British team riders Charlotte Dujardin, Michael Eilberg and Carl Hester delighted a full house at the evening performance of the Royal Windsor Horse Show with a one, two, three in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Charlotte Dujardin and the stallion Uthopia comfortably topped the leaderboard with an energetic freestyle (83.675%).
The Olympic gold medalist made full use of Uthopia's powerful extended trot and passage and produced immaculate passage to piaffe transitions and bold riding to a Tom Hunt compilation of music from 'How To Train The Dragon' actually designed for her number one horse Valegro. The pair left the arena to huge applause from the 4,000 strong crowd.
"Tonight he felt fantastic," said Dujardin. "I got everything I asked for and couldn't have asked for more".
Eilberg and Jon and Julie Deverill's grey mare Half Moon Delphi (79.4%) produced a personal best score with a foot-tapping freestyle to 'Shake it like Shakira', making best use of her huge passage and flying changes.
"With everything going on at the show she has been really lit up so I gave her a bit more time in the warm up and with more breaks to keep her relaxed which paid off and she went really well," said Eilberg.
Hester and the huge Nip Tuck (75.725%) took third place with a well managed freestyle - the same one he used at this venue in 2009 at the European Championships - to a compilation of Tom Jones music.
"It is a freestyle designed for horses starting in Grand Prix," said Hester who acquired the 18hh gelding as a yearling. "I don't think anyone thought he was particularly going to be anything but he is really starting to come into his own now. His attitude is priceless, he loves his work and is a pleasure to ride."
British based Dane, Anders Dahl, took fourth with Wie Atlantico de Ymas (74.60%) with British Young rider Lara Griffith fifth on Andretti H (73.80%) the former ride of her trainer, Laura Bechtolsheimer .
Judge Andrew Gardner, President of the Ground Jury for the class, commented; "The top end was really top. Beautiful rides to lovely programmes and music against a beautiful backdrop - it really was a top class evening."
It is the first time since 2002 that dressage has been included in the five day show that also includes international show jumping, endurance and driving. Hester, a winner of the Grand Prix here in 1996 and 1997 with Legal Democrat, said; "We need to add venues to the British calendar and it is great that Windsor has stepped back in especially with its great surfaces and packed stadiums. British riders don't get the opportunity to prepare for Championships in this country so to have this venue is fantastic and long may it stay."
Photos © Risto Aaltonen