Robert Smith maintained his position at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the third qualifying competition for this year’s British Open Championship.

A big crowd at Sheffield’s Hallam FM Arena was treated to some top-class show jumping as riders lying towards the cut-off point tried to ensure their place in tomorrow’s final, while those at the head of affairs at the start of the class had to cope with plenty of pressure.

Reigning champion Robert was cool personified, lifting Marius Claudius round the sizeable track in this speed class to finish in fifth place overall and go into tomorrow’s final 3.5 faults ahead of Switzerland’s Maryline Vorpe.

Clear rounds from Tim Gredley (Omelli) and David McPherson (Cabri D’Elle) also lifted them up the order and left them fifth and seventh on the leaderboard, albeit two fences behind Robert.

The class winner was Marcus Fuchs, whose flying performance on Sylver lifted him out of the non-qualifying zone into eighth place overall.

The earlier Zinc Management Classic jump-off class continued the Whitaker family’s wonderful run at this show. Michael never took a pull on Insultech El Capricho Atormentado Z to hold off the German challenge from Franke Sloothaak’s stable jockey Daniel Deusser with Lucas.

“This horse is a proper winner,” said Michael, who is looking forward to the outdoor season with the Argentine-bred bay, who won at Dublin, Aachen and Calgary last season.

Joe Whitaker kept things in the family when he rode the chestnut mare Desdamona to take the World Class Start and Potential title.

Joe, 18, who lives just 10min from the arena, jumped the sole double clear on the 15.2hh mare to win from Andrew Mizon, who lowered a fence in the jump-off on his scopey gret Special Diamond.

This was the biggest win yet for Joe, who took over the ride on the fiery mare only two months ago.

“She might be quirky but she seems able to jump anything,” he said.

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