A previous red-wall winner and a new young contender shared the spoils in tonight’s Ripon Select Foods HOYS puissance — as the magic of Saturday night at Horse of the Year Show returned.
Michael Duffy and RMF Charly and Joseph Trunkfield on the eight-year-old Senators Rhondaigo both cleared 2.16m in the fifth and final round to lift the roof of the NEC.
In front of a packed crowd, 12 HOYS puissance starters had come forward, just three of whom made it to round three.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Guy Williams and Mr Blue Sky UK’s exit at this stage; the puissance specialists seemed to get a bit close to the 2.15m wall and dislodged the bricks behind.
This left the two young riders, both of whom had only ever jumped one puissance before, but who both elected to go again, to the delight of the crowd.
“I’ve never jumped in front of anything like that!” said Joseph, 21, who only jumped his first red wall two weeks ago at Arena UK, on Deborah Lax’s Rhondeo gelding, whom he had only ridden “a couple of times at home” before.
“His owners sent him to me to sell, or that was the plan; they’re lovely and it’s so nice for them to have a win like this.”
Joseph said the compact, eye-catching chestnut, who stayed calm and collected throughout all five rounds, putting not a foot out of place, is “beautiful looking and a beautiful person”.
“I didn’t come in with any expectations, it was just great to get the invitation, and I wasn’t sure whether to jump the last round but he showed he can do it, and I hope we can go again in future.
“My partner Lauren’s here, she’s just had a baby, and my old man’s here; it’s just brilliant.”
Michael took the ride on 12-year-old RMF Charly about a year ago; Rushy Marsh Farm’s Holsteiner gelding had won the 2019 Olympia and Liverpool puissances with previous rider William Whitaker. It was also only Michael’s second attempt at the red wall, having come second at the Royal Dublin Show 10 years ago.
“The only thing we didn’t get right tonight was that we didn’t go big enough!” he said. “I don’t think there’s a limit with my horse.
“The puissance is such a spectacular, and an amazing show of power and bravery, and that’s one thing my horse has in abundance.”
The horse is not just a puissance specialist either; he and Michael came fifth in the CSI5* grand prix at Windsor in July.
“And he nearly won the speed class here yesterday!” added Michael. “He’s unique.”
Both riders spoke of the huge atmosphere in the NEC; Michael said: “It’s great to be back, inside, with a crowd again, and to see people enjoying themselves. I think that epitomises the Horse of the Year Show.”
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