Piggy’s purple patch rolls on to Rockingham!
Piggy French’s incredible run of form over the last few weeks has carried on to the Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International Horse Trials, where she won three out of the four International classes on offer.
Piggy began with a one-two in Section A of the CCI-S2*, with two lovely horses owned by the Lancer Stud. First Lancer took the win with a fantastic score of 22.6 ahead of stablemate Cooley Lancer in second.
The run of good fortune then continued as Piggy went on to take both sections of the CCI-S3* – Section C with Alison Seinburn’s, Brookfield Quality and Section D with Calling Card, owned by Jayne McGivern. The results brought a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘fill your boots’, as Piggy received a gorgeous pair of limited edition ‘Rockingham’ boots from title sponsor, Fairfax & Favor, for each of her three wins. The team at Fairfax & Fairfax kindly swapped a couple of the pairs for some different boots and a stylish leather bag, so Piggy’s wardrobe did very well out of the weekend!
“It’s crazy really isn’t it,” she said. “We all know that in horses you have your great moments and you have your bad moments and, to be honest, at the minute I should buy a lottery ticket or something! The horses are in great form, it’s a lovely local event, the ground’s been good, and they could all have a spin. Credit to all my team at home, because I’ve been here there and everywhere for the last month and they’ve kept the horses in great form.”
Of her recent success, Piggy added: “There’s no real rhyme or reason! I don’t think anything’s particularly any different to what it is normally. It’s just obviously a purple patch and I’ll enjoy it!”
The other international class, Section B of the CCI-S2*, went to 17-year-old Jess Rimmer and Jo Rimmer and Jane Koldewey’s, Mounttemple Mistress. Jess took over the ride on the mare towards the end of last season.
“Ever since mum bought her, I was like, ‘I want Annie, I want Annie’, and Mum was like, ‘no, she’s mine’! Finally, she gave in and let me have her. I’m very lucky to have stolen my mum’s horse!
“She couldn’t have performed any better in all three phases. The time was tight on the cross country, so I did have to kick quite a lot, but she flew round and made it all feel quite easy. She’s a really special mare.”
This was Jess’s first International title and she was delighted with the result. “It felt amazing,” she said. “There are so many factors in eventing; you’ve got to get a solid result in all three phases – it takes a lot for it all to come together and luckily it did.”
Like Piggy, Jess also received one of the 200 pairs of limited edition Rockingham boots from Fairfax & Favor and she can’t wait to wear them! “Whenever you go to the big events, in the trot-ups you see so many of the top riders wearing their Fairfax & Favor boots! They always look so smart and made me think, ‘Gosh I wish I had a pair’, and then suddenly I get a pair, I’m very lucky!”
The 2019 NAF Junior National Championship took place alongside the CCI-S3*, with the title going to Georgia Bartlett and her own, Spano De Nazca. The partnership added just 0.4 time penalties to their dressage score, to finish on a score of 30.6. Second place went to Molly Faulkner and Amanda Faulkner’s Classic Affair and third to Milo Kennedy, riding Sophie Douglas’s Moher Prince.
“Spano De Nazka has been amazing over the last couple of days and finished with a fabulous clear cross country round,” said Georgia. “We were on the junior team last year, which was really special, but being Junior Champion is something we’ve been dreaming of!”
On Sunday, attention turned to the Loomes Championship, where the rider closest to the optimum time on the cross country course in the Open and Advanced Intermediate classes is awarded a stunning, hand-produced watch from Loomes & Co in Stamford.
With the form that she has been enjoying recently, many had their eye on Piggy French to become the first female winner of this incredible prize. When she stopped the clock just one second under the optimum time on Jennifer Saunders’s lovely bay gelding, Cooley Monsoon, it looked like she had it in the bag. However, Ireland’s Austin O’Connor had other ideas.
Last to go with Colorado Blue, Austin flew round the course to post exactly the same time as Piggy. There was a dramatic pause while results were calculated - in the result of a tie it goes down to show jumping times – before Austin and Colorado Blue were announced the winners.
“With the way everything is happening for Piggy at the moment, I’d sort of accepted defeat!” said Austin. “To win it is great.
“This was Colorado Blue’s pre-Bramham run. He won his Advanced class at Withington Manor a couple of weeks ago and he’s come here and done everything right. I was a little bit disappointed with the dressage today, we were both a little bit asleep, but he jumped great and obviously cross country he was amazing.”
Austin was the first recipient of a Robert Loomes watch back in 2014 and becomes the first rider to win the Championship for a second time. We might not have seen the first female winner, but a ladies’ watch was given out as Austin chose to have the prize for his wife, Amy O’Connor.
“I’ve obviously gone for the female version, so I’ve got a particularly happy wife today,” said Austin. “It’s a great achievement to come back and do it for a second time in five years. I’m very, very lucky to have one, so now we’ve got one each.”
Last year’s winner, Jonty Evans was on hand to help present the prize and he was delighted to give it to a fellow Irishman. “I can’t think of anybody better than Austin,” he said. “I know he’s won it before, but it gives me great pleasure to give it to him. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Piggy could not be too disappointed to miss out on the watch, as she still won the Advanced Intermediate class with Cooley Monsoon, ahead of Austin and Colorado Blue in second. She then rounded off a wonderful weekend with yet another one-two in the Open Intermediate with Trevor Dickens’s Graf Cavalier taking the win and stablemate, Castletown Clover owned by Susannah Paybody finishing in second.
Event organisers, James and Lizzie Saunders Watson were delighted to see so many riders enjoying the competition over the weekend. “It was really exciting for us to be running the cross country course in a new direction and we have received some great feedback,” said Lizzie.
“We have seen some fantastic sport over the weekend and it has been wonderful to welcome so many riders to the Great Park, from the top riders like Piggy, to the Pony Club children who had so much fun here on Saturday. We would like to express huge thanks to our staff and the enormous team of volunteers who work so hard to make the event happen, and very much look forward to seeing everyone back again next year.”
Full results are available at, www.bdwp.co.uk/roc