The start of the second week of competition out at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games saw GBR jumping and vaulting athletes take to their respective arenas as their events got underway.
D’Ornano Stadium welcomed the start of the jumping competition this morning, as the speed class got underway. The team of four British riders were all in action and rose to the crowd, and the occasion, by putting in some great first round performances
First into the arena was Michael Whitaker with Melissa Braybrooke’s Viking. Riding a lovely round aboard the twelve year old chestnut gelding, the duo produced a great clear round in a time of 85.12 seconds to get the Brits off to a good start.
Michael commented after his round; “He did everything that I wanted to do; it’s exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want to go stupid fast today, because there’s tomorrow, but I couldn’t have asked for any more. I wanted to get a solid round in for the team; for me it was important to get a nice quick start.”
When asked about the team change he said; “There’s a very good team spirit; these things happen, it’s very unfortunate for Ben, but you just have to get on with it and face what’s in front of you.”
Next up was championship debutant Joe Clee. Riding Ludwig Criel’s Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Uta), the pair produced a superb clear round in a time of 85.49 seconds – a slightly slower time than Joe was after but a great round following a slight spook by Uta at the water.
Commenting afterwards Joe said; “I’m delighted; Michael was fantastic as he always is and my horse jumped a solid start, with two riders left hopefully we’re in a good position. I’m really proud to be here; we’ve worked a long time to get here. I’ve had the horse since he was five, now to be here at one of the biggest events in the world and to be representing the country with these riders on the team, it’s great. We’re here and we’re here to do a job.”
The second championship debutant for the British team, Spencer Roe with Mrs Roe’s Wonder Why, entered the arena shortly after the lunch break. After getting a feel for the arena, the talented pair produced a superb clear round, posting a time of 88.12 seconds.
Commenting on his round the twenty-one year old said; “Extremely satisfied; unbelievable to do a clear round at my first World Games, if you told me a year ago I would be doing this I wouldn’t have believed you and now I’m here and he jumped unbelievable. First two guys did brilliant and I couldn’t have wished for better teammates”.
When asked about his team mates, he responded; “They are very good at giving me advice I walked the course with Michael [Whitaker] this morning he’s given me a hand and helped me out. It feels really surreal, as a young horse I never thought he’d be this good every time I asked him to do something he’s always gone one more and gone up the ranks. It’s unbelievable to be here with him and having brought him through as much as I have it’s just amazing. I can’t get over it”.
Last to go for the Brits was current world number one Scott Brash with Lord and Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s Hello Sanctos. Beginning their round in the atmospheric arena, the combination were unlucky to have a pole down, adding four seconds to his time to finish on 85.21 seconds.
“To be fair it was my fault [having the fence down],” said Scott after his round. “I was a touch too deep on the turn-back and he jumped up and touched the back rail but he jumped very, very good and I’m happy with the way he’s jumping and for sure we’re going to improve over the next few days hopefully. The lads have done a great job, three clears is fantastic; there are a lot of fast rounds and it is a little bit about the speed today but the horses are all jumping good and riding good so fingers crossed.”
Today saw the first compulsory round for the Individual female freestyle competition, with all three British representatives taking to the spotlight of the Zenith arena.
First up was Hannah Eccles aboard her parents’ WH Bentley, lunged by father John Eccles. Showing some superb movements during her test Hannah was unfortunate to have a slight hand down on her dismount, but still scored an impressive 7.554 for 16th place overnight.
Hannah said afterwards; ““It was good, it’s a great arena – it’s so big and the crowd was amazing. I had one little mistake but it was fine and really fun. This is our weakest round, so to have that done is great, we can now enjoy the next ones. The next rounds are completely different, they’re my favourite rounds; they’re all about performing to music and are our moves, so I’m really excited to do that because they’re the best.”
Competing at her third World Equestrian Games, current World champion Joanne Eccles was next up, also with the impressive WH Bentley. Following immediately after her sister, she produced a lovely fluid test to be rewarded with a high mark of 8.350 to sit second, just behind Denmark’s Rikke Laumann.
Joanne said; “It was really good; it’s a massive arena and amazing to be in, so for the first time in - we did have a practice but you don’t have the crowd in there – running in and seeing all those people, it’s a great atmosphere. As soon as the bell goes you’re just in darkness, it’s just you and the horse and makes you feel at home and at one with the horse, as it should be.
“There are so many really good female vaulters here, you could quite easily be in the top fifteen or out of it depending how your round goes, that’s how close the top ones are.”
Last of the British vaulters was Lucy Phillips, with her own Pitucelli. Lunged by mother Liz Phillips, the combination put in a strong test with some great movements, to see a score of 7.711 flash up on the scoreboard, for 11th place.
Commenting afterwards Lucy said; “The atmosphere was amazing, it was just so good to get out there and do what I’ve been training to do for the last four years. The horse has done really well and coped with the atmosphere; it’s a really good atmosphere, the people are quite close to you but I just love when you run down the tunnel, it makes you really excited and it’s such an honour to be representing your country.”
WILL’S BLOG: WELCOME TO WEEK 2!
Two blogs in quick succession from Chef de Mission Will Connell, who’s providing updates on the Team GBR camp from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
If you missed yesterday’s blog, covering all things eventing or are interested in reading more about equine arrivals and departures and team plans as competition week two begins, read it online now