Hester Pips Dujardin in Battle of the British Olympians in London

Carl Hester and Nip Tuck. (FEI/Jon Stroud)

Olympia, London (GBR) 16 December 2015 – Carl Hester pipped his super-star protégé, fellow-Olympian and world no. 1 rider Charlotte Dujardin, for victory in the spell-binding sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League at Olympia in London (GBR). Riding Nip Tuck, the 11-year-old gelding with which he helped clinch team silver at this summer’s FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany, the 48-year-old rider delivered a performance that simply demonstrated why he has long been a legend in this sport.

Winner of the third leg of the series in Stockholm, Sweden last month, Hans Peter Minderhoud from The Netherlands lined up third with Glock’s Flirt, while on a great night for the home-country contenders, Lara Griffith claimed fourth spot with Rubin Al Asad.

Ground Jury President, Great Britain’s Stephen Clarke, put tonight’s competition into perspective when he said, “It was fantastic; the whole level was really high with all the riders going for it. Hans Peter and Charlotte both did great tests, but then Carl came in with a degree of difficulty that was just amazing. He spent the first five minutes on the centre line! It was a test with a great degree of difficulty that worked, and that’s why he won.”

Influence

Hester’s influence on tonight’s competition even extended to the rider who held pole position until after the halfway stage. Trainer and rider, 32-year-old Hayley Watson-Greaves, is coached by the man who joined Dujardin on the British gold medal winning side at the London 2012 Olympic Games. And she sparkled when second to go with the fabulous black gelding Rubins Nite, taking all the risks to post a mark of 75.075.

It was fellow-countrywoman Griffith who demoted her from the top of the order, showing rhythm and relaxation as her 13-year-old gelding strutted his stuff to a rousing Scottish-themed musical score. Posting 78.025 for a test the judges described as “close to perfection technically,” this 27-year-old rider was always going to finish well in the frame, but Dujardin created a whole new parameter when next into the arena with Uthopia.

The 14-year-old stallion has not shown for the last two years and Dujardin has only competed him “seven or eight times” during her sensational career which has principally been dominated by her extraordinary partnership with the amazing gelding Valegro. But she stormed to victory in yesterday’s Grand Prix, pinning Hester and Nip Tuck into runner-up spot ahead of Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt, and a repeat performance seemed very much on the cards this evening.

Calling card

The pair produced breathtaking extended trot and fabulous tempi changes, and although their final few movements didn’t come together they stamped 82.550 on their calling card, leaving it up to the rest to chase that. Minderhoud followed with a great effort that earned 80.975, but, second last to go, it was clear that Hester wasn’t riding for runner-up spot this time out.

“I just chucked everything at it to see what I could do! I know the degree of difficulty is being stepped up so I took every movement that was difficult and just rode it one day, wrote it down and then did it again the next day. With this horse I have no choice; if I want to be in the top lot I have to do something that showcases that,” he said after posting the winning mark of 83.750.

Stephen Clarke said at the post-competition press conference, “This man (Hester) just keeps opening all sorts of chapters! It was certainly a very exciting test and the music also worked beautifully. It wasn’t just that it was a difficult test, but that he managed to make it look easy. Pirouettes on centre line – both of them were really really good; he kept adding to the degree of difficulty and it really worked,” he added.

Never say never

Hester said that Nip Tuck has taught him to “never say never!” He had a long history of runner-up placings at Olympia since he first competed at the hugely popular Christmas fixture back in 2003, so this result was particularly satisfying. “I’m very proud of Nip Tuck; I’ve had him since he was a year old and he’s still only 11. He’s over 18 hands high – not a traditional dressage horse, not really made to do dressage, but in his head he is a gold medallist and that’s why his body gets better and better,” he explained.

Dujardin, who affectionately calls Hester “granddad,” said she didn’t mind having to settle for second place tonight. “If there’s one person to be beaten by, it’s granddad; he inspires me every day,” she said. “Watching him made me have goose-pimples. He said he was going to nail his floorplan tonight and he did such a cracking job, he made it look effortless. I’m so thrilled for him because he’s always wanted to win here and he’s done it at last!” said the rider who, with her no. 1 horse Valegro, holds every record and every title in the sport.

Today’s third placing has now promoted Hans Peter Minderhoud to the top of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Western European League table. I’m very lucky that I have three fantastic horses,” the Dutchman said. “I did two qualifiers with Glock’s Romanov and two with Flirt, and I will do two next year with Johnson and then decide which one to ride in the Final,” he explained.

“Yesterday it was quite close in the Grand Prix; I knew it would be hard to beat one of the Brit superstars, but they are great friends and I’m very happy for them!” he insisted.

