with a bit of everything and a trickier question towards the end.”

    This combination, on sloping ground at fences 17ab and 18, consisted of a left-handed corner sited on a curve after a double of log piles.

    Section H winner Harry Meade added: “They do a really good job to keep the course fresh at Tweseldown. The track was galloping and flowing, as well as educational for horses – there was a decent drop into water, quite a few ditches, steps and the new combination at the end on an irregular cambre.”

    Harry’s winning ride, James Golob’s nine-year-old Gideon, has been with him from a four-year-old, winning with Harry and his former stable jockey, Tim Rogers.

    “Gideon has been competitive at every level,” said Harry, who was just one second over the time. “He’s very game, smart on the flat, a lovely jumper, brave across country and he’s fast.”

    This was a particularly low-scoring section in the first phase, with leader Mollie Summerland smashing the 20-barrier for 18.2 on Charly Van Ter Heiden, before taking it slowly across country. Harry also had the much-admired former Lucy Jackson ride Superstition in this section and ran him slowly across country after at 28.2 dressage.

    Back from two years off

    Safia Woodward, 20, claimed third in section E on the 15-year-old Moonbeg Boy, who was returning from two years away from the fray due to a tendon injury.

    “He did his tendon just a couple of days before Hartpury in 2018,” she explained. “He came back at the end of last year and was ready to go at Tweseldown this spring, but Coronavirus pushed all that back.”

    Safia is a working pupil with Harry Meade, and hopes to make her four-star debut in the CCI4*-S at Burgham.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020