Whittington crowned National Champion
Sussex-based Francis Whittington is the new British Eventing National Champion, a title he won at the Festival of British Eventing, which was held at Gatcombe over the weekend of 1st to 3rd August 2014. Partnering Catherine Witt’s wonderful grey, Easy Target, the combination produced a beautiful dressage test to lead with a score of 35.6. Only three other riders produced tests in the 30s: Andrew Nicholson on Avebury tucked in behind Francis with 38.1, Oliver Townend and Armada scored 39.8 and Australian rider Paul Tapner and Kilronan scored 39.2, but withdrew before cross country.
Photo: National Champion Francis Whittington receiving his prizes from HRH Princess Anne. Photo Copyright: Kit Houghton/Festival of British Eventing 2014
Francis and Easy Target (Smokey to his friends) have been consistently producing leading dressage tests this season. At Badminton they led the first day of competition and started the cross country in third place. Social media went crazy praising Francis’s decision, when he retired Smokey in Huntsmans Close, just four fences from home. Commenting on his decision at Badminton, Francis said: “Smokey has the most enormous heart and I knew he would keep on trying to jump. The ground conditions had not been ideal and I had ridden him strongly until that point in the course. I knew if we continued I risked breaking his heart. I don’t regret it. I am always thinking about the longer term and his results have proven I was right to pull-up.”
At Gatcombe a few frustrating time penalties resulted in the combination finishing second behind Andrew Nicholson and Avebury in the British Eventing Open Championship. Andrew Nicholson may have lived most of his adult life in the UK, but he is from New Zealand and so Francis Whittington and Easy Target took the title of National Champions. Francis said: “We had a few time faults, which resulted in Nicholson winning. It was important to me to jump a good round and I took some wider lines to give Smokey a better round. I am over the moon with his performance and our result.”
Francis and Smokey now head to Blenheim, with the longer term goal being selection for the European Championships at Blair in 2015. Francis concluded by saying: “I strongly believe Easy Target is an Olympic horse. All the decisions I have made, have been with the aim of preparing him to be producing his best possible work when the selections for the Olympic Games in Rio are made.”
Photo: Francis and Easy Target finished second in the British Eventing Open Championship and claimed the National Championship. Photo Copyright: Kit Houghton/Festival of British Eventing 2014