The Hartpury Festival of Dressage got off to a flying start as riders vying for a place in the Great Britain team for the Paralympics in Brazil went all out for their last chance to impress selectors.
An extremely strong field of British riders contested the Para Team Test in the last 3* para dressage event in Europe before Rio 2016.
Kicking off the day was the Grade IV in which Sophie Wells claimed a one-two on C Fatal Attraction with 72.548% and Valerius with 72.524%. As a Paralympic, World and European gold medallist, Sophie has her sights firmly set on Rio and was more than four per cent clear of the rest of the class. Coming in third was Kathryn Gallagher for Ireland with Wargon on 68.310%.
Next up in the Grade III, Great Britain again took the top two with Ireland third. Last to go, Nicky Greenhill on Gregorian Chant clinched the class with a 71.737% win and there was a lovely test from Izzy Palmer and Pinnochio to claim second with 69.342%. Close behind were Rosemary Gaffney and Bink with 68.789%.
The Grade II saw double Paralympic and five times European Para Dressage champion, Natasha Baker, return to Hartpury looking to seal her place in the team for Rio. With her horse from the London 2012 games, Cabral, she stormed the class with 74.353%. Second and third were very closely contested with Suzanna Hext and Abira just clinching the silver spot with 71.853% and Erin Orford and Dior hot on their heels with 71.206%.
Grade 1a and 1b saw Great Britain para dressage superstars Sophie Christiansen and Lee Pearson in action.
Christiansen, who has numerous World and European titles to her name as well as being a five time Paralympic Champion, was just pipped into second on her, Janerio. They scored 73.369%, while Anne Dunham and LJT Lucas Normark took the class honours on 74.391%. Dunham is also looking for a spot on the GB team as she bids to qualify for her fifth Paralympics. In third was Sergio Oliva for Brazil with 72.435%.
Lee Pearson, winner of nine Paralympic golds, won the 1a aboard Zion with 73.240%. Natasha Adkinson and Sweet Caledonia followed with 70.600% for second and Lorna Lee with Midnight II clinched third with 68.120%.
Meanwhile, current Hartpury student, Lucy Pincus, took the top spot in Advanced Medium 92. Sports and Exercise Nutrition degree student, Pincus, who is a member of the equine academy at Hartpury, took a late lead in the class with 72.30% on board Sheepcote Suncrest. Louise Davison and De Galles came second on 69.73% with Elizabeth Allen and Don Dellero close behind on 69.05% for third.
Lucy Norris took the Advanced Medium 98 on Light of Earendil with 72.89%. Second and third were closely contested with Kate Smith and De La Veiga scooping the silver spot on 70.26% followed by Henrietta Cheetham and Dancer Khan on 69.74%.
In the FEI Prix St Georges 1b class, Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin produced a gold display on board Mount St John Freestyle to secure first place with a score of 76.57%. Vicky Thompson-Winfield and Beltoni scored 72.19% while Kate Cowell and Samba Dancer finished with 71.44% to seal second and third place respectively.
Maya Goldberg won the Prix St Georges 1a after achieving a score of 68.99% on Torino, as she just edged out Alice Peternell’s 68.68% with Fan-Set for top spot. A score of 67.85% saw Alice Hurley and Deseado Ccv finish in the final podium position.
Rounding off the first day’s action, Anna Ross and Wydny produced a late show to clinch first place in the FEI Intermediate II competition after a score of 69.62% saw off Maria Griffin and DJ’s total of 68.68%. Matthew Hicks and Excalibur claimed third place with a score of 67.36%.
While tickets for Saturday’s gala evening are now sold out, there are still tickets left for all four days of outstanding equestrian sport still to come at the Hartpury Festival of Dressage.
Day entry is free on Thursday, July 7th, or £6 per person on July 8th, 9th and 10th. Under-16s go free on all days. If you would like to come on the 8th, 9th and 10th, you can buy a combined ticket for the special offer price of £15. Parking is free on all days.