Alfie Bradstock and Guy Williams were crowned joint winners of the Thistledown Puissance at the 2018 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
Alfie, who was riding on H. D’Or, and Guy aboard Mr Blue Sky UK — both striking grey horses — were the only two combinations to clear the massive 7ft 1inch (2.16m) wall in the fifth round of the hotly-contested class on Saturday night (6 October).
This was the second puissance class Alfie has ever contested, the first being at Arena UK last month.
The 24-year-old had a successful eventing career before focusing on showjumping, winning team gold at both the pony and junior Europeans. He represented Britain at the young rider showjumping European Championships in 2015 after switching disciplines.
Alfie took being cool under pressure to a new level, producing five foot-perfect rounds aboard the 11-year-old gelding, owned by Darragh Magner.
After landing, clear, over the wall for a final time, he punched the air before patting and pointing to the eye-catching Catwalk Van De Helle gelding as the crowd cheered.
He modestly summed up his masterful victory to the audience.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he smiled in his post-win interview with host Gareth Jenkins . “It means a lot as I’ve only just set up on my own after being with the Fletchers, so it means a lot.”
Earlier in the class, he admitted to Gareth that he wasn’t really feeling the nerves.
“The worst he is going to do is knock it down, so there’s no need to get nervous,” said Alfie.
Guy and the nine-year-old gelding, owned by Caroline Phillips, also made the huge effort look easy, producing five lovely clears to share the glory.
“He’s a bit green and there’s not much steering, but he jumps big jumps,” said Guy.
“It’s good [to win], the public all come and it’s a really popular class.”
In third place was Leicestershire-based Joss Williams — who was riding in memory of teenager Bradley John — aboard the fantastically brave 18-year-old mare, Culmore Prospect.
The Irish-bred chestnut mare, owned by Joss and Cheri Williams, looked to be relishing the atmosphere, just catching the final wall.
Fourth went to Kimberly White, who made it to the fourth round with her own 13-year-old gelding Catapult.
Article continues below…
You might also be interested in:
Charlotte Dujardin claimed HOYS victory on another of her future grand prix stars
Get a great £5 Amazon.co.uk gift card when you subscribe to Horse & Hound magazine
The rider has kept up his remarkable unbeaten record in the class
Drama, emotion… and a telling off
A total of 14 riders from three countries came forward for the Saturday night showpiece at the NEC, which boasted a prize pot of £15,000.
Bob Ellis built the wall at 1.80m to start and there was action from the outset, with two fallers (Murray McLeish and Dominic Webb), one retirement and 10 combinations making it through to the second round.
Dominic slid out the side door after the triple bar following a miscommunication with Rockstown Park, resulting in elimination. However he quickly hopped back aboard and despite Nick Brooks-Ward’s protestation’s of “no, no, no!” over the PA, he pointed the 15-year-old chestnut gelding at the wall, clearing it with ease.
Dominic, who had two rides in the class, was among the seven combinations to make it to round three, which he did aboard his other mount, Cycloon W.
This was where the competition ended for him and for Mennell Watson — riding his first puissance in 10 years — aboard Holly Smith’s 2016 HOYS puissance winner Quality Old Joker, who knocked the wall for four faults to finish fifth.
This was also the end of the 2018 HOYS puissance road for Dutch rider Hendrik-Jan Schuttert and Bangelo. The 12-year-old gelding’s “day job” until three years ago was jumping 80cm in the family’s riding school.
“It was by accident [that we decided to take his jumping further]— he jumped out over the gate from the field and we thought maybe it would be a good idea to jump him over the [puissance] wall,” said Hendrik-Jan, who was making his HOYS debut.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday