Enthusiastic crowds packed out the LG Arena for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) on Saturday night and they were treated to a gem of a puissance.
In a five-round thriller, the spoils were shared between Joe Clayton on class specialist Leonardo 592 and Douglas Duffin riding puissance debutant Volcano.
“I only practised over a 1.60m wall at home, but he never says no to anything,” said Douglas.
Joe, who was jumping the big red wall at HOYS for the first time added: “I knew I could trust him — he has all the confidence so I just needed confidence in myself.”
It was also a great day for Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker as he won a brace of international classes on the penultimate day of HOYS.
The 24 competitors forward for the Sky Sports Trophy faced a stiff track and all but five fell victim to the first round traps. But Michael Whitaker, riding Nick Ward’s Wild Rose II — still only an eight-year-old — won with the only double clear of the class.
“There were some difficult lines and the combination came quick but she jumped really well,” said Michael.
He then followed up with victory in the accumulator with Viking V, although barely a second separated the top five riders.
“He’s quite a character — he’s highly strung, but the more you ask him, the better, he jumps,” said Michael.
The younger generation took centre stage on Saturday morning with some exciting competitions.
The HOYS 128cm championship went to 12-year-old Harry Charles, son of international rider Peter, with the youngest of his three jump-off rides Murkas Headmore Little Lightning.
“It feels fabulous,” said Harry, who took some longer routes but kept up the pace to beat Joshua Bridge (Grianagh Harley) into second place. “I tested the lines on my first ride (Murkas Flinor Songbird) and set the pace but she (Lightning) is lovely to ride.”
Only five made the jump-off of the HOYS 138cm championship, but it still made for a nail-biting finale. Christie Pritchard (14) was reunited with former partner Bear Me In Mind and took an early lead. Olivia Poole looked to have snatched the lead from last draw, but the clock stopped 0.14sec slower.
“I was shocked — even though I knew he’d do well,” said Christie. “I was biting my nails as Olivia went round though.”
A fabulous new talent emerged in the Harry Jo & Co six-year-old championship. Quantas II, a striking grey mare by Quality, headed a formidable field with Louise Saywell in the saddle.
“It doesn’t feel like riding a six-year-old — she’s so mature,” said former pony rider Louise. “Lots of horses go into the main arena and ‘shrink’ but not her.”