For five days (4-8 April 2018) Hartpury Arena in Gloucestershire hosted a jam-packed schedule for the Blue Chip Winter Championships — with winners coming in all shapes and sizes...

Don’t miss the full report from the Blue Chip Winter Championships in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (12 April 2018)

1. A strong and independent winner…

“She’s ginger, sharp in the ring but laid-back in the stable. She’s a strong, independent character who likes her own space,” says Alex Thompson on his grand prix winner Cathalina V.

2. A close call

Kerry Brennan’s winning run with Wellington came to an end at exactly the wrong moment after nine consecutive victories. The Andrews Bowen £1,000 bonus — on offer to one of the top three in the Blue Chip Pro challenge who go on to win the Blue Chip grand prix — was in Kerry’s sights after winning the Pro on Thursday night. “We were clear in the grand prix up to the final fence, but ‘Welly’ just rolled the first part of the double. I knew it had to come to an end at some point,” says Kerry.

3. Eyes on the prize

Ami Measor finally realised a dream ambition — to win a rug! “I’ve always wanted to win a rug — and the one time I won at Scope, there wasn’t a rug for that class. I’ve been coming to Blue Chips since my pony days and brought B and C winner Plucain since his British novice days, and it has taken us 10 years to finally win that rug!”

4. In the spotlight

Emma-Jo Slater’s five-year-old Blue Chip discovery winner Kimba Uttah coped with his first presentation ceremony despite the spotlights, music, rug and sash, although he put in the occasional ‘bunny hop’ bucks waiting for his rosette. “I wonder what goes through their mind. His face was a picture and he certainly looks confused as if to say — ‘Why am I standing still, I usually canter and jump in a ring?’ and ‘Why am I cantering round wearing a rug, rugs are my pyjamas when I go to bed!’” muses owner/breeder Kim Barzilay.

5. From the office to the ring

Blue Chip championship secretary Amanda Bywater managed to take time out to jump Triple Twist in the B and C Dynamic championship —  and finished eighth on a double clear. “I’ve been so busy in the office — especially the last month until 10pm at night — she’s only done three shows since November. Even when we were warming up I was taking phone calls, but she’s so talented. She’s the calm one and takes it in her stride,” says Amanda. “Some thought the course was big — from where I was sitting it was ginormous but she just kept going, even when the saddle was slipping to the side in the jump-off!”

6. Fast and furious

“I would have been in trouble if we hadn’t have won, Di told me not to go too fast,” said Ryan Page after winning the novice title on Di Fairclough’s six-year-old stallion Varco II – “but he likes going at a faster pace.”

7. From humble beginnings

Blue Chip power championship winner Sophie Cornwell-Boote’s Vanilla Ice III didn’t get the best start in life. The home-bred filly bred by Sophie’s mother Jackie Cornwell was made an orphan at two days old – “We hand-reared her between us,” said Sophie.

8. Revision on hold

Alice Young claimed a ‘sick day’ away from revision for her GCSE’s to visit the Blue Chip championships, and promptly won the JC/JA Pro sparkle with Suzie Two Coats, her only pony. It marked their biggest win. “We had qualified for the coral championship on Sunday as well, but I can’t afford two days off with exams looming — I want to do well in A levels and go to University,” says Norwich High School for Girls student Alice.

9. A cheeky winner

Amateur and one-horse rider Catherine Mills works full-time as an accountant and only sees her Star championship winner Florian Van Orshof at weekends. “I live and work in Exeter an hour away from Florian in North Devon with my parents Maryann and Robert. They keep him fit for me, although it’s probably a good job Florian goes out and wins at weekends — he’s very cheeky and I’m sure my dad would sell him if he wasn’t a winner,” she says.

10. One to watch

Diminutive Catrin Griffith, 11, and her wonderful 14-year-old 138cm Brynsaeth Jake may have gone the long way round in the sapphire championship jump-off, but they cleared every fence and stole the hearts of the audience, commentator Matt Millin and the judges, drawing a huge cheer as they cleared the last fence.

11. Transport woes

Kerry Brennan uses a trailer when only travelling one or two horses to a show instead of the big lorry, and only attended the Blue Chip championships with one horse — Blue Chip Pro challenge winner Wellington M. “When we reached the show, we realised the trailer had a puncture, but Martin [Smith, stepdad] soon changed the wheel — and hitched the trailer in the air with ‘Welly’ still in it!”

12. Stepping up to the job

Ami Measor’s B and C winner has a rude nickname for a reason… “He does everything wrong in the stable, you cannot school him as he misbehaves so I just have to hack him out — but he’ll go in the ring and jump anything you put in front of him, it’s his saving grace.”

13. A hairy presentation

“Quick, put the rosette on, he’s standing still to do a poo,” said Harry Foulds to his mum Deana as his excitable pony Magic Moments IV spun around in ever decreasing circles during the Eskadron discovery presentation.

14. Collecting Blue Chip titles

Jessica Howard claimed a victory double in the sapphire and coral championships with Tinkas Gentleman Jim, two years after winning both novice and discovery titles on Rocky Robin I. “I haven’t quite won all five Blue Chip pony classes — we missed out on the JC/JA sparkle, but I won the JC section of this handicap last year on Rocky,” says Jessica, who was third overall behind two JA ponies.

15. A Blue Chip veteran

Emma-Jo Slater is a veteran of the Blue Chip championships stretching over more than two decades and has clocked up nine championship wins. She won her first championship aged 18-years-old some 21 years ago. That year — 1997 — she finished first and second in the winter novice with Vatches Red October and Ridgeside Amadaeus. Three of Emma’s championship winners have gone on to International fame — Billy Twomey’s London 2012 ride Tinkas Serenade won the 2006 star title, Lizziemary, a 5* winner for Billy and Israel’s Danielle Goldstein, won the 2013 power title and Kimba Flamenco, now embarking on his International career with Billy, headed the 2016 Karma performance championships. 2010 star winner Uttah Van Het Indihof is the dam of both Kimba Flamenco and Kimba Uttah — Emma-Jo’s 2018 discovery champion. Both were bred by owner Kim Barzilay.

Don’t miss the full report from the Blue Chip Winter Championships in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (12 April 2018)

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday