Catch up with the biggest stories from the opening day of action at Arena UK...
A five-year-old show hunter pony posted a major achievement when taking the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) supreme winter novice title — for the second year running.
Due to Covid, some of last year’s prestigious winter titles were contested during the summer championships in August, and this was when Charlotte Caulfield’s 143cm contender Romanno Spot of Distinction first occupied the supreme novice spot.
And, despite strong competition, he did it again today, beating off six other supreme finalists in a fiercely fought contest.
“He tried his heart out for me,” said a delighted Charlotte, 16. “He always does and we adore him.”
This was the pair’s second outing of the year — having contested BSPS Area 1B, where “AJ” also won — and only their sixth outing in total.
The weather gods smiled on the popular Grantham venue this time and the day was bathed in warm sunshine. A two-minute silence was observed at 3pm in honour of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Covid regulations were rigorously enforced but with slick organisation by BSPS officials and Arena UK staff alike, a friendly, informal, happy atmosphere prevailed.
Plenty of new combinations were forward, leading to well-filled, intriguing classes, alongside several seasoned campaigners re-emerging to contest a raft of Royal International qualifiers.
One such was Horse & Hound columnist Rebecca Penny, who headed a marathon Heritage native section with a stunning performance on Julie Barton’s prolific-winning Highland stallion Ellister Islay of Spruce.
He is another with a liking for this venue, having stood champion on the same spot the previous week at the Area 15A show.
Molly Mercer’s Arena UK form continued when her striking home-produced Welsh D gelding, Cwmtynant Cardigan Bay (Alfred) headed a super-strong Heritage novice worker section.
On their last visit here, the pair stood supreme young rider champions at the BSPS Heritage Championships in October. This was also their first outing of any kind since then, as Newmarket-based Molly, who normally divides her time between studying equine physiotherapy and rehabilitation and riding racehorses for trainer Noel Quinlan, has been battling a severe ligament injury in her knee which means she now has to wear a brace.
Gary Parr was another to strike gold here, taking his RIHS intermediate ticket and standing section champion with the lovely mare Mexican Summer, now owned by him but still produced by Georgina Wilkes. Amazingly, although Gary rode his former heavyweight hunter Redemption Ground at Hickstead, this will be his first time there in intermediate ranks.
“I decided to give it a go as I only have two years left in intermediates,” said Gary, second on his debut with “Mexi” the previous week here at Area 15A.
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