Robert Whitaker wins Arena UK Major grand prix on stallion bred by his famous father

  • John Whitaker provides son Robert with a new superstar, while Charlie Dawson survives a heart-stopping moment to claim the 1.20m at the Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships

    ROBERT WHITAKER landed his fourth Arena UK major grand prix title by a fraction with Vermento, a stallion son of Argento and bred by Robert’s father, John, at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships, Lincs (20-26 September).

    “I brought him here to gain experience. The track was tricky but it was great learning for him – he jumped an amazing first round,” said Robert.

    Mark McGowan’s 13-fence track tested with tall, airy verticals, square oxers and technical complexities. Four of the 39 starters jumped clear with some inevitable hard-luck stories, including Mark Edwards, who joined the jump-off as the fastest four-faulter on Montreuxs Tale. He posted the quickest jump-off time, but another rail fell to drop him to fifth.

    Harry Wainwright’s Pinheiro Beech and Helen Tredwell with Sebastian both posted four faults, but Robert got the audience gasping with a daring inside turn to the penultimate vertical. Then it was down to Ireland’s Paul Kennedy on the experienced Cartown Danger Mouse. They were in contention all the way, but finished 0.01sec in arrears.

    The eight-year-old Vermento is out of the Skippy II mare Vicky Van De Grundeval, a former international ride for Robert.

    “Dad bred him and when I couldn’t find a good horse, he suggested Vermento. He seemed the safe option as we knew him, so my owners Caroline and Stephen Blatchford bought him,” said Robert. “We’ve used Vermento occasionally at stud – he’s so well behaved for a stallion and he’s available to mares, but more jumping experience is the focus.”

    Robert dominated the star of the future championship with the top two places in the nine-horse decider on eight-year-olds Ilaney and I’m Special Too DHH. He has taken over Ilaney as pupil Faye Potter is sidelined following a knee operation.

    “Ilaney’s easy and gives 100% every time,” said Robert, who picked up second on I’m Special Too DHH. “He’s inexperienced but he’s qualified for Horse of the Year Show [HOYS] grade C – he’s one for the future.”

    “Endless scope”

    JUST 10 weeks after giving birth to baby James, Harriette Rushton secured the Foxhunter title on I Am Legend Z.

    “I was back at a show three weeks later,” said Harriette, who bought the I Am Moerhoeves Star mare in Holland 15 months ago. “The jump-off suited her; she has endless scope and stride.”

    Harriette Rushton riding I Am Legend Z at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships

    Joe Trunkfield triumphed on ride of six weeks Grennanstown Sarco Luxhill in a head-to-head with Madison Heath’s Bouncer II to take the Trevor Burrows 1.30m final at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships. Both hit the same fence but Joe was quicker by 4.30sec.

    “He’s a character, he knows he’s good, loves to jump and loves to play as well, but once he’s jumped the first fence he’s away. He’s over 17hh, but like a pony in his head – clever, cheeky and sharp,” said Joe, of the Irish-bred 11-year-old.

    “He’s been second every day, he truly deserves this,” said Charlie Dawson, after taking the 1.20m title in an 11-horse decider on the Swiss-bred Landgee CH. But they almost came to grief midway.

    “He stumbled after a vertical. I had no reins to the next fence but unlike my other ‘buzzy’ horses, he’s chilled and getting used to going fast now,” added Charlie.

    Charlie Dawson riding Landgee CH at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships

    Charlie Dawson survived a difficult moment to win the 1.20m title on Landgee CH.

    Graham Babes claimed the six- and seven-year-old championship by 0.40sec in a competitive 11-horse jump-off on the I’m Special De Muze x Casall seven-year-old, Monks I Am Casall.

    “He’s star quality. We bought him as a yearling and loved him so much, we bought his mother last year – she has an Otangelo foal this time,” said Graham.

    Graham Babes riding Monks I Am Casall at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships

    Graham Babes riding Monks I Am Casall wins the six- and seven-year-old championship.

    Jake Saywell’s horses came to the fore in the age classes at the Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships, with Jake topping the five-year-old with Lente III.

    “She’s big and careful with a big future – Hickstead’s two-week tour has made her,” said Jake, of the Grandorado TN x Tygo mare, bought 18 months ago from Willy van de Ham in Holland.

    Max Swanne claimed the four-year-old style and performance by 20 points on Jake’s impressive Uptons Magic – by the Diarado stallion son Diacontinus.

    “He’s been a flashy jumper with balance and presence from day one. He’s bold, careful and has plenty of stride for a 16hh horse,” said Max, who joined Jake’s Nottinghamshire base in January.

    Alena Hughes – who is based with Michael Whitaker – was crowned under-25 champion with the only double clear in the 12-horse decider on Curly 76.

    “Michael advised going clear but there were four following – it only takes one to beat you, so I did enough to put pressure on,” said Alena, 15, who acquired the 12-year-old Carrico daughter from Helena Stormanns and gained experience in Wellington, USA, and Germany, earlier this year.

    Tom Dovkants outpaced all to take the newcomers title with the Harlequin Du Carel nine-year-old, Penhills Ginger Biscuit.

    “He came as a sales livery a month ago. He’s careful, quick and there’s more to him than just an amateur’s horse,” said Leicestershire-based Tom.

    “I pinched him back”

    A FLYING visit from Denmark paid dividends in the Jade Wilson Ayres 1.10m grand prix for Rosie Gunn and the Arezzo VDL x Indoctro 10-year-old, Jagerbomb.

    “My sister Steph has been riding him all summer and will jump in the HOYS silver league final; I’ve just pinched him back for this show,” said Rosie, who enjoyed a successful Vilamoura tour last year on Jagerbomb. “I’ll watch them at HOYS before I go back to Denmark.”

    Not to be outdone, Steph claimed a victory double, taking the discovery title on Quianti E and won the 1.15m championship on the 11-year-old, Falestra V.

    A new Arena UK record was set as Adrian Speight on Millfield Baloney and Alfie Bradstock aboard H D Or cleared 2.10m to share the puissance honours in front of a packed house. And Charlotte Arnold was the clear winner of the six-bar at 1.90m with the Plot Blue x Voltaire nine-year-old Leestone Blue Voltet.

    Olivia Sponer, 15, landed the 148cm grand prix by more than two seconds in a five-strong decider on Intention EEZ.

    “I’ve had her a year, but it was the first time I’ve asked questions against the clock,” she said.

    Tilly Bamford was one of only two double clears to take the 138cm on Dizzy Rascal by 1.21sec and Liala Ramaci claimed the 128cm final on Lambay Off Broadway with the sole double clear in the jump-off.

    Settling in

    PAUL KENNEDY, second in the major grand prix at Arena UK Major Showjumping Championships, and partner Chloe Winchester have just returned to Chloe’s hometown of Gislingham, Suffolk, after spending several years in Europe.

    “We’ve just had a new arena built by Graham Lovegrove and aim to offer training for all levels of horses and riders,” said Chloe, who spent two years with Belgium’s Karel Cox and the last six months alongside Paul at Karl Schneider’s German base.

    The pair are building a team of horses. Irishman Paul fronts the team with top horse Cartown Danger Mouse, while Chloe is jumping at 1.40m level with Icaterma, owned jointly by Karel with Julia Biddle and Val Attenborough.

    “And Karl also sent over two five-year-olds,” added Chloe.

    • This exclusive report will also be available in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 30 September

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