Equestrianism: Hester's best test ensures first title

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The Independent Online
CARL HESTER put an unsettling week firmly behind him when he took Giorgione to win yesterday's Grand Prix at the Shell Gas National Dressage Championships here, with the best test he has ridden on the 11-year-old stallion.

Two weeks earlier Hester, 25, had been on the point of leaving the Gloucestershire yard of Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer, the owner of Giorgione, in order to set up on his own. To the great relief of everyone involved in British dressage, Hester agreed (last Monday) to two more years of commitment to the Bechtolsheimer horses.

'I'm pleased I stayed, I'd never have found another horse like Giorgione,' Hester said, after winning the national title for the first time. His desire to take this championship had put him 'under more pressure than the Olympics', where he had the best British score.

Giorgione's test was a smooth combination of vitality and accuracy, which left Hester 39 points ahead of his Olympic team-mate, Emil Faurie on Virtu. Faurie also had a personal best score - as did Laura Fry on Quarryman.

These three could provide a strong team for next year's European Championships if Faurie keeps the ride on Virtu. The 13-year-old's owner, Terry Greenwood, has put the horse on the market for a price rumoured to exceed pounds 100,000; if he is sold, it would be a sad loss to British dressage.

Ferdi Eilberg, the German-born rider and trainer who now holds a British passport, will be among contenders for a team place after finishing fourth and fifth with Tapster and Arun Tor. Jennie Loriston-Clarke, who missed yesterday's Grand Prix because Dutch Gold has a foot abcess, may also be back in contention.

SHELL GAS NATIONAL DRESSAGE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Goodwood, Sussex): Grand Prix: 1 Giorgione (C Hester) 986pts; 2 Virtu (E Faurie) 947; 3 Quarryman II (L Fry) 927. Intermediaire: 1 Taifun VI (Lady E Joicey) 726; 2 Freja (S Dwyer) 712; 3 Wily Imp (S Newcomb) 706. Prix St Georges: 1 Enchante (S Clarke) 757; 2 Catherston Dazzler (J Loriston-Clarke) 743; 3 Wily Imp (S Newcomb) 721.