Kevin McNab and Cute Girl. (FEI/Libby Law)
Mares topped both divisions at this year’s FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses 2021 at Lion d’Angers in France, where Germany’s Anna Lena Schaaf steered the OS studbook’s Lagona 4 to victory in the 6-Year-Olds, while Australia’s Kevin McNab and the Holsteiner, Cute Girl, topped the 7-Year-Old category.
The hugely popular event, which is designed to help develop future stars, attracted a massive 40,000 spectators along with many of the world’s best Eventing athletes and super-talented young horses once again.
Anna Lena Schaaf only turned 20 in August, but she already has a reputation for producing quality horses, and with Lagona 4 (Lavagon/Ile de Cartina/Cartani 4) she led the 6-Year-Olds from start to finish. Posting 25.8 in the Dressage phase, the pair had a narrow advantage of just 0.7 penalties over Thomas Carlile and the mare Fair Lady des Bourcks in second.
Fellow Frenchman Nicolas Touzaint was lying third with another Selle Francais, the gelding Fibonacci de Lessac HDC, who was awarded a score of 26.8 by judges Nice Attolico Guglielmi (ITA), Xavier Le Sauce (FRA) and Nikki Herbert (GBR), while newly-crowned Olympic individual Eventing champion Julia Krajewski from Germany was lying fourth with the Hanoverian gelding Chintonic 3 on a score of 27.9 going into Saturday’s cross-country phase.
A total of 46 starters set off over the 22-fence cross-country track and three were eliminated while one retired, but the top six places remained unchanged.
Schaaf said, “It’s still a really crazy feeling being in the lead in such a good competition! It was great riding the cross-country today; my horse was really focused and I had the feeling she really enjoyed the crowd so I’m super excited for tomorrow! Usually she is a great showjumper but we have to see… maybe she will be a little bit tired after the cross-country but I’m looking forward to it.”
As it happened, Lagona was foot-perfect once again to leave the final result beyond doubt. But three fences down saw Thomas Carlile and Fair Lady des Broucks plummet to 17th place, so when Touzaint was clear, he rose to runner-up spot. Meanwhile, a single error saw Krajewski and Chintonic drop from fourth to fifth and two new names appeared at the top of the final leaderboard.
Rebecca Chiappero was lying 14th with the Irish Sport Horse Bonmahon Chelsea after dressage, but bounced up to tenth on Saturday after a brilliant cross-country clear. When the pair collected just 0.8 for time in an otherwise flawless showjumping round, their final tally of 31.7 saw the Italian rider stand on the third step of the podium. Fourth went to Australia’s Isabel English and the ACE-bred Cil Dara Dallas who were ninth after dressage, eighth after a clear cross-country run, and who moved up four places when collecting just two time faults.
This win adds yet another gold medal to the collection Schaaf has already accumulated. It’s only five years since she won double-gold at the FEI Eventing European Pony Championships in 2016; she was a double-gold medallist again in Juniors in 2019 and she claimed team gold and individual silver at this summer’s Young Riders European Eventing Championships in Sweden.
She was delighted for her winning mare: “Like yesterday, she was focused and concentrated, and in the end she really enjoyed the galloping around after the prizegiving and listening to everybody screaming. I think she felt ‘Yes! I’m the best!’”
Also happy was Schaaf’s former trainer at Junior level, Julia Krajewski, who sees big things ahead for her former student. “Anna Lena is an excellent rider as she has proven this weekend, and last weekend when she won her first 4* event. The German team always needs new talent, particularly those who are capable of training young horses,” said the Olympic champion.
In the 7-Year-Old division Australia’s Kevin McNab and Cute Girl (Coventry/Caligula/Clearway) also took the early lead and didn’t let go. Judges Emmanuelle Olier (FRA), Katarzyna Konarska (POL), and James Rooney (IRL) scored their test at 26.9, and they added nothing over the following two phases.
Also competing on their dressage score were second-placed Laura Collett and the Trakehner, Outback, whose dressage mark of 27.2 left them only fractionally ahead of British compatriot Hayden Hankey and Heads Up on 27.4, while yet another of the British contingent, Selina Milnes, was lying fourth with the Irish-bred Cooley Snapchat on 27.5 going into cross-country day – just 0.6 penalty points separating the leading four.
It was a star-studded line-up after dressage, 43-year-old McNab a member of the Australian silver medal winning team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where 32-year-old Collett claimed team gold, while 42-year-old Hankey is one of the best-known and successful show-horse competitors on the British circuit.
His versatile Irish Sport Horse, Heads Up, was Working Hunter champion at the Horse of the Year Show in 2019 and finished second in the British 7-Year-Old Eventing Championship at Osberton this year. But the pair paid a big price when just over the cross-country optimum time of 9’ 04”, which left them with two time penalties and dropped them to overnight ninth place.
A total of 58 combinations headed out on the cross-country track in the 7-Year-Old championship and five were eliminated, while three retired and just 13 made it home within the optimum time.
McNab had every reason to get it absolutely right. A year ago, he and Cute Girl were eliminated in the 6-Year-Old Championship when missing a fence, but this time the pair cruised home and maintained their lead.
“I was actually surprised I didn’t lose more time towards the end, so I came in a little bit quicker than I’d planned. But the round felt really good; she was really solid and she’s matured a lot from last year,” he said.
Collett was equally pleased after her cross-country run. “I’m very, very happy; he was a bit scared of the crowds, but he stayed very honest and kept answering the questions. It’s an awful lot for them to come here if they don’t have much experience and to see so many people and the fences. They are very beautiful and well-built but they are quite spooky for the horses, so it was a very educational day and I’m delighted with him,” she said after galloping home comfortably within the time with Outback.
“It’s such a big atmosphere here and tomorrow is another day and hopefully he comes out feeling well. He’s already exceeded all our expectations this week; he has performed brilliantly and fingers crossed he can do the same tomorrow.” And he did, leaving all the poles in place in the final phase while McNab’s Cute Girl did likewise.
Milnes added 0.8 time penalties to her tally, but still held on for third ahead of compatriots Gemma Tattersall with Johan-Some in fourth and Hankey who climbed back up to fifth when adding only 0.4 for time. British riders filled all the places from second to seventh, and the most prolific studbook in the top-seven was the ISH, taking third, fifth, sixth, and seventh spots.
But the Holsteiner, Cute Girl, was the golden girl, and after numerous attempts to make the podium at this prestigious fixture, McNab was plenty pleased with his result.
“Le Lion is one of those events we always love coming to, and it’s great when you are at this step of the podium, but at the same time it’s always a great event regardless. It’s great for the horses looking towards their future and even if we weren’t winning, we still enjoy it,” he said.
Collett said that in the final showjumping phase, “The time was very tight and the atmosphere in there was like a Championship, like a Badminton; these young horses haven’t experienced that, so I’m so proud of my horse!”
She echoed the sentiments of many when showering praise on the event organisers. “A massive thank you to the team at Le Lion. Every year they put on a phenomenal event and it’s so important for these young horses to bring them to a place like this – it’s a real honour to be here,” she said.
by Louise Parkes
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
+41 78 750 61 46