Robert Smith reckoned he was hot to win the Blue Chip grand prix and duly pulled it out of the bag with the scopey Ilton to crown a cracking night on Friday’s Gala evening.
“I knew Ilton would be close, he’s older, experienced and won a good class in Peelbergen three weeks ago and when he’s on, he can win big classes,” said Robert.
Course-designer Nigel Jess used clever technical distances and rollback turns to test control, rideability and scope in his 13-fence track and clears proved hard to come by at first. However, six found all the right answers from the 41 entries to promise a cracking jump-off.
“The course is always good when you win but it was a tough track. I had a young inexperienced horse in it with Nonante and you had to be on point but I was pleased with her performance [five faults]. The standard was high, there were a lot of entries but he got the right result with six clears,” assessed Robert.
Nici Wilson opener on Guaranteed Quality finished on eight faults but Mennell Watson conjured up some clever riding to bring the diminutive stallion Whisper In The Wind home clear. However, the time looked vulnerable.
Upping a gear on the big-striding Ilton, Robert executed rollback turns without interrupting the pace and kept on a level stride to the final Blue Chip oxer, wiping 2.64 sec off Mennell’s time.
Adrian Speight gave him a good run for his money with Millfield Baloney but broke the beam half a sec in arrears.
It was down to the final two ladies – both in with a chance of the Andrews Bowen £1,000 bonus on offer to the top three riders of the Blue Chip Pro challenge trophy – winner Holly Smith and second-placed Yazmin Davis. But it wasn’t to be as rails fell for both.
Robert, who had missed out on the bonus by one with fourth place in Thursday night’s competition, has ridden the Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Calvaro Z 14-year-old for seven years.
“He’s a character, there’s no badness in him, just cheekiness and he’s actually a better horse outdoors in big rings,” said Robert, who carefully selects his classes with Maubeuge and other International meetings a possibility in the near future.
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.