John Crippen said it was very special to triumph in the first running of a class held in memory of the late Jon Doney, on a “unique” young horse who has it all.
John and Tim Peake’s six-year-old Bennys Kelly saved the best for last in the seven-strong jump-off in Hickstead’s International Arena, taking the title with over a second to spare with a masterclass in speed riding.
Nicole Lockhead Anderson had thrown the gauntlet down early with a super-fast clear in 47.09 seconds on Cinna Blue PS that looked hard to beat. But next in Derek McCoppin, on Premium Cobra, shaved space off every turn to finish in 46.36.
Then John and Bennys Kelly put in a superb, smooth clear, seeming almost to approach the last in a collected canter with seconds to spare.
“He’s only six but he’s some horse,” said John. “He won at Bolesworth and here last year in the five-year-olds, he just keeps progressing.
“I’m not one to rush young horses but he does it all so easily. I always want to give him holidays, then he comes back and hits the ground running. He can go training at a local show and have a pole but in a ring like that, he seems to know.”
John added that he has “always been a quick rider”.
“I don’t always gallop but I think it’s good to train horses from youngsters to go quick; maybe if you wait too long, you can get into trouble trying to gallop around 1.40m. But he’s unique; very smooth, very brave and very careful, and when you have that, there’s not much else you need.”
John said it had been a tough year for the Crippens; last year John came off Bennys Kelly at the Royal International Horse Show as his wife Bryony, who also competes, went into labour with their second child.
“I thought I’d broken my back, Bryony went into labour and it all went wrong, due to Covid. The doctor gave our baby no chance of living – and at one point he said, ‘I’m really sorry, but your child and your wife might not make it through the night.’”
Baby Frankie is now nearly a year old, and John paid tribute to Bryony’s work behind the scenes.
“We both jump, but it takes some juggling: she went home with six horses on Friday, and we’ve got two young kids and a yard of 20 horses ,” he said.
“We’ve had a tough old time but the horses are one thing that keep you going. They’re great animals for that, and it’s nice to come and do that in the first running of this class.”
John knew Jon Doney, Hickstead’s former course-designer and president of the ground jury, who died two years ago.
“He was always quite into his county shows, and I love them, so I’d see Jon quite a lot – and so it’s nice to win that under his name.
“It’s really nice to have a class like that on a day like this, and I’ll be back next year to try to win it again!”
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The international showjumping official was appointed an MBE for his services to the sport in 2014
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