The opening day of the Unex Masters at Towerlands saw British riders rule the roost despite opposition from all over Europe and as far afield as Venezuela, Columbia, Bermuda and Australia.
This show is one of just five chances each year for British show jumpers to compete internationally on home soil and has grown in popularity year by year.
Some 350 horses are chasing the £50,000 prize-fund. But it was a rider who competes regularly here who won the opening 90-strong young horse class.
Young rider Nicole Pavitt produced a terrific round in the five-year-old section on the Kannan mare Chakira Van Het Hek and held on to the lead to the end.
Her closest rival was Paul Crago on Liz Hudson’s scopey six-year-old stallion Midnight Man II, a son of Randi bred by John Whitaker.
“I’m quite surprised, but Chakira’s deceptive and never feels like she’s going fast,” said Sussex-based Nicole.
Bob Ellis’s course for the day’s major class produced a 15-horse jump-off, in which Robert Whitaker (Rudeski II) held the lead from his sister, Louise (Azucar).
But 12th-drawn Geoff Luckett made his intentions clear on Pjort and this consistent gelding took the lead by almost 3sec. Vicky Tulloch made a brave bid on her wonderful mare Soliegette, but had to settle for second place.
This win delighted Pjort’s owner and producer Chris Moyce, who handed the ride to Geoff to give his horse more international opportunities.
“It’s almost worse than riding. My heart beats so fast when I watch him jump,” said Kent-based Chris.
The earlier two-phase also went to Kent, courtesy of a brilliant round from Guy Williams on Onyx V. Guy, who reports himself almost recovered from the broken shoulder that has disrupted his season, finished ahead of Laura Renwick and Sablet O in this 117-starter class.
The day’s other winner was local rider Kathleen Baker, whose smile lit up the arena after she galloped to victory in the amateur two-phase on her boyfriend Ben Maher’s Mercurius.
“I’m just so delighted. I’m a true amateur and it’s a dream come true to win at a show like this,” she said.