Pyecombe showjumping report: Happiness is a winning mare *H&H Plus*

  • Tom Whitaker tops a classy field, Irish youngsters shine and two riders score one-twos at this well-attended show

    Pyecombe Summer Second Round and Championship Show, West Sussex, 27–31 August

    The Light family produced a schedule that attracted 850 horses over the five-day show. Tom Whitaker and Happiness III headed the talent seekers, Britain’s first senior qualifier for Aintree’s new championship show. A classy field took on Keith Bristow’s clever track with the top three placings going to mares.

    When Harry Bateman and Zuniek VD Tojopehoeve Z took the lead from Helen Rees and her home-bred seven-year-old Bianca Du Rouet, the class looked over. But last-drawn Tom Whitaker took a stride out between the first two fences and then followed Harry’s route to win by half a second.

    “I decided that was the only way I could beat him,” said Tom. “Happiness is super-careful and brave, so I can rely on her.”

    The eight-year-old Dutch-bred Untouchable daughter was bought by owner Becky Stones three years ago.

    “Becky would like to breed from her eventually, but she has the talent to go all the way,” added Tom.

    Irish-bred seven-year-olds dominated the Emma Ziff Photography-sponsored Equitop GLME Foxhunter second round.

    A brilliant performance from Gemma Tattersall and MGH Candy Girl, who picked up their talent seekers ticket the previous day, demoted Tim Page and the scopey stallion Hillcoote Border Fox. But the best came from local rider Alex Bishop, who pulled off a hitherto unconsidered inside turn with the huge Thomascourt Emirates (Ernie) to win by more than a second.

    “When I got there, I wasn’t sure if the turn was on. I thought: ‘Don’t be silly. Oh, go on then!’ as I needed something special to beat Gemma,” said Alex, whose partner Matt Pike bought the agile 18.2hh Pacino gelding 18 months ago.

    “We’d just sold his half-brother and I loved Ernie when I saw him jump loose,” said Matt, who then wondered if he had made a big mistake.

    “When I first sat on him I absolutely hated him and I told Matt I never wanted to ride Ernie again!” said Alex. “But he’s actually really straightforward and just needed time.”

    Tim Page had his moment in the spotlight when his early jump-off flyer on Terry and Mary Benjafield’s smart DC Cordelia was enough to take Sunday’s six-year-old title. “She’s a proper little winning machine,” he said of the British-bred Charmeur mare.

    Emily Rowe, who rides for Ben Dunning, partnered her boss’s home-bred RSH Daimonte to win a hard-fought five-year-old championship. “She’s my absolute favourite,” she said of the daughter of Diamant De Semilly and a Cavalier mare who jumped at 1.40m level.

    “I have my mojo back”

    Phillip Miller was on sparkling form in Monday’s Lord & Lady Equestrian newcomers second round, taking the top two places on horses bred at Brendon Stud. A brilliant early round on the mare Klaris Yee-Hah proved too good for his 22 jump-off rivals, while his other ride Don Royale, another Don VHP Z seven-year-old, took the runner-up spot.

    Phillip recently suffered a crisis of confidence. “I was very down and thought about giving up, but with amazing support from my boss Pennie Cornish, [fellow rider] Ben Walker and owners Emma Ziff and Shirley Light, I have my mojo back,” he said.

    Monday was a day for one-twos, as Scotsman Graham Gillespie did the same in the closing Smallman family grand prix. His winning ride was Trevor and Caroline Breen’s flamboyant Franklin I and he was second on Fashion Prince, a gelding he owns in partnership with Irish riders David Simpson and Richard Howley.

    Several South of England titles were on offer here. Nicole Pavitt took the Sussex Equine Hospital ladies’ honours on Paris 16, while Ben Walker and Heidiemorka galloped to victory in the gents’ equivalent. The new young rider champions are 16-year-old Honor Redhouse and Dokyra Fortuna, who almost broke the sound barrier during their winning round.

    Twelve-year-old Ruby Light’s run of form continued with victory in the 16-and-under section of the Woodlands Poultry Farm children-on-horses championship on Lady Warrior. The under-21 section went to 14-year-old Emily Morris with a terrific round on Fleur VIII to take Emily’s first-ever champion’s rug.

    “That’s what I’ve always wanted to win,” she said.

    At the other end of the experience scale, Richard Baker turned back the clock to head the Alejento Portugal Russell Pearson memorial veterans’ class on his home-bred Little Em. Back in the day Richard rode for Trevor Banks.

    “But I needed to earn a living, so I now have my own business and compete at weekends,” he explained.

    The Manhattan championship for riders who jump up to 1m level proved a triumph for Josh Thompson, who finished first and second with Calcourt Ruby and Stonehavens Penshill Harlie, while a brilliant round from birthday girl Louise Stoner on Oscar Zee took the JB Arenas amateur title.

    “He’s just perfect,” said Louise of the 12-year-old Cevin Z gelding who was bred by her friend Emma Harrison, and who has been with her since 2016.

    The Johanna and Skye Collings five-fence challenge gives riders a chance to experience a masters-type class, and with the fences ending up around the 1.40m mark there was a superb winning round from Olivia Leaning and 17-year-old All

    That Jazz X, a mare back after two years away on maternity duty.

    Experience shines through

    Portuguese rider Antonio Vozone won the Speedi-Beet grade C qualifier on Claire Hendry’s exciting eight-year-old Hennessy S.

    Antonio, 60, who represented his country at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and two European championships, has spent the past three months splitting his time between home and the Hendry family’s Kent Horse Producers business.

    “I ride in England for two weeks and then go home for a while,” said Antonio. “I love England. My wife is English and my daughters live in London, so it suits me perfectly. There’s nowhere better than Britain to produce horses.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 September 2020