Scott Brash is close to grand prix glory as the GCT makes a brief return, and Aintree beckons for some exciting talent, writes Jennifer Donald and Penny Richardson
CSI5* Longines Global Champions Tour, Tops International Arena, Valkenswaard, Netherlands
THhe world was a very different place when the Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT) kicked off in Doha, Qatar, in March. But after a six-month hiatus, the series returned for one final week of five-star action in Valkenswaard, where Scott Brash produced a typically high-octane challenge for victory in the grand prix only to be pipped at the post by Belgian rider Gregory Wathelet.
Drawn late in the 12-strong jump-off, Scott and the 11-year-old Hello Jefferson, owned by Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham, had soared into the lead with a clear in 45.72sec. However, Gregory and the athletic 12-year-old
Calvados Z stallion Nevados S took out a stride to the third fence and, with a strong gallop to the final vertical, the pair crossed the line in 44.62sec to pocket the €99,000 (£91,000) top prize.
“I knew the jump-off would be really fast, so I took some risks and fortunately Nevados S played the game with me,” said Gregory, who also thanked the organisers, for hosting this event during a “difficult” year. “I know my horse is quite fast and on the left turn I can take some risks. It was my day today.”
Scott had opened the show with two rocketing victories, taking the 1.45m two-phase riding Hello Mr President, then following up in the CSI2* big tour, piloting Hello Shelby to a speed class win.
“It’s great to be back competing at the top level of the sport,” said Scott. “Mr President is a very fast horse, he’s very careful and he likes to run.”
The winner of the CSI2* big tour grand prix was Irishman Michael G Duffy with Carl Hanley’s Chappo Chey, just a fraction ahead of Jack Whitaker riding Parkmore Rowan after an 18-strong jump-off. James Fisher sealed a successful week for British riders when landing Sunday’s 1.25m small tour class with the 15-year-old mare Amiro.
Darragh Kenny was also a five-star winner, claiming the top spot in Thursday’s feature class at his first international show with Belo Horizonte, whom he considers to be “a really special horse”. The Irishman hit the nail on the head when he said: “With everything going on in the world, to be able to ride and jump and have fun with the horses is so fantastic.”
Min goes for the max
Pony qualifiers for Aintree’s new championship show have begun in earnest, with 21 second rounds taking place over seven days. The newcomers qualifier at Onley Grounds went to Lucy Atkins, possibly the least experienced rider in the class, on Min Matilda.
Lucy joined British Showjumping at the start of 2020. The pony had already qualified for the second rounds with previous rider Polly Locke, but in January a serious infection kept Lucy out of the saddle for more than a month.
“She’d just got going again when we went into lockdown,” said Lucy’s mother Sue. “Lucy spent that time training with Bex Mason, but when we went to Onley Grounds she’d never even jumped a 1.20m fence. To win and qualify for the final was beyond our wildest dreams.”
Winter champions Tabitha Kyle and Sophia Rogers both carried on their brilliant form from Hickstead. Tabitha scored Foxhunter wins at Onley and South View with Nightgirl Van Het Sonnishof Z and Lickaun Lady, and added pony showjumper and 138cm victories on Atomic Du Bary and Lissduff Royal.
Sophia headed the 128cm second round at South View on Whinney Lass. There was more joy for Sophia’s mother Nicola when another pony she owns, Essenar Jinja Ninja, won the 128cm second round at Onley Grounds for Hollie Gerken.
Olivia Sponer and the six-year-old Billy Congo mare Conella II headed a quality newcomers field at Bury Farm, while Lucy Gilbertson and 17-year-old Airbourne Freddie took the 138cm equivalent.
The sole first-round clear took the JA honours for winter JA champions Hannah Barker and Ammanvalley Santino at South View, where Poppy Deakin and her 138cm Icaris W were too quick for their newcomers rivals.
Racing to it
Children from horseracing families have enjoyed great success in pony showjumping over the past couple of years, and this continued to be the case at the first three Aintree qualifiers.
Eve McCoy, daughter of legendary jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, started the run by winning the 138cm second round at Onley Grounds on Misty Bay II.
Then at Bury Farm, Katie Bradburne partnered Eve’s former ride Carrowvila Izzy to 128cm victory. Katie is the daughter of two former jockeys, and at the same show her big brother Thomas won the pony Foxhunter second round on seven-year-old Derryinver Rocky.
Making it three second round wins at Bury Farm for “Team Racing” was trainer Amanda Perrett’s son Ryan in the pony showjumper qualifier on Newtown Samson, a pony he took over at the beginning of 2020.
All for Aintree
Cherwell’s qualifying weekend attracted strong fields. Emma-Jo Slater won the silver league class on Freule TN, while the bronze league qualifier went to Ruby Morris and 17-year-old Simply Sid. Emma-Jo and owner Kim Barzilay now have several tickets to Aintree.
“It’s nice to have some decent classes to jump,” said Kim. “Freule is such a fast horse and when you have a fast rider like Emma-Jo, you need a fast horse!”
Georgia Darlington’s ride Lisas Dream is a top-class working hunter pony and has won BE100 eventing. The 15hh mare by Templebready Fear Bui now also has a place in Aintree’s discovery final after winning the second round at Cherwell.
At Field House, former British team member and national champion Sue Pountain rolled back the years to win the bronze league qualifier on her 11-year-old gelding Arenal Den Castell, while Katie Shaw and 19-year-old home-bred Fools Business headed the silver league qualifier and now have the chance to add to their two previous wins at HOYS.
Explosion bursts back into action
Ben Maher was back at the top with Explosion W when winning the $500,000 (£388,000) AIG grand prix at the HITS-on-the-Hudson national show in New York, USA. His British team-mate Amanda Derbyshire was hot on his heels in second riding Cornwall BH.
Renwick’s home-bred shines
Enjoying a successful trip to the CSI2* Peelbergen, Netherlands, Laura Renwick landed the 1.45m grand prix riding her home-bred Arkuga. In a seven-strong jump-off, she was a second clear of her nearest rivals to pick up the €6,350 (£5,850) first prize, having also won Friday’s ranking class, the grand prix qualifier, in typical flying style. The Essex rider also won the five- and six year-old final with Annette Lewis’s mare Jolita L (Ustinov x Nabab De Reve). For the Irish, Trevor Breen ended the show with victory on the eight-year-old Harvey in Sunday’s 1.40m jump-off class.
New record for Whitaker
At the CSI2* in Macon Chaintre, France, John Whitaker broke the show record by clearing 2.05m to win the six-bar with Old Lodge’s 11-year-old son of Toulon, Sharid.
Ref Horse & Hound; 17 September 2020