Spring Along jumps into the record books
Gloucestershire-based eventer Daisy Berkeley won her first British Open Championship last weekend aboard her long-time partner, Spring Along.
Paying tribute to the horse that propelled her into the top level of the sport, Daisy said: "It means loads to win this title as he has made my career in eventing. It's a lovely title to win with him – I owe him everything and it's lovely to have him on a roll of honour."
Daisy Berkeley and Spring Along fly around the cross-country course, showing their talent and a solid partnership Picture: Kit Houghton
Daisy and "Pod" receive their prizes
Left, Vittoria Panizzon, from Morton-in-Marsh, was sixth in the novice championship with Borough Pennyz. Right, in the open, Gemma Tattersall's third-place Kings Gem was bred and previously ridden by Devon's Mary King Pictures: Al Crook
Best of the West in novice championship was Vittoria Panizzon, from Moreton-in- Marsh, sixth on Borough Pennyz
But this outing at Gatcombe's Festival of British Eventing is the last for the pair this year, after Daisy announced she and husband Charles Berekley, who live in the village of the same name, are expecting their first child in January 2011.
Consequently, Daisy, 38, has removed herself from the World Equestrian Games reserve list and will not be contesting Burghley this year.
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There was further cause for celebration as winning the open title means the 17-year-old Spring Along has racked up 2,183 points, breaking Over To You's record as the horse with the most British Eventing points.
He and Daisy lay seventh after dressage, but pulled up to the top of the leader board before the final cross-country phase after posting a clear show jumping round.
Creating an exciting climax to the competition, competitors tackle the cross-country course in reverse order, so Daisy was last to go.
Under pressure after her nearest rival, eventual second-placed Joe Meyer, had managed to beat the clock, Daisy and Spring Along raced around making the course look ridiculously easy.
They came home just two seconds over the time allowed, adding 0.8 time faults to a dressage mark of 32.7.
She explained: "I would not ride many horses that fast around a course, but when I'd done such a good show jumping round I couldn't not. I set out with intent.
"The two steps up to the skinny were a bit of a scramble, but other than that he was faultless. I've been riding him since he was five and he's now 17. I know him better than I know my husband."
Just 2.5 marks behind her was New Zealander Joe Meyer, riding Sanskrit – the only pair to produce a double clear without time faults.
Achieving the time allowed on the Gatcombe course is notoriously difficult because of the hilly terrain, but fewer jumping efforts this year made it a little easier. Caroline Powell and Lenamore had also come home inside the time, but one down show jumping left them in eventual fifth.
Jo Meyer says Sanskrit has "everything you want in a top horse", but the gelding is yet to tackle a four-star event and Joe wasn't expecting great things at Gatcombe. However, he said: "When Caroline went inside the time and then when Gemma [Tatterall] beat her, I thought 'this is getting quite serious'.
"My horse is inexperienced, but he is very fast so I knew this was a big ask, but the course suited him in many ways."
In third was Mary King's former charge Kings Gem ridden by an ecstatic Gemma Tattersall, who said: "I am not going to come down for a week! She was brave and careful and safe. I never thought I would be brave enough to get close to the time here, so I am so chuffed."
Devonian Mary dropped from second before the cross-country to fourth when Apache Sauce picked up 5.2 time faults.
Other big names who weren't so lucky included former British team member Oliver Townend and Olympic medalist Matt Ryan, who were both on course for a top-five place when Imperial Master and Maybee IV both ducked out at the tricky mushrooms, incurring 20 penalties apiece.
Yorkshireman Oli had more luck in the novice championship, which he won on 30.8 with Jeepers Creepers. Moreton-in-Marsh-based Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon was the best-placed West rider in sixth riding Borough Pennyz.
Hotly-tipped Cumbrian rider Ruth Edge and Applejack II won the intermediate title on 34.10, despite one down show jumping, with Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza flying the flag for our region in sixth. He's based near Marlborough. Unfortunately, this section was marred by the death of chestnut mare Roxanna, who broke a leg in a fall at the trekehner and had to be put down. Her rider, the Frenchman Arthur Duffort, is based with Andrew Nicholson.