‘He’s an all-round athlete’: ‘pocket rocket’ jumps to HOYS working hunter championship

  • Experienced worker contender Matthew Cooper topped the Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain working hunter of the year championship on day one of the 2023 Horse of the Year Show riding his own exceptional gelding Bellvue Tomboy.

    David Cole’s track tested riders’ skill and resolve as much as horses’ scope. There were no trappy fences or awkward distances, but plenty of twists and turns which required accuracy and control. Only six of the 37 starters returned faultless, but a number just had unlucky poles, with several former winners and fancied contenders dropping out of the reckoning.

    The first clear and highest style score — 19/20 — was posted by 2019 winner Hayden Hankey, this time appearing with his scopey Irish-bred grey Curraghgraigue Coevers Quality, an upstanding 10- year-old son of the prolific sire OBOS Quality and a newcomer to the genre.

    In the final reckoning, though, the top spot — for the first time after several years in the bridesmaid’s slot — went to one of the smallest in the field. This was Matthew Cooper with his own Bellvue Tomboy, a home-produced 15.2hh “pocket rocket” — so dubbed by judges Jane Hall and Alicia Pritchard — who combined accuracy with confidence and scope.

    “It was quite a technical course, and needed a committed approach,” said conformation judge Jane Hall. “Some of the horses seemed a bit out of their depth — perhaps the standard of courses at some of the qualifiers should be reviewed. Our winner, though, was a superb example of everything a working hunter should be; I would call him a ‘4 o’clock’ horse as I’d want to stay out on him all day.” “He went through the gears effortlessly — he’s just an all-round athlete,” added Alycia.

    Third was Kieran Baslington with his agile eight-year-old Whixalls Candy Boy, another of the seven Irish-bred finalists.

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