Charlotte Dujardin has produced a superb victory with Mount St John Freestyle before an ecstatic home crowd at the FEI Dressage World Cup Western European League qualifier at Olympia in London. And to put the icing on the British Christmas cake, her compatriots Carl Hester and Charlotte Fry lined up in second and third.
It was an evening of great theatre, with Charlotte’s charming 10-year-old mare producing a stunning test for a mark of 87.52% to take the lead when fourth-last to go.
She was delighted with the performance of her mare, who has clearly matured a great deal since showing her massive potential at last year’s Tryon World Equestrian Games where she won two bronze medals. Freestyle’s freshness and freedom of movement, the elegance and height of her passage and the expressiveness of her extended canter were just some of the highlights at Olympia. And the mare really seemed to be enjoying herself, her big ears pricked as she gave her rider her full attention.
“It’s only her third time doing that test, she’s very inexperienced at freestyle and I’m so pleased with her. The atmosphere was buzzing, it was a full house and I could really feel it when I rode in. But she’s coping better and I couldn’t have asked any more from her!” says the winning rider who, though still only 34 years old, is a legend of the sport following her world-beating career with the now-retired Valegro.
Carl, her friend and mentor, followed her into the ring and put a score of 84.47% on the board with a lovely performance with Hawtins Delicato. “A personal best, I can’t believe that at my age!” laughs the 52-year-old Carl, who has long been a huge influence in this sport. He was sitting back in the stable area when he learned his result. “One of my girls texted me and said you got an amazing score – it was a bit of a weird way to hear about it!”
Lottie Fry was second-last to go, and the 23-year-old, who alongside Carl and Charlotte was a member of the British side that finished fourth at the 2019 FEI European Championships, produced a score of 82.62% with the 10-year-old stallion Everdale. This was good enough to pip the final partnership, last year’s Olympia winners, Frederic Wandres (GER) and Duke of Britain, who finished a close fourth with 82.55%.
Although Carl was happy with the way things turned out, he realises he needs to put more pressure on himself, because he continues to have big ambitions. “It was clear after the Grand Prix test that this horse needs to get out more. I know I need to get myself committed – this happens before every Olympics!” says Carl, who has competed at five of them, taking team gold with Uthopia at the London 2012 Games, and team silver with Nip Tuck at 2016 in Rio.
Charlotte confirms that she has both the Tokyo Olympics and the FEI Dressage World Cup Final in Las Vegas in her sights now. So her plan? “Just to carry on doing what I’m doing and see how we go as we prepare for Tokyo. I’m hoping to get to Vegas in April, so I’ll go to the qualifier in Amsterdam in January and maybe another after that” she says.
She was twice winner of the World Cup title with Valegro. The result at Olympia result sees her move up to eighth on the Western European League table, from which the top nine will qualify for the 2020 Final, so she may need another good result to ensure she makes the cut.
There are still five legs of the Western European series left to go, the next taking place at Mechelen, Belgium on December 29.