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It was an exciting finish to the Bishop Burton CCI*** U25, Will Furlong had two fences in hand after the cross country and he needed them both after runners-up Gina Ruck and Rehy Too put the pressure on with a fast clear round. However, after such a strong cross country performance yesterday it was a deserved win for Will and his own Collien P2 who are now crowned U25 National Champions.
The tricky showjumping course, designed by Di Boddy, tested the young contenders in this renowned class, where previous winners include France’s Astier Nicolas on Piaf D’Neville in 2012 who are now current Olympic individual silver medallists. Charlotte Bacon and Last Touch, who sat in third overnight withdrew before the final horse inspection. This left two young French riders, Aurelien Leroy and Marie-Caroline Barbier, hot on the tails of the top two. However both knocked down three poles to allow 22-year-old Brit, Alicia Hawker, with six show jumping penalties to move up to third place.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all!” said Alicia, of Robert Hawker’s 10-year-old Charless RR, known as ‘Charlie’ at home, “He’s a phenomenal jumper but not keen on dressage.” Alicia had an incredible rise up the leaderboard from placing 24th after the dressage on 60.6, she added just eight time faults on the cross country phase yesterday to go into sixth for the final phase. “He did his first BE90 five years ago and he’s been challenging, he‘s very strong and used to cart me around the cross country, I thought he may be better suited to a male rider. However, he pinged round the cross country yesterday and was so genuine.”
The combination, based near Badminton, Gloucestershire, have only contested one CCI*** previously at Blenheim and this was their first time at Bramham. “I hope to qualify to do a four star on him and maybe head to Pau.” It has been a particularly successful month for Alicia, who recently graduated from Bath University with a First in Sports Performance, her plan is to now ride full time.
Gina Ruck impressed to finish runner-up with her own 15-year-old Rehy Too, the combination have an established partnership and have enjoyed success at Bramham before having finished fourth and fifth in previous years. “He’s a class jumper, I’m over the moon with him! I wanted to put a bit of pressure on Will today”. Gina definitely did just that and her fast clear round on her horse of a lifetime ‘Prince’ was a highlight of the class which had only three clears.
Purchased from Vere Phillips as a four-year-old, Prince was Gina’s first horse after representing Great Britain at pony level winning a team gold medal in 2007, they have started at Burghley twice but are yet to complete. “I’d like to get to Burghley this year and this time get all the way round! He’ll have a few weeks off now before getting him ready before heading to either to there or Pau.”
Will Furlong is definitely one to watch as his glittering young rider record proves, U21 champion in 2013 and double Young Rider gold-medallist in 2015, he has today added another title to the list. Will was a little nervous going into the final phase after Gina’s confident clear round, “I said I needed a few fences in hand yesterday and I was right! Today was a little bit lucky, but I’m thrilled.”
Will could have had two fences down and take the win but not three, he left the audience on the edge of their seats after rolling two poles and crossing the finish line with one time fault, securing the win on 57.4 penalties with his own Collien P2, also known as ‘Tinks’ at home. “It was nice psychologically to have a few in hand but she felt really fresh today. It’s only her first CCI*** so I’m really pleased. It was a tough course, quite twisty and the oxers were big and square, and this is her weakest phase”.
Will benefits from the support of the World Class Programme and hopes for another Nations Cup call-up before the end of the year with Tinks, a 10-year-old, grey mare by Carentan and his top horse from an exciting string. Making the long journey from his East Sussex base worthwhile, after his win today Will is looking to compete at the highest level in the near future “I’d like to go to Blenheim and qualify for a four star, it’d be great to go to Luhmuhlen next year.”