Franke Sloothaak started his challenge for the British Open title in fine style with a victory in the opening table C leg at Sheffield on Thursday. The German former World Champion gave an object lesson in riding quickly without appearing to go fast on Sundance K to beat British number one Robert Smith’s flyer on Kalusha by less than 1sec.

In a class that produced few clear rounds, Billy Twomey was third for Ireland on Anastasia, just ahead of Robert Whitaker, who led for a long time from an early draw with Nicolette.

Also well in the points was late qualifier Richard Davenport, who would have won but for rolling a pole at the final double on Florie Du Moulin and dropping to fifth spot. Nick Skelton also made a good start to his championship defence with sixth place on Russel.

“I watched Robert go and I though he was quick, but my horse got into a good canter and stayed in it,” said Franke.

Robert Smith went one place better in the Sheffield Masters when a brilliant clear on Marius Claudius proved much too good for his nine jump-off rivals. Harry Smolders was second for Holland on Omar, with Tim Gredley — winner of the earlier young riders class on Medrano — jumping a great clear on Omelli for third place.

Honours were well shared among the nationalities after Norway’s Geir Gulliksen opened the show with victory in the Steel City Shield on William Funnell’s former ride, Cortaflex Kristal.