Piggy’s perfect ten becomes eleven at NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials
Piggy French recorded her tenth international victory of the season on Saturday, winning the NAF Five Star Magic CCI4*-S competition onboard Quarrycrest Echo and also taking the runner up spot with Brookfield Inocent.
Ten soon became eleven as she added the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L title to her 2019 count on Sunday.
Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo will head to Luhmühlen later this month to contest the European Championships, and it was notable that Piggy was the only rider to stop the clock inside the seven-minute optimum time, finishing easily in 6:53. Piggy finished on her dressage score of 26.6.
Speaking to Eventing Nation after her round, Piggy said "'Red’ was fantastic – he’s just such a pleasure to ride cross country. He’s very easy, to be honest, and so it’s easy to be economical and to be quick.”
Piggy's other ride, John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn's Brookfield Inocent is still a relatively new addition to her string, joining her yard in 2018.
“He may well follow in Red’s footsteps in being a quick and easy cross country ride, to be honest. People say I’m so fast, but I’m really not – with some horses, you can get in a gear and change the gear so quickly. When they’re confident, you can ride so much quicker in the rhythm and in the lines, because you leave the adjusting so late. That’s what I can do with those two and having the quality of gallop that they have helps, too. They’ve been great today, and to finish first and second is really exciting” Piggy explained.
Pippa Funnell may have relinquished her two-phase lead on time penalties, but solid rounds with the reformed Jonathan and Jane Clarke's MGH Grafton Street, who added eight time penalties, and overnight leader on her own Billy The Biz, who added ten, saw her finish third and fifth respectively, nonetheless.
Both Piggy and Pippa jumped clear rounds over Paul Connor's show jumping track despite the second phase being moved indoors due to high winds. Intermittent heavy rain showers and relentless wind gusts created difficult conditions for riders, although the ground on the Eric Winter designed cross country track held up well.
Hartpury's efforts to maintain good conditions and continue running were praised by Pippa. “A few places got a bit cut up, but I thought they were great courses, and they encouraged positive riding,” she says.
Alex Bragg, who finished fourth on Mr Mike Roe and Mrs Naomi Roe's King of the Mill, agrees with Pippa's sentiments. Speaking to Eventing Nation, he said “The ground was great – they’d watered well anyway, and the grass coverage here has just gotten better and better over the last few years."
Problems on the course were widespread and not infrequent across Eric Winter’s track, which is built with long-format prep in mind. 88 combinations started, and while 69 would ultimately finish – 48 would cross the finish line without incurring jumping penalties, flag penalties, or knocked-pin penalties.
Fence 8AB, a hanging log to the first of two skinny triple-bars on a downhill related distance, proved the most influential, with six eliminations and two retirements occurring here. The first water at 6ABC saw four refusals or run-outs, which took place largely at the latter two skinny elements within the water, but in at least one case, the issue occurred at the first element, a rolltop in the water.
"I was really pleased with the three courses actually" said Eric Winter, reflecting on a busy cross country day.
"I thought we stepped the levels up in all three classes and they were definitely at the top end. I love the long format two-star, I thought there was a lot of education in it. We had triple brushes through a bunker and I sat on the hill for a long time and watched how the horses just lowered their head and necks and popped through it. All the horses I saw learned from it.
"Some horses coped better than others, but that’s the nature of competition; some find it easier than others. As we went up through the levels, it was very similar really. I thought that the big competition, the four-star, was a great competition with some fantastic horses. As I've said in previous interviews, the one thing about Hartpury, and it happened again this year, you actually watch the best horses in the world. A lot of these horses are off to the Europeans next and it’s not often you get to see those horses. And when you see them, it’s not often that you get to see them run fast and take the risk. It was a good day, really."
Best of the rest...
The competitors in the NAF Five Star Mpower CCI2*-L had the best conditions of the day on Sunday with a sunny morning for their show jumping phase. A clear round sealed the deal for Harriett Beaumont on Dawn and Kevin Waterman's Annaghmore Bonita who finished on their dressage score of 29.6. Mark Davidson and Striding Edge Syndicate's Striding Edge finished in second on a score of 29.9 and Charlotte Rowe finished in third on Eventing Worldwide's Redbarn Lux Ury Biscuit with a score of 31.3. Harriett celebrated her first-ever international win.
Heavy rain and thunder on Sunday afternoon forced competitors to shelter in the indoor arena during intermittent halts in proceedings. However, unseasonable weather couldn't stop Piggy French winning the NAF Five Star Superflex CCI3*-L on John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn's Brookfield Quality. It was, however, a win of ‘totally mixed emotions’ for Piggy who was delighted for the owners of Brookfield Quality but was disappointed for Susie Berry, the talented young Irish rider based at Piggy’s yard who so nearly won the class. Susie Berry finished in second place on a score of 31.6 with 0.8 time penalties proving costly in the final phase. Charlotte Dennis and Mount Panther finished in third with a score of 37.7.
Hartpury Equine Director, Philip Cheetham, was quick to praise competitors and the Hartpury team; "Running an event such as this is a huge team event, particularly when the weather presents challenges like it has this week. We are very grateful to the entire team.
"We would also like to say a huge thank you to NAF, long time supporters of the Hartpury Horse Trials in addition to the many valued sponsors who help to make the event possible.
"We'd also like to thank the competitors and their supporters who showed understanding and flexibility throughout. This allowed us to run a successful event which provides such an important preparatory run for those riders heading for championship events and autumn three-days" he added.
Click here to see the full results from the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials.