‘I didn’t mean to do that!’: Robert Whitaker blitzes jump-off to win at Pyecombe *H&H Plus*

  • Some quick thinking from Robert Whitaker pays dividends for the sole double clear in the area trial, while a horse bought after a couple of beers shows superstar credentials

    ROBERT WHITAKER did not need to set the Paris Arena on fire en route to area trial victory on Major Delacour as he was the only double clear – but it never hurts to make sure of a win.

    Robert and the 13-year-old gelding beat Sienna Charles on Ornellaia, Robert’s father John’s Rio Olympics ride, into second as the fastest four-faulters, with Sienna’s sister Scarlett Charles third on Sassicaia Ares.

    Second-last to go in a seven-strong jump-off, Robert was the only rider to make an inside turn back to the last upright, which had not entirely been to plan.

    “I didn’t mean to do that, but I landed and turned and had no option!” he said. “Sienna’s normally very quick on that mare, and I thought the fastest four faults would go into the lead anyway.”

    Robert praised the Italian-bred gelding’s versatility; he came joint-sixth in the 2019 Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby, and cleared 2.20m in the Ripon Select Foods Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) puissance that year.

    “You can jump any class on him,” he said. “He’s ultra brave; a really good horse.”

    Sienna said her father Peter’s 16-year-old mare, on whom she took the ride last summer, felt “amazing”, finishing a second ahead of Robert but rolling one pole in the combination.

    “She jumped her heart out for me,” she said. “This is one of my first shows back; I’ve been out for a couple of months, and being last in, I thought I’d have a good go. We’ll hopefully go up the levels now this summer, and hopefully go on a few Nations Cup teams.”

    Scarlett was also delighted with her new ride in the combination’s first area trial, the big 15-year-old jumping a beautiful round to tip just the back rail off the sizable Pyecombe oxer.

    “He just steps over everything as he’s so big,” she said. “Dad’s away with Harry this week [at the Nations Cup in St Gallen, see report, p48] and he only had a time fault for the team so it’s been a good day.”


    TAKE a horse bought in Vilamoura after a couple of beers and a rider who has only ridden it a day, and you have a recipe for talent seekers success.

    It worked for Charlene Bastone and Louis Simmons’ Billy Pringle, who took the class, which incorporates the seven-year-old championship qualifier, from Gemma Tattersall and MGH Candy Girl.

    Louis has owned the 11-year-old for eight months, having bought him from the field as a slightly inebriated, but inspired, purchase.

    “I’m based in the Netherlands and Louis asked if I could come over for this show,” Charlene said. “I got on him the day before, and qualified talent seekers and came second in the Foxhunter second round; he’s a machine. He’s so easy to ride, has the biggest heart and wants to win as much as I do; it was good fun.”

    Charlene Bastone and Billy Pringle

    Charlene Bastone pilots Louis Simmons’ Billy Pringle to pole position in the talent seekers

    The plan is for Billy Pringle to go to Keysoe CSI, then back to the Netherlands and jump some international three- and four-star classes.

    “But he’ll have a few days in the field now,” said Charlene. “He definitely deserves it.”

    Former eventer Emily Llewellyn and Trooper B won the Equitop GLME Foxhunter second round, taking their HOYS ticket half a second in front of Charlene and Billy Pringle.

    Emily bought the AES gelding from Michael Fursedonn last summer to produce and sell, “and he’s been amazing”, she said. “He’s so easy; everything’s really simple with him.”

    The 10-year-old gelding has enjoyed international success up to 1.40m level, and Emily says she has not found his limit.

    “He’s really talented, and a quick horse; we’ve been training a bit bigger at home so I thought we had a good chance,” she said. “I came out hoping I’d done enough; Charlene was a couple before me and I didn’t know if her time was catchable so I was really happy to do that.”

    Should the right customer come along before HOYS, Trooper will be sold with the Foxhunter ride.

    Emily Llewellyn and Trooper B

    Emily Llewellyn and Trooper B clinch their HOYS ticket after topping the Foxhunter second round


    RONNIE JONES was just squeaked out of the HOYS qualifying places on Runningwell Sports Horses’ Joplin I in the Foxhunter second round, so he was determined not to let the Lord and Lady newcomers place elude him.

    Ronnie and Runningwell Sports Horses’ six-year-oldmare Kaleche scorched round half a second clear of Sally Goding and Spring Willow to earn their ticket.

    “She’s very brave,” said Ronnie of the big-moving mare, who has previously been four- and five-year-old national champion.

    “She found it all really easy; she was a bit casual in the second round but she’s always one who’s at her best when you buzz her up in a jump-off. She likes the atmosphere and takes the pressure well.”

    Kaleche will now travel to Bolesworth in July for the international show and the young horse championships – and head for HOYS in October.

    “I wish they were all as easy as her,” Ronnie said.

    There was a Pyecombe hat-trick for Ben Walker and Emma Ziff’s Fjara, who won the 1.30m and the 1.40m on Thursday, following this up with another victory in Friday’s 1.40m.

    Ben took the ride on the 11-year-old mare, who had jumped to 1.30m with Emma Ashworth, last summer, and the combination have since stepped up with great success.

    “We built our partnership slowly, and started jumping some grands prix over the winter, then came back outside and she went a bit green,” he said. “I dropped her down, built some confidence, then stepped her back up.”

    Ben Walker and Fjara 1.40

    Ben Walker lands a hat-trick aboard the “very fast” 11-year-old Fjara

    Ben described the mare as “super easy”, adding: “She’s sharp, but likes to take you into a fence and is very, very fast; she’s my type of horse.”

    Fjara outdid Ben’s top horse Fygo Von D’Ouwe Grint, who finished seventh in Friday’s 1.40m, earning himself Sunday off as Ben jumped Fjara in the area trial for four faults.

    “He’s usually the one I rely on for the wins, but now he can have the rest of the show off,” Ben said.

    In the genes: “I’m really happy my effort has paid off”

    Ruby Light and Sussex Caretino

    THE youngest member of the Light family that owns Brendon Stud, 13-year-old Ruby, topped off a successful show by taking the top three places in the children-on-horses class on Sunday.

    The classes, handicaps with sections for under-16s and under-18s, are running as a series, with finals at the August Pyecombe championship.

    Having already won one class overall, and one under-16 section, Ruby was victorious on Phillip Miller’s former ride Sussex Caretino (Klarins) on Sunday, second on Lady Warrior (Monkey) and third on Irish Warrior (pictured).

    “I’ve only been riding Klarins a month, and this is my second BS [British Showjumping] show with her so I was over the moon with her round – but Monkey’s always going to be my favourite, I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” she said.

    “I’ve been putting so much effort in; flatwork, gridwork and no stirrups, and I’m really happy it’s paid off.”

    Ruby, who is trained by her aunt Shirley Light, aims to jump her first 1.30m next year and to be a professional showjumper.

    “Shirley’s a massive part of where I am, and I’m sure she’s got a lot more to teach me!” she said.

    This report is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 10 June 2021

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