Thursday night of Horse of the Year Show (9 October 2014) revolves around the H&H Foxhunter championship — it’s the place to spot future equine superstars as the current crop of novices battle it out for one of the most prestigious titles in the country. So which of this year’s 24 finalists might we see in the winner’s enclosure?
1. Aiming for the hat-trick
Essex-based Laura Renwick is no stranger to the Foxhunter final and has claimed the title twice — in 2006 with Limelight De Breve and in 2010 on Parvati De Breve. She looks to have an ideal contender this year in the seven-year-old Belgian-bred Heliodor Hybris, by Diamant De Semilly out of Carpe Diem Luka (Cannonball), who has been primed with this class in mind. The pair won a tough qualifier at Bury Farm in June and, with plenty of international experience under their belts since, including a raft of rosettes in the prestigious young horse classes, the powerful chestnut looks to have all the credentials to win this competitive championship. “He is a big horse with a good brain and attitude and this was always our aim,” says Laura.
2. The speed merchant
With the speedy Guy Williams on board — winner of the title in 2011 on Djakarta, who is now jumping in Canada with Andrea Strain — the eight-year-old Gorre (Toulon/Ferre) looks set to be ably guided into the ribbons in what tends to be a notoriously speedy jump-off to decide the Foxhunter champion. They may not have been in partnership very long — Mark Williams produced the gelding, who was ridden to 1.30m by his son James, before Guy’s stable jockey Pippa Goddard first took over the reins — but Guy passes on his winning determination to all his rides so Valerie Whitfield’s rising star could be in the shake-up. “He’s green but careful and has plenty of blood,” says Guy.
3. Keeping the flag flying for British-breds
Helen Tredwell is another rider who knows what it takes to produce a Foxhunter champion. She won in 2003 with the great mare Opportunity B, who went on to huge success and produced her first foal earlier this year. British-bred horses have had a phenomenal record in the past couple of years with Billy Balou (William Funnell) and Wordsworth II (Simon Buckley) taking top honours. Stella Furnival’s Unbelievable Darco/Animo eight-year-old Sebastian VII came to Helen at the start of the season and the pair qualified as runners-up at Addington.
4. The slick producer
The Shropshire-based Irishman Anthony Condon has built a solid reputation as a producer of young horses — just look at the success of Molly Malone V, now under the saddle of Bertram Allen, at the World Equestrian Games last month — and he looks to have a potential champion in Balzac, with whom he won the Hand EC qualifier. Kat Taylor’s KWPN eight-year-old by Oklund was originally produced by Dave Quigley, but went to 27-year-old Anthony, former stable jockey to Billy Twomey, and has been campaigning second rounds this summer.
5. Coming to the final with HOYS form
The nine-year-old Heartbreaker/Calvados gelding A Brightwood Ursa Major has decent HOYS form, having finished sixth in last year’s grade C championship and, with Team GBR rider Holly Gillott, 25, this pair will start as one of the favourites. Holly took over the ride from Alex Bratt at the start of last year. “He’s been chucked in the deep end ever since I’ve ridden him; he was only in newcomers but I needed another horse to run with Dougie [Douglas],” says Holly, who has rocketed the gelding into grade A status with good international results. “He’s coping with bigger classes but still getting the mileage. Luckily he’s honest, careful and always does his best — next year he’ll come into his own.”
Read the full Horse of the Year Show preview in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (2 October 2014)