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Success stories from The Festival of British Eventing

The Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park pits the country’s best horses against each other, spotlighting future stars. This year there are five British Championships, a host of attractions, a BE Members' Pavilion and 20% off up to two general admission tickets for BE members! To get you excited we have taken a look back at some of the Festival's success stories.

Cool Mountain – William Fox-Pitt

William Fox-Pitt claims more victories across The Festival than any other rider, currently posting four Open, five Intermediate and three Novice titles.

He also has the accolade of being the first rider to finish inside the Open cross country time when taking the title in 2003 aboard Stunning. 

“The Championships has been good to me,” said William, adding modestly: “But then I’ve been going a long time.”

Of his victories in the Intermediate Championship, Tamarillo and Macchiato became household names, but it was Cool Mountain’s 2007 Novice Championship title as a seven year old that made him believe in the 16.2hh bay gelding by Primitive Rising as being capable of a big win.

William said: “The Novice Championships is the horse’s first exposure to a bit of razzmatazz and the whole event is demanding. The horse must be settled in the dressage, cope with show jumping – which is on quite a slope and in a bigger environment – and then you’ve got to have a horse suitable for the cross country.”

The cross country is iconic. William commented: “It’s fun to ride from a rider’s point of view, but it’s not suited to every horse or rider. It requires a certain type of rider to crack on in a rhythm and, while I’m not known as a speedy rider, it rewards horses that are easy to ride, so tearaways or big gangly horses are at a disadvantage.”

Describing Cool Mountain as “just a very regular guy who was always on your side,” William added: “Some good horses don’t win, but Gatcombe showed he could come out on top.”

In 2010, Cool Mountain, owned by The Hon Mrs Teresa Stopford-Sackville, was ranked as British number one, world number one, and had posted a win at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, giving William his first World Equestrian Games medal with Team Gold and Individual Silver.

NZB Land Vision – Oliver Townend

Oliver Townend peppers The Festival prize-winning boards, including four Novice, four Intermediate and an Open title. Among them, NZB Land Vision’s name appears. 

Andrew Cawthray’s 17hh grey gelding landed Oliver the Intermediate Championship in 2008 as a seven year old before being sold to Sir Mark Todd, with whom NZB Land Vision won the CIC3* Championship for Eight and Nine Year Old Horses at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in 2010 and lifted the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials title in 2011.

Oliver recalled: “It was fairly obvious that NZB Land Vision had the attributes to be a very good horse. He moved well and had endless scope, but The Festival is the first tell-tale event in a horse’s career to indicate if it has the capability to make the distance required for top level.”

So confident was Oliver that he remembered: “At the time I told Sir Mark that NZB Land Vision would win Badminton for him and joked with him that he was the horse to make his comeback worthwhile!”

More seriously, Oliver said: “I’d been going to watch the event since I was a tiny child and would run like mad to the finish to collect riders’ autographs, and so the event is very special to me.”

He added: “I was 25 and trying to buy a farm when I won with NZB Land Vision.  Being then able to sell the horse to my childhood hero and to finish buying the farm made everything a lot easier.” 

Many of the horses featuring in the placings at The Festival are then for sale and Oliver said: “It’s the event where you can put a horse up against its peers at that level and see whether its progression is where you want to be. But I’ve as good horses being placed as winning as it’s such a quality field and often it’s an Intermediate Championship horse’s first advanced, so I use the event to see how they come on from that experience.”

Two Thyme – Ruth Edge

Phil and Maureen Smith’s Two Thyme claimed the 2002 Intermediate Championship before going on to take the Open Championship titles in 2004 and 2009. He is one of the few horses to amass more than 1,000 BE points across his career and internationally he won Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2007, making him reserve for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Ruth said: “Two Thyme was unbeatable on his day, but he had a very complicated personality. He is, however, the only horse to have won the Intermediate and Open Championships and relished The Festival.”
While his Intermediate title came as “a bit of a surprise”, it was his first Open victory that Ruth relives.

She said: “I’d watched Gatcombe on TV as a kid, and the kudos and profile was massive. As you ride in reverse order, I rang the late Kenneth Clawson and said ‘Kenneth, I’m in the lead. What am I going to do?’”

Kenneth motivated Ruth to head out to the warm up where Andrew Nicholson offered Ruth unforgettable advice.  

Ruth recalled: “Andrew talked me through the course and how to ride it, where to give Two Thyme a breather, and where to keep kicking.”

Ruth said: “It was really noble of Andrew and, although I’d completed Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley, my Festival win felt like the starting point of my career at the highest level.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to know Two Thyme and I have our names on the Championship trophy,” added Ruth.

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