MARKET WEIGHTON’S Lucie Stephenson is proud to be one of 16 Yorkshire riders heading to next week’s Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championships at Badminton.
“It just shows what a strong set of eventers there are up north,” she declared.
In-form Stephenson, 27, will ride Coniston Nadal, who has won both of this season’s outings – at Askham Bryan College and Norton Disney. The seven-year-old now bids for glory in next week’s BE100 class at what is Stephenson’s second appearance at the competition having been 11th in the BE90 class of 2013 on Alfie XX.
But while Stephenson is refusing to admit she could hold the county’s best chance of success – there is simply no hiding Yorkshire’s strength in depth. Another leading light is Middlestown’s Alexandra Farrar-Fry, who was victorious in the 2011 BE90 event on Diamond Trefoil and returns six years later on Grey Finnsky in the BE100 class.
Stephenson and Farrar-Fry are joined by eighth other White Rose riders in the BE100 class – Dewsbury’s Helen White on Persian Royalty, Sheffield’s Jane Schindler on McFern Marnie, Harrogate’s Judith Bennett on Legato II, Hebden Bridge’s Nicki Harrison on Wolfstones Summer Love, Braithwell’s Eliza Yeardley on Prince VII, Malton’s Katie Stephens-Grandy on Hey Mr Sandman, Hemsworth’s Abbie Hellewell on Chest Of Gold II and Elise Bradley who represents the village of Hutton Buscel on Finnigans Gold.
Six Yorkshire-based riders also bid for glory in the BE90 section with Stokesley’s Lloyd Newton on Waterbeck Sammy.
He is joined by Goole’s Karen Farnsworth on Lowmoor Sandyman, Masham’s Robyn Chilton on DHI Zeus, Driffield’s Louise Oldroyd on Full Throttle II, Harrogate’s Amie Jayne Slinger on Little Viking and York’s Ellen Hobson on Blue Admiral II.
Competition takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday with Stephenson proud Badminton are braced for a White Rose county invasion.
“We’re flying the flag for Yorkshire and I think it just shows what a strong set of eventers there are up north,” said Stephenson.
“It’s really nice because often the south get a lot more talk and I think it’s so nice to be having so many Yorkshire eventers heading down there.
“I know a few of them – Karen Farnsworth and Katie Stephens, who I have known for a long time and Elise Bradley as well. I think it will be a really good week with such a good atmosphere. It’s nice when you have got some friends going down as well.”
Stephenson will no doubt win plenty of new friends with her riding skills at an event which starts two days before Yorkshire will be represented by Nicola Wilson, Oliver Townend and Gary Parsonage in Badminton’s main event – the CCI four-star class.
Northallerton star Wilson partners both Beltane Queen and One Two Many with Townend on board last year’s runner-up Armada and Beverley ace Parsonage on Sligo Luckyvalier.
But first comes the area’s grassroots’ chance to shine and Stephenson and Coniston Nadal could not be arriving in better form after two wins from two in 2015, although she is keen to avoid the tag of being the county’s best chance.
“I’m definitely not going to say that, no way!” she laughed.
“But I’m definitley in better form now than in 2013.
“I think Alfie had run one event and come seventh and I left fairly confident after that.
“Going in with two wins, I couldn’t be going in any better but I still know there’s a lot to do on the day and there will be other people who are going in with good form.
“But I certainly feel my horse is in better form than when I went last time. He’s gone incredibly well. To get there in the first place you have to be good because it’s not easy to qualify.
“All I can say is I have done my training, the horse is in good form and we’ll give it our best shot.”