Ireland’s Jessica Kurten moved to the top of the British Open rankings after the jump-off leg on Friday night.

Bob Ellis’s big course produced a terrific nine-horse jump-off, where Jessica came from penultimate draw on Galopin De Bioley to beat Belgium’s Kristof Cleeren on another scopey stallion, Sea Coast Conan, by almost 0.5sec.

In a good class for the Irish, Billy Twomey rode Anastasia into third place, just ahead of Mark Armstrong, once again the best of the Brits on Thesaura.

Jessica Kurten took the ride on the 13-year-old Galopin in January. “And he’s getting better every time he competes,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Dutchman Eric van der Vleuten completed a winning double when he and the Andiamo mare Pitareusa held off Britain’s Paul Barker on Blue Chip Quinton in an entertaining easibed Accumulator.

But it was the early evening class that really headlined 17-year-old William Whitaker’s talent. Already looking certain — barring a disaster — to qualify for the British Open final itself, the junior European Champion took on the others in his age group in the British Equestrian Federation World Class Start and Potential Under-23 Classic.

There was again a tremendous jump-off. Classy Irishman Anthony Condon jumped a great jump-off round on Killy Jones, but William and Insultech Leonardo cut the corners tighter and crossed the line more than 1sec ahead.

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s indepth report on all the action for the British Open in Birmingham in next Thursday’s magazine (19 April, ’07)