Winning horse

Hester meanwhile mused about how much better he can do with tonight’s winning horse. “I missed my canter passage; I didn’t nail the transition and the walk isn’t relaxed. The halt was very difficult at end because he’s so used to everyone clapping, so there are still more points I can work on but I need to keep competing in this sort of atmosphere,” he said.

For the moment, however, Nip Tuck won’t be under any pressure. “He will have until the new year off; he’s very energetic and keeps himself very fit and is quite happy living out in field. So he will do that until January.”

He hopes that Uthopia, whose previous achievements include European team gold in Rotterdam (NED) in 2011 and Olympic team gold at London 2012, will be a reserve horse for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “Charlotte will hopefully qualify him in Amsterdam,” Hester said. So there is every incentive to look forward to the next leg of the Reem Acra series at the Dutch fixture at the end of January.

For further information on the sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League at Olympia, London (GBR), go to www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Jo Peck, jopeck@hpower.co.uk, +44 1753 847 900.

The next leg will take place in Amsterdam (NED) on 29/30 January 2016. For information on the Dutch fixture, visit http://www.jumpingamsterdam.nl/ or contact Press Officer Charlotte Gunnink, media@jumpingamsterdam.nl, +31 638325326.

Detailed result here.

Facts and Figures:

The London International Horse Show at Olympia presented the sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League tonight.

15 riders from 8 nations – Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Ukraine – competed.

British horse-and-rider combinations filled the top two places, Carl Hester and Nip Tuck pipping Charlotte Dujardin and Uthopia.

Dujardin is ranked world no. 1 with her Valegro, the horse with which she claimed double-gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy (FRA), and with which she was crowned Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion in both 2014 and 2015.

Hester’s winning score with the 11-year-old gelding was 83.750.

The Ground Jury panel of judges consisted of: At E, Andrew Gardner (GBR); At C, Stephen Clarke (GBR); At B, Isabelle Judet (FRA); At H, Susanne Baarup (DEN); At M, Thomas Lang (AUT).

3 remaining rounds in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European league – at Amsterdam (NED) in January, at Neumuenster (GER) in February and at ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March 2016.

The Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016 Final will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden from 23 to 28 March.

Quotes:

Carl Hester GBR (1st), talking about his winning horse, Nip Tuck: “A year ago he found it difficult to go round the edge let alone do the test. You have to have a special temp to be a winner, relaxed but with the energy to be a super star with pirouettes and passage.”

Charlotte Dujardin GBR (2nd), talking about the horse she rode tonight, Uthopia: “He hadn’t competed for nearly two years so last night I surprised myself (when winning the Grand Prix). It’s a great honour to ride a horse like Uthopia, to take him on after Carl. He felt a little tired tonight but he tried really hard. He hadn’t done that freestyle since Windsor two years ago, but he felt fantastic!”

Carl Hester GBR (1st), when asked about growing a beard to support the charity Decembeard: “I think I’m hormonally challenged; it took three weeks to get something growing on my chin!

“The bowel cancer charity asked me would I (grow a beard) and I said I can’t; I’m a dressage rider and I’m supposed to look chiselled and clean! But I gave in. I tried to trim it up for today but I look like a Dalmatian at the moment!”

Ground Jury President Stephen Clarke (GBR): “I have to say I think one of the best things for the sport this evening was that out of just half an ear could hear Imke (Bartels) and the commentary. She was so positive and honest and clear; it really made such a difference to the public, helped them understand and it’s one of the best things for the sport I have seen in a long time.”

Carl Hester GBR (1st): “Lara (Griffith) and Hayley (Watson-Greaves) were incredible tonight. The confidence of Hayley was great. We need to have future teams and Lara is such an elegant beautiful rider. It’s great to see her supported by the Bechtolsheimers who started me off. I’m very confident and happy to see new riders here; this is the best show in the world and with Reem Acra as the sponsor; we’re just thrilled to be here.”

Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED), 3rd: “It was quite noisy when I went in (to the arena) as Charlotte had just come out, but my horse was really going for it and had a great feeling. I was very happy; he’s a great horse; he’s really trying for me in the ring and gives me a super nice feeling. He’s not as pretty as my stallions but much easier!”

Carl Hester GBR (1st), talking about his future plans: “I’m taking Charlotte (Dujardin) to Amsterdam to get two qualifiers under her belt for the Final, but that’s me done for the season. I’ll appear in April after this big show. I’ve got to think about Rio for next year, so I will start the outdoor shows in April.”

Full standings here.

By Louise Parkes

Media Contacts:

At Olympia:

Jo Peck
Press Officer
JoPeck@hpower.co.uk
+44 1753 847 900

At FEI:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Shannon Gibbons
Manager Press Relations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

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