Piggy March enjoyed a birthday to remember at the NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials, winning the NAF Magic CCI4*S for the second year running and the fourth time in her illustrious career. Piggy now becomes the rider with the most wins in this competition.
The pair had started the 2023 competition as the hot favourites according to EquiRatings, but managed to go one better than when they finished as runners up in this class in 2019. The 14-year-old gelding owned by Alison Swinburn and John and Chloe Berry, came to Hartpury fresh from a win at Aston Le Walls in a competitive Advanced section.
As one of four rides for Piggy in the CCI4*S, Burghley-bound Brookfield Inocent jumped a clear round in the showjumping before relishing the conditions around Eric Winter’s imposing cross country track that rewarded bold riding.
Piggy explained: “This horse has had some time off, so this is all about getting him back to top level and making sure that he feels good. It’s a brilliant course and I’m excited because he made the time easily, and it really set him up for Burghley. I came here purposefully with him to give him a good set up and make sure that he’s back to his best. He gave me a great spin.”
Alluding to the ground conditions for this year’s event, Piggy added: “They do such a brilliant job here. With the grass covering, it was really perfect ground.”
The Hartpury CCI4*S has proven a reliable preparation for Piggy previously, who went on to win Burghley in 2022 with Vanir Kamira after winning at the Gloucestershire event.
Piggy showed her suitability for Hartpury’s undulations, also guiding her other three horses to clear rounds across the country. Halo and Coolparks Sarco had steady clear rounds with an eye to the future, while day one dressage leader Brookfield Cavalier Cruise picked up just 6.4 time penalties. He and Coolparks Sarco each had a rail down in the showjumping, while Halo jumped clear in the second phase.
Eric Winter’s CCI4*S track saw 60 of the 81 starters jump a clear round. While no particular combination caused any serious problem, fence 23, the Ermin Plant Woodside was set on an acute angle, inviting four combinations to run past.
Two withdrawals from the top ten after the showjumping opened the door for those combinations to come, with the most notable being the withdrawal of the dressage leader Alex Hua Tian and Jilsonne Van Bareelhof. William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht also withdrew after jumping a clear round in the show jumping.
Pippa Funnell’s Burghley 2019 winner MGH Grafton Street, who lay second after dressage, lowered two rails in the show jumping before refusing at fence 9, the Hartpury Brush, with Pippa then opting to retire. Pippa’s Bramham winner MCS Maverick continues to grow in confidence, jumping a double clear and adding 8 time penalties on the cross country. Billy Wonder’s clear in both jumping phases lifted Pippa to 10th place.
Several combinations moved into the top ten thanks to accomplished cross country rounds. Wiltshire-based David Doel finished with his two rides in the top seven. Galileo Nieuwmoed and Ferro Point put in faultless jumping rounds in both phases finishing 2nd and 7th place respectively.
Felicity Collins added 2 time penalties to her dressage and improved on her dressage placing, finishing in 3rd place. Bubby Upton and Cola III added 5.2 time penalties to their dressage score finishing in 4th.
Burghley-bound horses used the Hartpury hill as a taste of what’s to come this autumn, with Zara Tindall and Class Affair also having a faultless spin in both jumping phases and finishing in 9th place.
The day had started with the cross country phase of the NAF Metazone CCI2*L. Holly Woodhead and Guns N Roses remain on their dressage score of 24.9 after skipping around the cross country. It’s close at the top of the leaderboard though, and the North Yorkshire rider has less than a fence in hand over her nearest pursuer, Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy. Padraig also jumped clear inside the time with MGH Zabaione and has a penalty score of 26.5 after two phases.
Bubby Upton’s busy and successful season continues. Partnering Lindsay Bisiker’s Shannondale Bertie she made the most of near perfect underfoot conditions and remained on her dressage score of 27.4 in third place.
The CCI2*L cross country was a fair test for the level although several combinations picked up penalties at 5ab, the Hartpury Sport Plank Spreads. The most influential combination came in the form of the NAF Metazone Brush Corners, with 10 combinations glancing off the second element and incurring 20 penalties.
52 of the 80-strong field jumped a clear round and the good ground conditions meant the time was easily achievable for the majority of the rounds. Those that did incur time penalties dropped several places, proving costly.
Brazil’s Marcio Carvalho Jorge and Linkin Park K led the dressage after the first day but 4.8 time penalties across the country dropped them into 10th place. They’ll head into the showjumping on a score of 33.3.
Coral Hardman and Defacto also dropped down the order due to cross country time penalties. 4.8 penalties dropped them from 2nd place after dressage to 10th place heading into the final day.
Millie Juleff continues a good week completing cross country day in 5th place after a clear round inside the time. Michael Jackson, Emma Jowett and Tom Rowland all moved into the top ten thanks to quick clear rounds.
Both water complexes on the NAF Superflex CCI3*L cross country proved influential although dressage leader Mark Davidson and Fonbherna Lancer remain in the lead with 26.2.
Millie Juleff and Viktor Krum had an expensive run out and also added 12.4 time penalties, sacrificing their 2nd placing after dressage. Bubby Upton and It’s Cooley Time are now in 2nd place while Tom Woodward and Jaeger Master are in 3rd place.
Bill Levett has a remarkable record of cross country clear rounds at Hartpury, and piloted Brideview Master George to another clear inside the time. He’ll start Sunday in 4th place while Italy’s Carlo Lucheschi and Hampton P are in 5th place.
While penalties were scattered around the course, the NAF Magic Water proved to be influential. The combination involved a drop into the water followed by two corners on undulating ground. The NAF Superflex Lake also gave the ground jury plenty to review, with the flag on the B element finding itself in the water on several occasions.
The competition concludes on Sunday 13 August with the final horse inspection and showjumping.