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Splendid victory for Smith at Aintree Winter Classic showjumping *H&H Plus*

James Smith and the reliable Simply Splendid pick up grand prix honours, while a “sentimental” mare heads the 51-strong B&C qualifier

Aintree Winter Classic, Merseyside, 14–18 October

James Smith has established a decent pool of horses at 1.40m grand prix, but it was his reliable grey Simply Splendid who proved once again that he was the most competitive of the bunch when he stormed the big class at the Aintree Winter Classic.

The 11-year-old gelding who “always tries” had already laid down some strong form in Aintree Equestrian Centre’s main arena, having collected a second place in Friday’s 1.40m, as well as finishing runner-up in the grand prix qualifier at the preceding week’s championship show. This time, he topped the £2,000 main event when he came away 0.88sec ahead of a field of more than 40 starters after producing one of three double clears.

William Whitaker and the classy 11-year-old mare Eribelle N had looked in strong contention when they delivered a very smooth and economical bid from second of six jump-off contenders. However, their lead was short-lived as next-in James and the ultra-consistent son of Ustinov found the extra ground speed to claw the advantage.