Personal best for second-placed Hester: Rising star Fry takes third
Charlotte Dujardin produced a superb victory with Mount St John Freestyle before an ecstatic home crowd at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2019/2020 Western European League qualifier in the Grand Hall at Olympia, London (GBR) tonight. And to put the icing on the British Christmas cake, her compatriots Carl Hester and Charlotte Fry lined up in second and third.
It was an evening of great theatre, with Dujardin’s charming 10-year-old mare producing a stunning test for a mark of 87.520 to take the lead when fourth-last to go, only for a technical hitch to delay the scores of the three who followed. Still waiting for the final result, the riders were all sent back to the stables while Santa took over the arena for his Christmas Finale. But finally the red carpet was rolled back out again, and it was Dujardin who led the British victory gallop.
She was delighted with the performance of her mare who has clearly matured a great deal since showing her massive potential at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA where she claimed two bronze medals. Freestyle’s freshness and freedom of movement, the elegance and height of her passage and the expressiveness of her extended canter were just some of today’s highlights. And the horse really seemed to be enjoying herself tonight, her big ears pricked as she gave her rider her full attention.
“It’s only her third time doing that test, she’s very inexperienced at Freestyle and I’m so pleased with her. The atmosphere was buzzing, it was a full house and I could really feel it when I rode in. But she’s coping better and I couldn’t have asked any more from her!” said the winning rider who, though still only 34 years old, is a legend of the sport following her world-beating career with the now-retired Valegro.
Her friend and mentor, Hester, followed her into the ring and put a score of 84.470 on the board with a lovely performance with Hawtins Delicato. “A personal best, I can’t believe that at my age!” laughed the 52-year-old who has long been a huge influence in this sport. He was sitting back in the stable area when he learned his result – “one of my girls texted me and said you got an amazing score – it was a bit of a weird way to hear about it!” he added.
Fry was second-last to go, and the 23-year-old, who alongside Dujardin and Hester was a member of the British side that finished fourth at this summer’s FEI European Championships, produced a score of 82.620 with the 10-year-old stallion Everdale. This was good enough to pip the final partnership, and last year’s Olympia winners, Germany’s Frederic Wandres and Duke of Britain who finished a close fourth with 82.550 this time around.
Hester said tonight that although he was happy with the way things turned out today he realises he needs to put more pressure on himself, because he continues to have big ambitions. “It was clear after the Grand Prix test yesterday that this horse needs to get out more. I know I need to get myself committed – this happens before every Olympics!” said the man who has competed at five of them, taking team gold with Uthopia at the London 2012 Games, and team silver with Nip Tuck at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Dujardin confirmed that she has both the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2020 in Las Vegas, USA in her sights now. So her plan? “Just to carry on doing what I’m doing and see how we go as we prepare for Tokyo. I’m hoping to get to Vegas in April, so I’ll go to the qualifier in Amsterdam in January and maybe another after that” she explained.
She was twice winner of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ title with Valegro, taking her second title in Las Vegas in 2015. Today’s result sees her move up to eighth on the Western European League table from which the top nine will qualify for the 2020 Final, so she may need another good result to ensure she makes the cut.
There are still five legs of the Western European series left to go, the next taking place at Mechelen, Belgium on 29 December.