Robert Whitaker made his intentions perfectly clear in the first Speed leg of the British Open Championships with a decisive win on La Croix 9.

A previous title winner in 2004, Robert relentlessly attacked the fences with accurate precision on the German bred 12-year-old.

“He’s naturally very quick” said Robert, at his first show for six weeks with this athletic bay, who was kept fit by hacking around the Yorkshire hills while Robert was jumping on the Spanish Sunshine Tour.

Points amassed from the three qualifying classes — riders can select different horses for each competition — will see the top 20 riders contend Sunday’s Final.

Robert intends to use the powerful La Croix again in Friday’s jump-off class.

Young Dutch rider Maikel Van Der Vleuten currently lies in second after Thursday when finishing a sec behind Robert while early target setter Shane Breen took third on the big and scopey World Cruise.

Foreign riders took the lion’s share of prizes when Heinrich Engemann and Geir Gulliksen outpaced all.

Nick Skelton left little room for improvement with a storming opener on Russel in the nine-strong Midlands Masters jump-off with a risky gallop to the last, but Geir went quicker with the enthusiastic Lord II Z.

“He’s super sound and rides as well as ever” said Geir, who had sold the 15-year-old to Judy-Ann Melchior two years ago but recently purchased him back.

Heinrich Engemann landed a Two Phase with Late Night.

“Going early gave me an advantage, the surface was not so good in the end” said Heinrich.

Robert Whitaker’s early standard on Rusedski took second.

With £5,000 up for grabs the BSJA Winter Premier Grand Prix promised a hot competition and spectators were not disappointed.

A known speedster and just returned from a successful four week stint on Portugal’s Atlantic Tour, Paul Barker set a sizzling standard riding Quinton.

But they were no match for determined Ellen Whitaker, who shaved two secs from the time with a series of efficient turn-backs on Cortaflex Kanselier, who is now jointly owned with Dawn Makin.

Lance Whitehouse headed the World Class Development Programme Pathfinder on Graham Sparkes’s My Boy.

RESULTS

World Class Development Programme Pathfinder
1. My Boy Lance Whitehouse
2. Seander Louis Godber
3. Whinny Jackson Anthony Condon, IRE

Birmingham City Shield
1. Late Night Heinrich Engemann, GER
2. Rusedski II Robert Whitaker, GBR
3. Sonybanta Paul Barker, GBR

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s extended eight-page report on the British Open. Will Britain’s top 10 riders be able to reclaim the title from the strongest field put forward in the show’s history? Comments and analysis of the competition, as well as reports on the national finals at the event will be published in Horse & Hound’s British Open report issue, on sale 10 April, priced £2.30