‘I adore the horse’: Emilie Chandler has a Diamond day at Weston Park *H&H Plus*

  • Emilie Chandler heads a star-studded advanced and Harry Meade continues his comeback from a serious head injury by scoring a double, reports Jo Prestwich

    EMILIE CHANDLER jumped a beautiful double clear to win the advanced with Maria Doel’s Gortfadda Diamond (pictured top). A 26.1 dressage left them in fourth and adding 11.6 cross-country time-penalties put them half a mark ahead of runner-up Wills Oakden, whose two rounds with Macgregors Cooley and Oughterard Cooley were the fastest in the advanced and gave him second and sixth respectively.

    It was a hot class, with the likes of Tom McEwen’s Toledo De Kerser (who led after the dressage but rolled a pole for fourth), Ros Canter’s Allstar B (eighth) and Nicola Wilson’s Bulana (15th with a steady run across country) making the most of the good going to get a run in.

    The Irish-bred Gortfadda Diamond is by the Irish Draught/thoroughbred Watervalley Cool Diamond out of the thoroughbred mare Panda, who was placed in point-to-points and is from the family of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Garrison Savannah and Grand National-placed Zongalero.

    “I adore the horse,” said Emilie, who took over the ride after former rider Mark Kyle broke his ankle in 2017. “He’s an out-and-out eventer, a real character and what a treat to take him round a track like that today – heaven except for that weather!”

    The horse finished last season in the five-star at Pau but didn’t showjump after picking up an overreach, so Emilie is hoping for another chance to do a five-star.

    “Hopefully we’ve more adventures ahead but I’m not sure where, it’s impossible to have a firm plan,” she added.

    William Fox-Pitt was well placed after dressage and showjumping in this section, so there were a few quizzical looks when he was eliminated across country. But William explained that he had decided in advance of his round to miss out the rolltop into the last water, which horses can jump awkwardly, as he wanted Oratorio II to have a comfortable, confident round before he heads to the five-star at Kentucky.


    ALI WILKES bought her intermediate section A winner Social Butterfly as an unbroken three-year-old from Bosanko Sports Horses, local to her Minehead base. As her name suggests, the mare is by the recently deceased Sir Shutterfly.

    “She oozed quality from the minute I first saw her,” said Ali. “I wondered if she might end up a bit small, but she has plenty of size and scope and a massive engine. She hasn’t been the easiest. The jumping has been phenomenal, but her brain hasn’t quite got around the dressage until now – she’s always worked well at home but not been able to produce it in an arena out competing.”

    Ali admitted to pulling her hair out at the end of last season trying to get to the bottom of the mare’s foibles, but a bit more investigation has seen her treated for enlarged ovaries. Training with Ben van Sommeren has also been valuable.

    “Ben has really helped me to channel her,” said Ali. “She’s a different horse this year.
    “We had a run round the open novice at Portman and she did a really good test there; today’s was even better. Up to now I’ve rather cantered around the cross-country as her dressage has left us uncompetitive, but today there was no excuse and she cruised round,” added Ali.

    “A big galloping track is right up her street, although I’ve never ridden in such conditions with snow like that. It was bitterly cold and I couldn’t see a hand in front of me at times – just as well she really is that good!”


    Red Kite

    HARRY MEADE is still recovering from the serious head injury he incurred when he was dragged in a fall last autumn, but he proved he’s getting back to his best with a double in the open intermediate (OI) sections. Both Tenareze and Red Kite ran through the sleet and snow but, having hunted, neither was fazed by the conditions.

    “The first time I went to Burghley it was in a cattle truck – I’ve upgraded a couple of times since but the new lorry came into its own today,” he quipped. “To be able to come back from two rounds in weather like that, sort the horses and then jump in a hot shower made me appreciate the creature comforts.”

    Tenareze is owned by David Bernstein, Sophie Caruth and Nigella Hall. Nigella also owns Red Kite in partnership with Alex Robinson.

    “Nigella is a real stalwart of eventing,” Harry added. “She’s 80 and she stood out in the blizzard watching them both go and it was fantastic to be able to win with them for her. I love Weston – it’s a proper parkland setting where you can get in a rhythm and travel. We had a good ‘A level’ corner-ditch-corner and three meaty waters – this is an event that really prepares a horse for the future.”

    Milo Kennedy repeated his win of 2019 in the under-21 OI with Moher Prince. Milo, a working pupil with Andrew Nicholson since Christmas, got the horse when he was 14.

    “Those four years have gone quickly,” said Milo. “The idea was that he’ d show me the ropes at novice and he’s exceeded everything I could have hoped for. I’d love to do the four-star short at Aston and then hopefully the four-star long at Blenheim.”

    Milo has ended up with the job many young riders would covet.

    “I have learnt so much,” he said. “That was one of our best dressage tests. Andrew has improved us both dramatically.”


    PAUL WHITEHEAD’S win in section B on Cooley Wingman (pictured) was a first at intermediate for the Dutch-bred son of Namelus R. The 12-year-old is owned by Paul’s mother Janet and was bought four years ago from Richard Sheane’s Cooley Farm.

    “Richard had only had him about a week, he had a big jump but lacked a little schooling. He was more of a rough diamond and it has taken him time to muscle up,” said Paul, an investment manager.

    “In a way, lockdown has probably been a blessing in disguise for him. He’s come out this year and feels fantastic. Marie Ryan has been helping me and I’ve had time to ride most days which, with a full-time job, hasn’t always been possible.”

    The big-striding gelding was one of only three to make the time round the big galloping track and of those he was the fastest.

    “I’ve struggled to hold him in the past but Marie suggested I tried a vulcanite pelham and ride the cross-country more like Oliver Townend – he was softer, easier and I could have gone much faster!” added Paul.

    This report is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (15 April, 2021)

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