Tactics and talent prove a winning recipe as veteran star scores grand prix win

  • Kerry Brennan and Wellington M claimed both grand prix qualifiers before taking top honours in Sunday’s feature class at the British Showjumping Indoor Championship Finals. Find out more about the pair and their winning tactics...

    Kerry Brennan and her veteran superstar Wellington M took home the complete grand prix set with wins in both qualifiers and a stellar victory in the main event on the final night of the British Showjumping Indoor Championship Finals at Aintree International Equestrian Centre.

    The pair, who have been travelling between Kerry’s yard in Chesterfield and the venue in a trailer daily, topped the podium in Sunday’s (11 October) grand prix following a masterfully judged jump-off round.

    Kerry and the 17-year-old “Welly”, owned by Liane Smith, were last to go and kept a forward rhythm and got inside the head of course designer Mark McGowan to understand the questions he was asking and answer them flawlessly.

    “Mark always builds clever courses,” said Kerry. He doesn’t have to build too big, but he knows how to catch them out. I think it was a really good course and it suited Welly.

    “To start with I thought it was going to be proper fast [jump-off] because there was long runs [between fences], but it actually caught people out and came down to good jumping rounds that were the top few.”

    A total of 13 of the 44 starters progressed through to the jump-off, with four of those ending on clean jumping sheets.

    The jump-off course made full use of the arena, with combinations asked to choose between eight and nine strides down to the second fence, a full 1.50m-wide oxer. The roll-back turn to the red post box upright also caught out several pushing for the time, with course designer Mark McGowan commenting competitors who were caught out were those “riding for the time, not the course”. This matched with the results, as all the four-faulters times would have been good enough for a podium place had they jumped clear.

    Keith Shore and Mystic Hurricane provided the first double clear of the class, swiftly followed Gemma Ellison and her own British-bred sassy liver chestnut mare Cynthia Flint who set the standard to beat at 42.69 seconds.

    With Gemma still in the lead with two left to jump, she knew she was guaranteed a top-three finish.

    Tim Davies, fresh from his win in Saturday’s Foxhunter, was the penultimate rider to go, this time on Barrett Watson’s bright chestnut Lionel Van De Markieslanden, the joint winner of the 2019 talent seekers final.

    The pair bounded ahead by almost four seconds, with the nine-year-old showing his extra athleticism by throwing in a buck mid-round, but their lead was short lived with Kerry and her “horse of a lifetime” last to go, powering into first place.

    “I watched Tim from the shoot and realised how quick I needed to be without pushing [Welly] too far,” she said.

    With Kerry firmly securing her top spot on the final podium, Tim claimed the runner-up position with Gemma in third.

    Tim explained his tactics from his winning Foxhunter round of establishing a rhythm were also key in the grand prix.

    “I think it is so important not to get carried away,” he said.

    “For me I like to stay in that rhythm, keep it smooth, keep it tight and although he is nine we haven’t done loads this year so I just thought he was fantastic tonight stepping up to that level.

    “He can be a little bit bucky and a little bit naughty, the only buck he decided to do all week was in the jump-off today. But I’ll forgive him that and I’m quite happy to come second to Kerry. She says she goes slowly, but I know how fast she goes!”

    Gemma found a last-minute change of bit was a good move ahead of the grand prix.

    “Yesterday she didn’t quite feel on her game, so I changed the bit this morning and did some flatwork to make a decision if I should jump her today — we were almost going to go home,” she said, adding she swapped the 10-year-old mare from a Cheltenham gag to a Happy Tongue Pelham, with the reins on the D-ring.

    “I think the change in pressure on her mouth, the port relief with the tongue, she seemed so much happier. After jumping the first round, going into the jump-off she just felt really confident. I’ve known she’s got talent, it’s just getting to that point of getting it out of her.

    “It’s quite a gamble going in a grand prix with a different bit, but she seemed really happy so I’m over the moon.

    “When I learnt the jump-off course, I was a little concerned about the long runs to the verticals and that number one was a vertical off the wall. My mare is naturally much better at her oxers, but she’s not really competed at that height before in a jump-off class and she just seemed to grow in confidence from the first round.

    “We had in mind Keysoe for next month and the winter classic shows; Dad is keen to go abroad and she’s certainly made our future plans a bit more exciting by being competitive in that kind of class.”

    Fourth place went to Keith and Mystic Hurricane, with Mark Edwards (Montreuxs Tale) and Robert Murphy (High Quality) the fastest two combinations with a rail, finishing fifth and sixth respectively.