‘Win or go home’: Ben Walker claims speed horse title at British Showjumping national championships

  • Ben Walker and Fygo Von D’Ouwe Grint are brilliantly consistent performers on the national circuit and finally they were rewarded with a high-profile win when they claimed the national speed horse title at the British Showjumping National Championships (3-10 Aug).

    Emma Ziff and Pennie Cornish’s 11-year-old gelding is rarely beaten at 1.30m and 1.40m level and proved himself fiercely competitive round this 1.45m table C track, as he led the field from 15th to go.

    Several highly consistent partnerships tallied uncharacteristic faults — particularly at the combination and double — leaving Ben’s bold early clear standing an unequivocal 4.75ec proud of the rest of the field.

    Karl Robins and G Camille HBF, who were equal third in yesterday’s national 1.40m final, were the next fastest combination, while Sienna Charles and Havanna M collected third place despite adding 4sec for a rail down.

    “When I walked it, I thought it was strong enough for a speed class — you don’t get many table Cs with a combination and for some reason, the way the combination was placed caused a lot of them to back off, or not come off the floor properly,” Ben said.

    “Early on I thought I’d come out in the top five. There were a lot of other horses capable of going that speed, but I had luck on my side. Mark Edwards (Tinker’s Tale) beat me on time, but had two down — and he never just lets me win,” he added.

    “It was always in my head that it would be a really fast class and so I set off at the pace I normally would on that horse — win or go home!”

    Ben originally rode Fygo as a four-year-old and he was then sold to a client who took an impressive run of victories in age classes before starting to jump world rankings classes on him when he was eight.

    “She gave up and went to uni and as he has a few quirks, we ended up having him back,” Ben said.

    “Before Covid I’d jump him in trials and stairways where he was a bit out of his depth, but tried his hardest for me. As other horses came through I dropped him down a level — he’s normally amazing up to 1.45m, if he’s clear he’s unbeatable.

    “This show I decided to step him back up and see what happened and where he’s not doing big classes day in and day out, it paid off.”

    There are five opportunities for national riders to land a wild card for the international classes at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in October and this championship was one of three legs that form the British Showjumping national championships show league.

    The final element of the league is tomorrow’s international stairway final, the winner of which also gets a wild card — as does the winner of the international stairway league and the two highest placed riders in the gold league.

    “I’d love to get to the international classes at HOYS as I have never got in — the year I had Roulette [who was sold to the US for Amanda Derbyshire to ride] and was winning a lot of trials there was a mess up with the points and I thought I’d qualified but I hadn’t,” said Ben, who currently has 11 horses capable of jumping 1.40m-plus tracks.

    “This was a title I have been aiming him for and I think he’d definitely be one for the speed horse of the year at HOYS if we got in.”

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