Gemma Tattersall fulfilled one of her great ambitions when becoming British Open Champion at Gatcombe’s Festival of British Eventing, with a brilliant, bold cross-country round on the ex-racehorse Arctic Soul.
Gemma, 32, is riding a wave of confidence – the win was also her second in the Event Rider Masters series, in which she now tops the leaderboard.
Lying 11th after show jumping, Gemma set a blistering pace across country on the scopey Arctic Soul to finish just three seconds over the optimum time. To her delight, she was still topping the podium when the last combination, Marcio Jorg and Lissy Mac Wayer, set out.
The Brazilian doctor, who is taking a year out to concentrate on the sport, put up a spirited challenge but had never ridden Gatcombe’s testing undulations before and finished an honourable seventh.
Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal was runner-up on Balham Mist, and Somerset-based part-time farrier Alexander Bragg was third on Zagreb, and Sir Mark Todd was fourth on the grey Kiltubrid Rhapsody.
“Gatcombe is such a special event,” said an ecstatic Gemma, who now sets off for the European Championships in Poland. “It’s the home of British eventing and I’ve been wanting to win the national title ever since I finished third in 2010 and it really fired me up.
“Arctic Soul is the best cross-country horse in the world. I put on my brave pants today and we saw every fence right and every stride. I’ve never been so fast in my life.”
Last year’s winner, Oliver Townend, fell at the fourth fence with Note Worthy, and Bill Levett, fourth going into cross-country, also had a fall with Shannondale Titan on the later part of the course. Tim Price struck a bit of trouble early on with Xavier Faer and elected to retire at that point.
Australian rider Shane Rose, who has based himself with his great friend and compatriot Sam Griffiths in Somerset for the English summer, had an unexpected boost with a win in the Neptune Advanced class.
Sam had injured his neck in a fall, so Shane, holder of team silver and bronze medals from the 2008 and 2016 Olympic Games, deputised on Sam’s best-known horse, the very consistent 18-year-old Happy Times.
‘It’s a bit like being thrown the keys of a fancy sports car,’ joked Shane. ‘It was rather a treat. He’s very cool, very level-headed and all I had to do was steer.’
In an international line-up, Japan’s Toshiyuki Tanaka was second and Oliver Townend was third on Samuel Thomas; some compensation for his British Open tumble. The in-form Gemma Tattersall was fourth on Chillis Gem, by the 2015 Badminton winner Chilli Morning.