Under-pressure Townend secures first victory in British Open championships

August 30 2016

OLIVER Townend became the first home nation winner of the British Open horse trials title for five years after a high pressured ride at Gatcombe Park.

OLIVER Townend became the first home nation winner of the British Open horse trials title for five years after a high pressured ride at Gatcombe Park.

Townend went into the final cross-country phase of the championship in the lead after his dressage test and clear show jumping round on Cillnabradden Evo.

Run in reverse order of merit, he was last to tackle the tough track and had to get round with no jumping penalties and few time faults to take the title for the first time.

He also had the added pressure of riding the horse that at last year’s event had fallen with Andrew Nicholson, leaving the UK-based New Zealander seriously hurt.

Although making a remarkable recovery from an injury that in 98 per cent of cases would have resulted in paralysis, Nicholson gave up riding Cillnabradden Evo.

Townend took over the ride but at Gatcombe thought he had lost his lead in the closing stages due to the tiring uphill cross-country finish.

But he completed 6.3 points ahead of France’s Thomas Carlile on Upsilon and third placed Elizabeth Power, from Ireland, on Souladoun.

Townend said: “Gatcombe is a very special place to me so this win means a lot.

“We know the horse hasn’t got great speed over distance and, although he’s very genuine, he can do the odd thick thing, so I was just trying to conserve his energy and get him home safely.”

Townend has an enviable record at Gatcombe in the annual Festival of British Eventing - supported by the British Equestrian Trade Association - which hosts championships for novice and intermediate horses as well as the feature Open and a separate advanced class.

This year he not only won the advanced section with Dunbeau but was also second on Samuel Thomas II and fourth with Dromgurrihy Blue, ahead of fifth placed Zara Tindall and her London 2012 silver medal winning High Kingdom.

He was also runner-up on Master Trump in the intermediate championships, where victory went to Bristol’s Alexander Whewall, recording the biggest win of his career on Chakiris Star.

The 28-year-old said: “I came here hoping for a placing, so to win in this company is just amazing.”

Chipping Sodbury’s Nick Gauntlett finished in the top 14 in the intermediate championships on Cosmic Order.