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Matthew Sampson, 16, won the 2006 Squibb & Davies National Junior Foxhunter Championship at the Horse of the Year Show this morning. Sheffield-based Sampson produced a lightening-quick jump-off round aboard Stainsby Style to take the £450 first prize ahead of Hannah West. “It felt amazing,” said an ecstatic Sampson afterwards. “This is my biggest win, except for the Europeans.”

Sampson was a member of the gold medal winning British team at this year’s Pony European Championships in Saumur, France. But the National Junior Foxhunter Championship was never going to be an easy ride for him. The line-up of top class juniors included fellow team member Louise Saywell and last year’s junior Foxhunter winners Claire Bailey and Who’s Bob.

Only ten combinations made it through to the jump off from a field of 27. Joe Clayton and Double Time took the early lead as the second round got underway but their steady 44.06 sec time was later trumped by Hannah West with McFly III and Louise Saywell and Okehurst Wild n Willing.

As Sampson entered the ring as last to jump off, silence fell in the grandstands. But Sampson – a true professional – did not crack under the pressure. A 33.84 sec clear round with Stainsby Style made him the clear winner, over two seconds ahead of Hannah West. Louise Saywell finished third with Joe Clayton in fourth place.

Sampson was delighted with the result. The Junior Foxhunter is one of the most prestigious junior prizes on the circuit and previous winners include Louise Pavitt (2001) and William Whitaker (2004).

On a sadder note, the result marks an end to his partnership with the “incredible” eight-year-old bay mare Stainsby Style. “She’s going back to her owner (Mr P Allen),”Sampson told HHO, “his daughter Pippa is taking over the ride.”