Grand start to year is big boost 
for Stephenson

MARKET Weighton’s Lucie Stephenson is eyeing a top 10 finish at the Badminton Grassroots Championships after the perfect start to 2015 at the Askham Bryan Horse Trials.

Lucinda Stephenson, on Coniston Nadal at the recent Equi-Trek Askham Bryan Horse Trails. Picture: James Hardisty.

For Stephenson it will be her second appearance at Badminton in three years, only this time on a different horse and in a different name.

Stephenson competed in the BE90 final of 2013’s Badminton Grassroots Championships as Lucie Cawood, before she was married.

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Two years later, the 27-year-old is heading back for the BE100 final as Lucinda Stephenson, following her marriage to Jim in June 2014.

Stephenson took Alfie XX to Badminton’s 2013 final with the duo finishing a highly respectable 11th and, two years later, seven-year-old gelding Coniston Nadal is her new project.

The duo got their new eventing season off to the perfect start on Saturday with victory in their BE100 class of the inaugural spring Askham Bryan Horse Trials.

Stephenson was full of praise for a new two-day event that now forms four-days of action at Askham Bryan with another two-day fixture including a new Novice section taking in place in October.

Stephenson herself is eyeing the step up to Novice level with Coniston Nadal, nicknamed Herbie, but not before attempting to break into the top 10 at Badminton.

“We’re Badminton bound again this year which is so exciting, especially as it’s in the BE100 class this time,” she said.

“Let’s hope this is the start of a great season for us.

“My aim for Badminton is to finish higher than I did last time and therefore in the top 10 which I think is perfectly possible at this stage.

“2013 was brilliant and showed me that hard work really does pay off. It sounds like a cliché but if you work hard and are thorough in your training then the results really do start to come.

“The atmosphere in 2013 was great and it was lovely to have my family there to support. They’ve promised to come down again this year so I’m really looking forward to it. I really believe in Herbie so am hopeful he will go on to Novice and beyond.

“I would be moving him up to Novice now if we weren’t heading to Badminton so, hopefully, it’s just a matter of time.”

It certainly looked that way at the weekend when a fine dressage test was preceded by a double clear at Askham Bryan.

There were also victories at BE100 level for Doncaster’s Sophie Platt on Caesar II, York’s Amelia Crawford on Artistiek II and Huddersfield’s Sue Chadwick on Penhill Promising Vision.

Thirsk’s Colin Rae bagged a BE90 class on Cavalcadour at an event which also provided the launchpad for rising Yorkshire eventing stars such as Harrogate’s Hazel Towers, Richmond’s Storm Straker, Breckenbrough’s Chloe Bell and Bedale’s Sara Bowe.

And there was no denying the delight of victorious Stephenson, both with her result at Askham Bryan and the event as a whole.

“We had a great weekend and couldn’t have started the season off any better,” said Stephenson, a marketing manager for Costcutter Supermarkets Group whose head office is near York.

“In the back of my mind in the lead up to Askham Bryan I knew Herbie was going really well and all of the training was paying off but I didn’t expect him to go that well. He never put a foot wrong all day, he did a beautiful dressage test and gave me a personal best score of 22.8 and then followed it up with a double clear inside the time. I couldn’t ask for any more.

“The event was excellent, it was particularly well run and the going was great. It had been snowing earlier in the week so for the ground to be as good as it was was very impressive.

“The whole thing was very friendly and ultimately it was great to have an event like that so early in the season on our doorstep.”

Yorkshire’s leading eventing rider, Huddersfield’s world No 4 Oliver Townend, travelled slightly further afield to Isleham in Cambridgeshire where he began with two victories.

Note Worthy scooped his Open Novice class with Equi-Trek Bramham Horse Trials probable ODT Ghareeb taking his Open Intermediate class.

Lambourn-based Laura Collett was the star of the weekend with two victories, two seconds and a third.

The nearest eventing action to Yorkshire this weekend comes at Oasby in Lincolnshire with Tweseldown in Hampshire and Poplar Park in Suffolk also hosting trials. Townend has an army of horses heading to Oasby while world No 1 William Fox-Pitt begins his season at Tweseldown.