The warmest weekend of the year so far saw a 36-strong field take on the fierce challenge of the South Downs for the FEI two-day three-star 160km Fontwell ride.
Sarah Kelleway’s stunning homebred bright bay stallion, Kosmik, eclipsed a top class field at what was his first international event. Kept under wraps and qualified in France, the eight-year-old has only had a couple of outings in the UK.
Astutely slotting to the front as the countdown began, Sarah headed the field on to the first 28km loop up a steep wooded climb to Bignor and through the sandy Bar Lavington Estate at an impressive 17.56km/hr.
The pair had company in the shape of Saeed Abdullah Al Ketbi’s Al Saamit until the end of the second loop, when the UAE horse was eliminated with a high pulse.
Their victory, at an average speed of 15.29kmh and with 25min in hand over Ali Mohammed Al Muhairi and Shikira, left the normally cool-headed Sarah, who has several Arab racing wins under her belt, filled with emotion.
“This is better than racing, when you’re on the horse for a few minutes – with endurance, you’re out there together for 160km,” she said.
Endurance rider and trainer Rob Sedgley, on Sarah’s crew for the event, said: “Kosmik is a world-class horse. His speed through the vetgate, especially given the heat, was exceptional.”
The nine finishers included British team hopefuls Beccy Broughton, third with her long-listed Zapala on the mare’s first competitive outing since Punchestown 2002; Katie Smith, fourth with Aloha Zodiac; Liz Platts, who brought Zilzal home in sixth place behind Jane James and Rowengay Garnet, and Jenny Jackson, who was ninth on Hannah.
Ireland’s leading rider, Bernie Leadon-Bolger, picked up a last minute ride on Sheikh Mohammed’s Leastreak and rode the horse into seventh place. Meanwhile Belinda Brigg brought Derek Francis’s former ride, Simbar, home in eighth.
Read the full report in next week’s Horse & Hound (26 June), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.