At the 2017 British Winter Indoor Championships in Hartpury on 14 - 16 April 2017, Sophie Wells became the winner of the both national small tour level titles, scooping the victory in the Prix St Georges freestyle as well as in the Intermediaire I freestyle. Even more impressive is that Wells steered two horses to those two titles. She scored the wins on Fatal Attraction and Valerius.
Sophie Wells Wins Prix St Georges Kur to Music
Rio Para gold medallist Sophie Wells took the Prix St Georges Freestyle on Friday night 14 April 2017, on the first of two gala nights at the Winter Championships. Aboard Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction, Sophie’s reserve ride for Rio, she owned the class with an impressive 75.75%. Thurman-Baker was second and Gemma Maddocksw third.
Gemma Maddocks and El Paso Van Overis rode a technically demanding routine including four tempis, then three-tempis on a circle, to dramatic and powerful music. “The changes on a circle were really well done,” said Isabell. “The music was good and it was technically demanding."
The winner, Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction were third to last to go and pulled out all the stops with a very strong, technically demanding test to stirring music. As they powered down the centre line in extended trot to their final halt it was clear they’d done something special. ‘Jorge’ as he’s known, has been a busy boy recently with appearances at the Para Gold Winter Championships and Deauville CPEDI where he won all his three of his tests, and is clearly still raring to go.
The final rider was Joanna Thurman-Baker who from the off meant business with her Young Rider team partner, Highcliffe Apollo. The performance was secure, it was confident, and the music uplifting. “It was a lovely, lovely test,” said Isabell. “To be fair, he’s not a flashy horse but he’s really well trained and beautifully ridden.”
So victory went to the Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells on her talented up and coming star. Afterwards, Sophie told us; “We’ve worked on the floorplan for a while but there’s a bit too much in it for a Grade V para test so it’s great to use it tonight. He’s only just recently been strong enough too. He can be very spooky which has taken me a while to tackle it but…I’ve found if you walk in like you’ve finished and he can look, he’s happy and then means business.
“It wasn’t all his best work tonight but a lot came off and I was impressed by his confidence and good energy. He’s still quite new to this level as our focus was Rio last year but we’ll do more Small Tour this year.”
Superb Sophie Smashes Saturday's Inter I Kur
After her fantastic victory in the Prix St Georges Freestyle, Wells claimed the gala night double, scooping the Inter I Freestyle Championship with her own 15-year-old son of Flemmingh, Valerius on a fabulous mark of 75.83%.
In front of the packed crowd, Wells burst into the arena after the break with Valerius – aka Reece – in his first competition since last year’s Paralympic Games. Launching into a fantastic extended trot down the centre line from halt, Sophie’s freestyle really packed a punch. Although tension crept in and showed during the extended walk, clean tempi changes and an exciting floor plan ensured great marks were given by the judges. Her orchestral music, put together by Tom Hunt, built to a crescendo before ending on a soft note as Sophie and Reece walked into their final halt. “Loved that they finished on a very soft note,” exclaimed Isobel. “It was like the music was hanging in the air. Most usually finish with a flourish, but this was like a bird landing on a leaf and I thought that was very unusual and well done.”
With clean tempi changes and tight pirouettes, Buckinghamshire-based Nathalie Kayal rewarded her ride, her own 11-year-old German-bred gelding Homerun after the final halt, clearly pleased with their performance. “A very brave freestyle,” announced Isobel and the judges agreed, awarding the pair 72% to eventually place third. A high level of difficulty won Melissa Chapman and her own 14-year-old son of Sir Sinclair a strong mark of 70.88% for seventh.
Her first major competition as a married woman, Lara Butler (née Griffith) got the party started with the Bechtolscheimer’s 12-year-old Polarion-sired gelding, Kristjan as they danced down the centreline to music filled with carnival vibes. Proving popular with the gala night crowd, Isobel couldn’t find much to fault with the presentation; “Lara is the most elegant rider. The performance was very well polished, organised and balanced. She presented her Inter I Freestyle to a very, very high standard.” Their mark of 72.67% reflected their professional display but it wasn’t enough to topple Sophie and Reece from the top spot, settling for second.
When Sophie realised she’d won, she almost shed a tear…but such is her professionalism she held back but the delight in Valerius, ‘Reece’ in the stable, was clear and hours of training had brought just desserts.
After the prize giving she said; “I do my best to make my floorplans interesting and different but always keep my compulsories on straight lines to play safe – they’re too important to throw away marks! It’s the first time I’ve actually ridden the floor plan as a full Inter but as he’s not competed for six months I definitely felt out of my comfort zone; it was a case of being brave or stupid! We’re such a good partnership though after ten year together, we can produce the expression needed while keeping a lid on it!”
It’s been a full on couple of evenings for the young lady from Lincolnshire but what did she hope from her trip to Gloucestershire? “I didn’t expect either wins! I’ve competed in these classes a few times and have usually been pipped by Michael [Eilberg]. For me, it’s just great to put all the work we do at home and a para competitions in to practice somewhere like here and show that we can be competitive and that work pays off. “
Reece will have a quiet year and carry on his Grand Prix development at home with a debut on the horizon while C Fatal Attraction, her winning Magic PSG partner, will step up for the European Championships in August.
Results - 2017 British Winter Indoor Dressage Championships
Prix St Georges Kur to Music
- 1. Sophie Wells - Fatal Attraction - 75.75
- 2. Joanna Thurman-Baker - Highcliffe Apollo - 73.04
- 3. Gemma Maddocks - El Paso Van Overis - 72.46
- 4. Victoria Maw - Bon Rouge CH - 71.46
- 5. Bryony Goodwin - Hawtins Floriana - 70.33
- 6. Nathalie Kayal - Bravo - 70.08
- 7. Eilidh Gran - Rock DJ - 69.67
- 8. Paul Hayler -Lonswelt - 69.67
- 9. Jezz Palmer - Zanthoos Himself - 69.25
- 10. Lauren Phillips - Hot Chocolate - 69.04
- 11. Elder Klatzko - Woodlander Little Richard - 68.75
- 12. Ellie McCarthy - Donna Summer - 68.71
- 13. Leah Beckett - Russki - 68.67
- 14. Becky Moody - Eureko - 67.67
- Kate Cowell - Barcelona - DNS
Intermediaire I Kur to Music
- 1. Sophie Wells - Valerius - 75.83
- 2. Lara Griffith - Kristjan - 72.67
- 3. Nathalie Kayal - Homerun - 72.00
- 4. Maya Goldberg - Torino - 71.92
- 5. Georgia Stokes - Talented Mr Ripley - 71.83
- 6. Gemma Maddocks - El Paso Van Overis - 71.29
- 7. Melissa Chapman - What Ever - 70.88
- 8. Elder Klatzko - Woodlander Little Richard - 70.21
- 9. Bryony Goodwin - Hawtins Floriana - 69.75
- 10. Sarah Higgins - Waldessarini - 69.42
- 11. Kate Cowell - Samba Dancer - 69.38
- 12. Rebecca Edwards - Don Archie - 69.25
- 13. Lesley Peyton-Gilbert - World Exclusive - 68.54
- 14. Rebecca Edwards - Ufano - 67.75
- 15. Daisy Coakley - Affinity Bay - 62.83
Text by British Dressage, edited by Eurodressage - Photo © Kevin Sparrow
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