In terrific sunshine, we have seen the dominance of one man in the Dodson and Horrell Novice Championships – Oliver Townend. If its not a big enough achievement to win the prestigious class which has seen countless horses go onto 4*, but he also rode the runner up.
The winner was Sonic De Sermentol owned by Stephanie D’Andrimont. A big imposing horse with huge withers he comes in at around 17.2hh but he made the course at Gatcombe look easy and came home clear inside the time having led from the beginning with a dressage of 27.7. Stephanie bought Sonic De Sermentol as a 3/4yo in an auction in France. Oliver said ‘he is a very nice horse, who ended up a bit big in the end. When Stephanie and I got together and showed me the horse in Belgium I took over the ride and we thought we would see what happens. He has got nicer and nicer, he is fantastic in the brain, a lovely person and very smart in the dressage. He has an endless stride gallop wise.’
Oliver said he told Stephanie that the horse would win this two months ago and that she did not even know anything about this event, so it was not very impressive to her ‘which was quite good actually, its been a nice surprise to see him come here and see him do so well.’
Talking about riding the cross country Oliver admitted that Sonic De Sermentol’s size was an aspect in the way he rode because ‘he has so much stride, so I was concerned about some of the distances as you have to come back for the angled houses and coffin and I felt like I was going quite slowly but he is very rideable, very nice in the brain and lets you do whatever you need to do and he is quick away from the fence, he is very nice to ride and is a steering job.’
The second place horse Ridire Dorcha owned by Karyn Shuter finished on a score of 31.1. Oliver said about Ridire Dorcha that he ‘is a very, very good horse’. Ridire Dorcha only started eventing this year and has progressed from BE100 to CCI1* and now has come second here round a Novice Championship track. Ridire Dorcha was bought from Vere Phillips and he is by the stallion Limmerick who is the same sire as Noteworthy (Olivers Intermediate Championship winner). Oliver thinks that this horse is ‘top class’ and admitted that they were going ‘to have to take a breather with him, because he is getting there too quick but he does find everything easy.’ Oliver said that the horse just found everything easy and had never been under pressure but that he will have a quiet few runs now because of his rapid progression.
In third place was Polly Stockton on Stanhopes Mr Macoy. Mac as he is known at home is owned and bred by Mafra Smithers. Mac’s dam was Miss Haversham, who was also competed by Polly and competed at 3* level. Mac is the third generation of a family which was bred by Mafra, who also owned Miss Haversham’s dam. As a youngster, Mac did well showing in hand and won at county shows including Bramham. Mac only started eventing with Polly last year and he has an impressive record this year with his lowest placing being 7th. Polly described him as a ‘rosette winner’.
Polly said that Stanhopes Mr Maoy ‘has a great brain and that he is really sensible. He takes it all in and is ‘dead honest
and up for it all, sometimes he has a look but he just wants to get to the other side of the flags.’ Polly has no more plans past Gatcombe and both Mafra and Polly will assess how he looks after the event. Mafra pointed out that there was no point running him if the ground stayed firm. Polly said that he was a horse for the future ‘and that we are certainly not stopping here, its onwards an upwards. We will keep going and see how far he gets!’
Overall the Novice track rode well and there seemed to be less problems in previous years. The water caused its normal amount of casualties and was the most influential fence on the course. Fence three which was the same as it has been in previous years but is often the first time horses catch sight of the crowds and they are jumping into darkness claimed a few scalps but overall the course appeared to jump well.