Records were broken in the puissance at this year’s British Open when a packed Saturday night house saw five horses reach the fifth round and jump again over 7ft 3in.
The “Maestro”, John Whitaker, on Lactic Two and Exploit Du Roulard faced the youthful challenge from his son Robert, who had cleared his highest ever on Finbarr V, last year’s winners, Ben Maher and Eperlan Du Fouquet, and former HOYS puissance winner Robert Maguire, with one of his top rides, Mr Cawley.
In front of his adoring public, John was first in on Lactic, who slithered up and over, somehow leaving the wall intact. Robert almost emulated his father, but the big chestnut Finbarr pushed a brick off, as did Ben and a revved up Eperlan Du Fouquet.
Back came John on Exploit, who produced his best jump yet and gave the fence inches to spare, so it was all down to Robert Maguire. The young Lancastrian was giving Mr Cawley only his second ever puissance outing and they went out early in the first one, at Belfast. The Irish-bred chestnut has his own way of tackling the wall , but he boldly threw his heart over and it stayed up.
“‘Rhubarb’ would go higher still,” assessed John of Exploit, while Robert Maguire was delighted and surprised.
“I entered as a warm-up for the big class tomorrow. I expected to be out by round two,” he said.
Earlier, Belgian Olympian Dirk Demeersman became the “speed king” in the knockout, riding the big bay Tibaldi to beat Britain’s Mark Armstrong and Rex by a fraction in an entertaining final.
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