Classic Moet is full of fizz

Jonelle Price and Trisha Rickards’ brilliant mare Classic Moet powered to the top of the leaderboard in the Magic Millions British Open Championship CCI4*-S with a typically fast and fluent cross country performance that elevated them from seventh place after the dressage and showjumping phases to the top spot on the podium and a £10,000 first prize.

The 2018 Badminton winners had an early draw over Captain Mark Phillips’s challenging track, but this type of high-pressure contest is tailor-made for the New Zealand horsewoman’s famed riding skills and her tally of just four time penalties set a target no one could beat.

“I was kicking myself about having a rail down in the show jumping and I wanted to have a cut,” explained Jonelle. “I knew that fast riders like Oliver [Townend], Burto [Christopher Burton] and Tim [her husband, Tim Price] were coming next, so I had to crack on. Classic Moet feels better than ever – this has been the perfect preparation for Burghley.”

Ben Hobday, who maintained second place and, as the highest-placed Briton, won the British Champion Trophy, conjured a beautiful round from Jane Chambers’ and his own nine year old Shadow Man ll, a horse that, pleasingly, won the Dodson & Horrell British Novice Championship in 2017.

“I could hear that a few riders had had run-outs and that took the pressure off me,” explained Ben, who incurred 11.6 time penalties. “He’s a fantastic horse and does everything I ask of him.”

Nicholas Lucey, who collected a saddle from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers as the best under-25 rider, enjoyed one of his most notable results in his career when finishing in third place on Proud Courage with the third fastest time. Jonelle, Nicholas and fourth-placed Ludwig Svennerstal from Sweden riding Stinger were the only riders with time penalties in single figures.

Last to go across country, Pippa Funnell was enjoying a superb round on the magnificent home-bred Billy Walk On when a glance-off at the tricky corner at fence 23 ended her chances of victory.

Jonelle’s husband, Tim, the world number one, incurred two run-outs with Xavier Faer at the brush corner at fence 6 when lying equal second and Oliver Townend, fourth after the first two phases, retired Ulises after a run-out. Last year’s champion Christopher Burton from Australia was fifth on new ride Lawtown Chloe.

“Congratulations to Jonelle Price for winning the Magic Millions British Open Championship and to all the competitors who, yet again, have provided such a showcase for the sport at its most thrilling, elite level,” said Katie Page-Harvey, President of Magic Millions, title sponsor of the Festival of British Eventing for the second year.

“Magic Millions is an Australian thoroughbred auction house, so we are delighted to be able to celebrate such courage, ability, stamina and athleticism on the part of both horse and rider.

“We are thrilled to be part of a competition that has such a heritage and so clearly a special place in competitors’ and eventing enthusiasts’ hearts and such a reputation for producing legendary sport. We are already looking forward to our involvement next year and to helping to drive the success of this special event.”

Pippa Funnell was compensated with a superb victory in the Advanced class on her own and Marek Sebestak’s Majas Hope, the horse with which she has been named as a reserve for the British team for the European Championships.

“I often take too many pulls and ride like a 50 year old, but he’s such a fantastic horse that I felt I must give it a crack,” laughed Pippa. “Cross country courses like this are what eventing is all about – they teach you to sit up and the horses to balance and are invaluable experience as well as being the perfect fitness preparation for Burghley.”

Ashley Harrison finished second, eight penalties in arrears, on Zebedee lX and, in a good day for the Hobday family, Ben’s wife Emma was third on Shadow Puppet.

Two other champions were crowned today: Pippa’s great friend and old team mate Kristina Cook won the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship on David Cricket and Saskia Davies had the thrill of a lifetime when winning the TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup on Singing Usk.

“What an amazing weekend of competition this has been,” said Event Director Peter Phillips. “Congratulations to the five Champions and to all the competitors and their connections.  I also want to thank all the volunteers, helpers and sponsors as well as the team behind this truly memorable event – we couldn’t do it without them.

“What a wonderful backdrop Gatcombe Park provides and such a special atmosphere.  We are already looking forward to seeing you all again 7-9 August 2020.”

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