Charlotte Dujardin makes strong opening bid for national championship title *H&H Plus*

  • Find out who the main contenders are for the 2020 national grand prix championship title, after an exciting opening day of competition at Hartpury

    Charlotte Dujardin claimed a decisive grand prix victory on day one of the LeMieux National Grand Prix Championship at Hartpury today (21 December).

    Charlotte and Emma Blundell’s Mount St John Freestyle shot to the top of the leaderboard with 83.04% for their stuning grand prix, only narrowly falling short of their all-time personal best, 83.29%, which they achieved at Keysoe in October this year.

    The 11-year-old Fidermark mare, winner of double bronze at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, looked strong and secure in her work, producing her trademark dramatic extensions alongside beautifully forward changes, punchy passage work and tiny pirouettes.

    Charlotte is known for her ability to ride world-beating pirouettes, bending her horses around her inside leg like few riders can, and they were definitely a highlight here.

    “This year has been fantastic for Freestyle in that I have been able to really train her and get her out to training shows without any pressure,” said Charlotte.  “Nothing fazes her now – she really delivers and does the job. It’s very exciting for next year.”

    Tomorrow, Charlotte will ride the freestyle programme that earned her almost 90% at last year’s Olympia, in a bid to secure her second national championship, having last won the title in 2015 on Barolo. The champion will be decided from a combination of scores from the grand prix and the freetstyle.

    Double shot at national title

    Charlotte also claimed second place this evening with her exciting up-and-coming ride Gio. The compact little chestnut gelding is still only nine, but produced some super work, with highlights including marvellous half-passes and clockwork passage. His greenness showed through in parts, with some slight rhythm issues in one piaffe, and some over exuberance in his one-tempi changes, but it was nonetheless a masterful performance that earned 79.1%.

    “That was probably the grand prix that he has made the most mistakes in, but despite that I’m really pleased because he has never been in an arena like this before, and it was only his second indoor show,” said Charlotte.

    “He has a heart of gold, and he definitely has the cute factor – he always has a smile on his face. This show is great preparation for next year; at the moment it is all about giving him a nice time and getting him confident.”

    Carl Hester completed the top three with Charlotte Dujardin’s En Vogue, on his highest score with this horse to date – 77.1%. The 10-time national champion produced a super round with the hot Jazz gelding, who showed off his fantastic scope and athleticism, as well as his ability to sit, with just a couple of blips.

    “I had a slightly dodgy left pirouette and a miscommunication on the last centre line, but the good bits felt mega,” Carl, who took over the reins on Vogue in April this year, told H&H. “It’s all a learning curve and I’m looking forward to the freestyle tomorrow.”

    In fourth was fellow Olympian Laura Tomlinson riding the mare she hopes will help her return to a championship team, Rose Of Bavaria. Laura and 10-year-old “Betty” were awarded 75.46% for their super round. This very tall mare is supremely elegant, and scopey, but still relatively inexperienced and Laura gave her a lovely confidence-building ride here.

    “She’s making really nice progess and is very cool to ride,” said Laura, whose freestyle tomorrow will be the first she has done on Betty. “If anything she was more concentrated than me today – it’s tough being a mum of three doing a competition of this level three days before Christmas! It’s all about fine-tuning our commmunication in the ring now.”

    Just behind Laura in fifth was Sonnar Murray-Brown, riding his own 13-year-old Latimer gelding Erlentanz, posting 74.86%. It’s testament to this pair’s talent and the high quality of this horse’s work that they came close to their personal best of 75.5% even with a couple of mistakes, and they are still very much in contention ahead of tomorrow’s freestyle.

    Don’t miss 31 December issue of H&H for a full report from the LeMieux National Grand Prix Championships, plus an exclusive column from Carl Hester.

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.

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