Jessica Kurten’s smile lit up the Olympia arena after Ireland’s number one rider won the final afternoon’s World Cup qualifier and simultaneously confirmed her place in next April’s final.
Jessica had to produce a special round, first to demote Swedish star Malin Baryard-Johnsson (Butterfly Flip) and then hold off the last-ditch challenge from Britain’s Nick Skelton (Arko III).
The seven-horse jump-off included four British representatives, with John Whitaker’s double clear on Peppermill good enough for fourth place, Tim Stockdale fifth with Fresh Direct Corlato and Michael Whitaker, who had the worst of the draw, settling for seventh with Suncal Portofino.
“I was relieved to get into the jump-off, as I wasn’t feeling well, then the adrenalin took over and I decided to go for it,” said Jessica.
Both Jessica and Nick followed John Whitaker’s example and took a stride out to the final fence.
“But I gave up a bit two strides out and thought I wouldn’t make it. I sat back, braced myself for the crash and Arko was really good to me to clear it,” said Nick.
The rest of the day belonged to Robert Whitaker. After being assured of the £10,000 prize as leading rider, the 24-year-old Yorkshireman was back at the head of the line in the H&M Masters.
Alois Pohlmann-Schweckhorst looked certain to take the £14,500 prize home to Germany, but Robert was inspired and rode Prima Vera to victory by 0.29sec.
“I’ve been coming to Olympia since I was a kid and there’s no show like it,” said Robert afterwards.
Robert’s father John was at the head of the line earlier in the evening when he held off his 18-year-old nephew William in the H&N British Challenge. And to keep things in the family, William was riding Carnaval Path, a horse bred by his mentor, John’s brother Michael.
The day began with two hard-fought national classes, which both produced worthy winners.
Pony European team gold medallist Jordan Whittaker had to produce the round of her life to beat another member of the European squad, Emma Stoker, in the BSJA Rising Stars Championship.
Emma and Tick Tock Two Tone held the lead until the end of the 10-horse jump-off and it took a special round from Jordan and Edsilia to beat them.
Edsilia is for sale because Jordan will now move into young riders classes.
“I’ve got the grade A Pauldary’s Tiger’s Flight and a novice horse to ride,” she said.
Another rider with future European pony team ambitions gained her best ever win when Amy Inglis partnered Ellen Whitaker to victory in the H&M Pony Club mini major relay.
West Sussex-based Amy, the daughter of British team rider Duncan Inglis, represented the Southdown Hunt west branch on her 128cm pony J’s Junior.
“He’s more than amazing,” she said.
Ellen, who was scoring her first victory of the show, was grateful to her partner.
“I knew I could rely on Amy to help me win,” she said.
Results (top three and all British placings)
BSJA Rising Stars
1. Edsilia (Jordan Whittaker)
2. Tick Tock Two Tone (Emma Stoker)
3. Gold Harvest (Jordan Nason)
H&M Pony Club Mini-Major relay
1. Cortaflex Kanselier (Ellen Whitaker) & J’s Junior (Amy Inglis)
2. Una II (Guy Williams) & Strawberry Twist (Aoife Dooley)
3. Animation II (Tim Stockdale) & Racing Stripes (Harriet Barsham)
Rolex World Cup qualifier
1. Castle Forbes Libertina (Jessica Kurten), IRE
2. Arko III (Nick Skelton)
3. Butterfly Flip (Malin Baryard-Johnsson), SWE
4. Peppermill (John Whitaker)
5. Fresh Direct Corlato (Tim Stockdale)
7. Suncal Portofino (Michael Whitaker)
9. Sefana (Mark Armstrong)
H&M British Challenge
1. Azucar/Casino (John Whitaker)
2. Carnaval Path (William Whitaker)
3. Lavaletta II (Mark Armstrong)
4. Cortaflex Amber Du Montois (William Funnell)
5. Merva Des Hayettes (Guy Williams)
6. Rusedski II (Robert Whitaker)
7. Animation II/Lou Lou (Tim Stockdale)
8. Lady Des Hayettes (Michael Whitaker)
9. Mr Springfield (Robert Smith)
10. Henri De Here (Ellen Whitaker)
1. Prima Vera (Robert Whitaker)
2. Paparazzi (Alois Pohlmann-Schweckhorst)
3. Kalusha (Robert Smith)
5eq. Insultech Mozart Des Hayettes (Michael Whitaker)