After two years of coronavirus pandemic-induced hiatus, the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing was welcomed back to Gatcombe Park this weekend.
While the title of British Open Champion did change hands today (2019 winners Jonelle Price and Classic Möet were considered the defending champions) it stays in the family as Tim Price and Vitali, his Tokyo Olympic mount owned by the rider alongside Joe and Alex Giannamore, claimed the top spot in the Magic Millions British Open on a score of 30.0, tacking only time penalties onto their dressage score.
“I was really happy with him,” Tim told EN. “Just to string the three phases together is what I’m trying to achieve with him.”
While a clear and fast round across the country over the tricky terrain of Gatcombe Park is certainly a highlight, Tim was most pleased with the gelding’s show jumping round this weekend. While the 12-year old Holsteiner (Contender — Noble Lady I, by Heraldik) shows plenty of scope and talent, his spookiness occasionally gets the better of him and has cost the pair some top placings over the past few years, including potential medals at Tokyo and a potential second place finish at Luhmühlen CCI5* this spring.
“He’s got this weird brain where sometimes, it’s not even just lack of concentration, he concentrates on the wrong things and it takes it away from the job right in front of him. And that’s happened to me at the Olympics and happened to me at Luhmühlen, so it’s actually been more of a mental challenge,” Tim reflected.
“Today he jumped the first fence beautifully and straightaway I was awash with confidence. It’s a different approach when you feel that good feeling, you can get on with riding a nice round and it’s something that I’m super happy with today. This is something I can put in my back pocket for Burghley, really.”
As the top Brit in the Magic Millions British Open, second place overall finisher with a score of 32.1 Oliver Townend and Dreamliner earn the British National Champion title — a title Oliver has now held for a third time. He and Dreamliner, a 12-year-old homebred (Jumbo — Doff Gudanov, by Baryshnikov) of owners Mark and Angela Chamberlayne, also earn the honor of bringing home the only double clear round across country in the class.
The top five of the British Open is rounded out by:
- Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On, who led the division heading into cross country but picked up 8.4 time penalties to ultimately finish in 3rd place with a final score of 32.8.
- Oliver Townend and Lukas in 4th place on a score of 36.7.
- and in 5th place, 2019 British Open Champions Jonelle Price and Classic Möet, who delivered the second fastest time across country today and end their weekend on a 37.4.
Caroline Martin Makes Her Mark on British Eventing
Two new classes were added to the Festival of British Eventing schedule this year, Open Intermediate and Open Novice, and the U.S.’s own Caroline Martin nabbed wins in a section of each of them, despite feeling like a fish out of water as the only American competitor and never before seeing courses with terrain quite like that of Gatcombe Park. Fortunately for Caroline however, she has an exceptional mentor in her corner: none other than Pippa Funnell, with whom she’s been basing at The Billy Stud since June as a recipient of the 2021 Wilton Fair Grant.
“When I walked around the course, I didn’t know if I could do it to be honest. There’s nothing like it in America, we just don’t ride on terrain like that and it was extremely difficult,” Caroline said, “but Pippa was really good to explain that since I have good six- and seven-year-olds, it’s not about winning here — so on my six-year-olds I stopped my clock halfway around the course and I was just going to ride off of feel because it’s more important to think about their future rather than winning horse trials.”
Even so, six-year-old Galwaybay Redfield HSH Conner (owned Caroline, her mother Sherrie, and the McElduff family) came out on top in the thirty competitor-strong Bredon School Open Novice Section G with the only sub-30 score in this division. “Conner” is so far two-for-two overseas, having also won a Novice (U.S. Preliminary level equivalent) section in his first outing on British soil at Aston le Walls a few weeks ago.
King’s Especiale, owned by the Redfield King’s HX Group, took top honors in another large division, the BiowaveGO Open Intermediate Section D, after adding just cross country time to his dressage score to finish on a mark of 33.3. But that’s not all: Caroline also earned a third place finish in the BiowaveGO Open Intermediate Section C (which was won by Tim Price and Gurtera Jimmy Clover) aboard Galwaybay Blake. Owned by Mollie Hoff along with Caroline and Sherrie, “Blake” currently leads the pack of qualified contenders for the Holekamp/Turner YEH Lion d’Angers Grant, so there’s a good chance we could see him in France this fall.
Caroline’s top mount, Islandwood Captain Jack also made an appearance in the Magic Millions British Open, contesting the dressage and showjumping phases for some practice in a big atmosphere before a planned withdrawal ahead of cross country.
Through all the successes, Caroline is quick to chalk it all up to the great mentorship of Pippa, who she says has been like a mother duck taking her under her wing and giving her the mentorship and education of a lifetime: “She is the best human ever and she’s so patient.”
“She’s amazing and she’s turning into the best mentor I could ever, ever, ever imagine,” gushed Caroline. “We’ve been having such a great time and she’s stripped me back to basics and just riding properly – that’s the important stuff.”
But it’s not just the revisiting of riding foundations through which Pippa has supported Caroline: it’s the small and large gestures of guidance — from feeling the horses’ legs and asking how they ate, to walking courses at dusk, to reminding Caroline to curtsey at the prize giving hosted by Princess Anne — that all add up.
“She’s so invested and she’s there every step of the way. When you add it all up together that’s why I’m successful — all these little things. It’s so cool to have someone of her caliber take an interest in me and she’s turning into just a great friend.”
And it appears that Pippa seems to be growing fond of Caroline as well.