New names have joined the prestigious roll of honour of Foxhunter winners. Find out how the class played out and what gave Tim Davies and Nielson the winning edge...
Tim Davies and Nielson added their names to the history books with their victory in an electric Equitop GLME senior Foxhunter championship.
This year’s running of the iconic class had a different feel — with the cancellation of Horse of the Year Show, the final was held as part of the British Showjumping Indoor Championships at Aintree International Equestrian Centre, behind closed doors.
With no crowds and no spotlights, this was a new atmosphere for the Foxhunter final, but it felt no less special as the crucial elements remained unaltered — the quality of the field and the standard of the competition.
Tim and the seven-year-old Belgian warmblood owned by Lisa Volk, were drawn fifth to go in the jump-off with one clear ahead of them and three further challengers behind. The scopey chestnut powered off the floor, while also managing to be quick through the air and lost no speed in his turns, storming to the top of the leaderboard and setting a winning time of 40.69 seconds.
“I didn’t think I would be quick enough and I was surprised at how quick he was,” said Tim, adding his turns were the key to his success and his main focus was not to push the horse out of his natural rhythm.
“If you do that, you can end up losing time. I was just trying to keep him jumping out of the rhythm all the time and not trying to change it, just keeping things as smooth as possible. When you have a horse like him, it makes it so much easier because he wants to jump and he wants to jump clear.
“Horses like him deserve to win a big final like this.”
Mark McGowan’s first round track featured criss-crossing lines, with the water tray at fence nine followed by a right-handed dog-leg on either six or seven strides to the double at 10AB proving a true championship question.
Emma Crawford and her Grade C champion Gina Gold served the first clear of the class, swiftly followed by Nigel Coupe and the dapple grey Creevyquin Alice to ensure there was a jump-off. Six more of the 33 starters answered answered all questions asked faultlessly, bringing the total in the jump-off to eight.
While there may have been no spectators there in person, the eyes of the showjumping world could still be felt, albeit from behind computer, phone and tablet screens from homes across the country.
Emma and Gina Gold were first to jump off, with the responsive mare showing what makes her so good — throwing all her effort into every question asked, grunting over each fence and eating up the ground between, all with her ears firmly pricked. The pair stopped the clock in a time of 42.6 seconds, setting a tough target for the others to aim for.
A rail at the oxer in the combination for Nigel, followed by an unlucky pole for Harriett Rushton and Laxon Van De Bosweg at the teetering penultimate Lottery upright, meant Emma held her lead for a while longer.
Lorraine Locke and Artisan I, the sole British-bred horse in the jump-off, produced the next clear in a time of 43.8, meaning Emma and Gina Gold momentarily tightened their grip on the top spot.
Tim and Nielson’s masterful round pushed them into the lead, with the final three riders then further shuffling the lower placings.
Danielle Ryder and Sam VD Tojopehoeve Z went for the win, with the bay showing a serious engine, taking a flyer to the final fence for the runner-up spot in a time of 41.71 seconds.
Last to go was Julie Adams and Gladiator VI. The pair remained in touch of the leaders throughout and didn’t let a broken martinagle put them off, finishing third in 42.13.
“[Nielson] is a horse I think a lot of and I do believe he is going to go on to do great things,” added Tim, explaining his aim had been to make the top three in one of the finals this week.
“It is fantastic for the owner, she found him as a two-year-old and saw something in him, so I’m so pleased for her.
“We all know how difficult it is to find good horses and she has found a real superstar there.
“Most of the horses I ride now are my one, I don’t usually ride for other people anymore.
“Lisa and I do him together and it is a great team and it is so nice to have an owner who is so supportive, whatever happens.
“Her daughter started him off and I took him on a year-and-a-half ago. He’s always been a horse who had lots of jump and I’m just thrilled with him. To win something here is the icing on the cake and for that to be the Foxhunter is just something he so deserves.”
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