The Autumn MET 2020 concludes with a win for Richard Howley and Arlo de Blondel in the CSI2* Grand Prix presented by Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort
The 2020 autumn-edition of the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva Nova, Spain, concluded on Sunday with the CSI2* 1.45m Grand Prix presented by Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort.
Staged in the beautiful Oliva Nova sand ring, a total of 83 horse-and-rider combination lined up for the Grand Prix. The challenging first-round track set by the Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral proved tricky, with ten pairs clearing their way into the deciding jump-off. “It was a brilliant course,” the winner Richard Howley commented afterwards. “I thought it was very well built today: It was big enough with a couple of tricky distances. Especially the distance to the triple combination – from the triple bar with a floaty seven strides coming into a double of verticals on two strides then one stride to an oxer followed by another short five strides to an oxer. It rode a little bit shorter than it walked, and I think that was the main line that caught most of the class out. Thankfully for me, my horse jumps combinations very well and he is very careful. He really wrapped his body around the jump, I am delighted with the way he jumped today.”
As first to go in the jump-off, Marc Bettinger (GER) on the spectacular Undercover Z (Ugano Sitte x Heartbreaker) went all out – setting the time to beat to 39.45 seconds. His lead did not last long though: Richard Howley (IRL) on Arlo de Blondel (Tialoc M x Kassidi) cut corners with unbelievably smooth turns and a daring gallop on the last line – stopping the clock on 35.58. Howley risked it all, and today it paid off: None of the following pairs could beat his time. John Whitaker (GBR) on Unick du Francport (Zandor x Helios de la Court II) slotted into second place with a time of 37.47, while Koen Vereecke (BEL) on Kasanova de la Pomme (Bamako de Muze x Haras D) crossed the finish line in 37.66 seconds to finish third – pushing Bettinger to fourth. Edwin Smits (SUI) and Farezzo (Arezzo VDL x Van Gogh) – last weekend’s Grand Prix winners – did another solid round but had to settle for the fifth place today.
“Normally my horse is very fast, so I jumped on the angle and tried to stay as tight as I could,” Howley commented on his tactics for the jump-off. “The distance down to fence number three was eight strides. A few people did seven, but it pushed them out on the left side. I did outside eight and rolled back tight on the next vertical. I gave my horse a bit time to jump the double, that was a difficult fence in the jump-off. My horse is super careful, so I could take a little bit of risk on the second last vertical and then continued with a nice gallop to the last. My horse is really good when he goes fast: He still finishes his jumps, so you can take a risk with him.”
Speaking about his winning partner Arlo de Blondel, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding, Howley said: “He is a fantastic horse. I bought him at the end of last year from Michael Whitaker. I am thrilled to have Arlo; I own him together with a very good friend of mine – Sarah Borthwick. She is a great supporter of mine: She owns half of both of my good horses, Arlo and Chinook. It is a pleasure to have horses like this and we need support in keeping them as there is a lot of demand for horses that can achieve these great results. We have a big year next year with the Olympics and the Europeans in our sights. It is a nice way to finish off 2020 with a Grand Prix win.”
“With the Olympics, Europeans and the Nations Cup Final next year, there will be a lot of good opportunities,” Howley said about his plans for 2021. “Ireland is a very strong country and we have a lot of good horses in our string throughout the squad. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity to jump a few Nations Cups with this horse. I really want to take the next step with him, because I believe he can do it all. We have been on tour with seven horses for two months now, and this was a fantastic way to finish. I am happy to go home tonight!”
Under strict Covid-19 protocols, the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour returns with its spring-edition in 2021 – starting January 12th.
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