For the third year running, Robert Walker stamped his mark on Royal Windsor’s novice hunter title, probably one of the most keenly contested and highly coveted goals of the whole season.
Following in the footsteps of his 2009 victor, Ladiesman, this time it was Jill Day’s Ghareeb five-year-old, Ballard Bouncer, who claimed top honours — partnered by Robert’s wife, Sarah — after heading a 14-strong line of lightweights throughout.
This former Dublin three-year-old champion, who only contested two classes last term, began this year in glory, taking both novice and open titles at North of England and standing second in good company at Newark last weekend.
Robert also went on to stand reserve with another of Jill Day’s exciting prospects, the heavyweight victor Over The Rainbow, a striking grey who looks to have scope to burn.
“Stand-in” jockey Allister Hood claimed the open title with son Oliver’s great-galloping middleweight, Jenny’s Prince, giving the Suffolk yard its first hunter tricolour for several years. Oliver was due to take the ride as usual, but the class clashed with the workers, in which he was competing.
Jenny’s Prince, a quality bay five-year-old by the jumping sire Porsche, was bought from previous clients, the Smith-Crallans and is also aimed at workers.
The Underwood team posted their first Royal Windsor hunter victory and stood reserve with the seven-year-old lightweight, Loch Royal, partnered by Leon King.
“We bought this horse as a three-year-old and he used to be a ‘small’,” said Pearl Underwood. “But he grew too big and we thought he might make a cracking lightweight. Thank goodness we were proved right.”
The amateur hunter section, predictably, was full of quality and quantity and Irishman Kevin O’Connell had plenty to overcome on his way to a second consecutive title with the Danielle Heath-produced grey, Avalanche II.
Stay up to date with all the showing action from Royal Windsor on Horseandhound.co.uk, and don’t miss H&H’s special report on the show, on sale 20 May