Former novice winners returned to shine in open ranks at this year’s RoyalWindsor, many giving inspired performances on the appalling going, which eventually forced the organisers to cancel the final day.
Robert Walker had a golden run, claiming the open hunter, hack, cob and small hunter titles to emulate Robert Oliver’s record set in the mid-1980s.
He saved possibly his best performance until last, when a breathtaking display on the McHenrys’ five-year-old small hack, Derwent Mr Worldly Wise, brought a well-deserved title.
The elegant bay floated over the cloying mud as if on air, belying his lack of mileage to give a foot-perfect, flowing and balanced show, epitomising all a gentleman’s hack should be.
Although the open hack numbers were poor, there was no doubting the quality of the winners and another youthful star, Jan Reed’s exciting novice victor, Kingsford Silver Spray, ridden by Katie Davis, stood reserve.
Katie also won the large class with the Lucas/Willett team’s six-year-old, Definitely Maybe, a full Thoroughbred bought from a racing stud.
Robert Walker’s run began in wonderful weather on the first day, when Tim Briggs’s heavyweight cob, Boy George, took the championship ahead of the lightweight Russell Christie’s Rob Roy.
Amazingly, Robert Walker had not won an open hunter class here before, but he rectified this omission in style when the free-moving lightweight, Royal Flush, outclassed all opposition.
Several horses were not on best behaviour in the atmospheric Castle arena, though, and took exception to activity on the members’ lawn.
Loraine Homer took reserve with last year’s novice champion, Spot On, who gave judge Michael Trickey a rather exciting ride on his way to win the heavyweight class. Sue Rawding headed the middleweights with Reaction, another who was a little exuberant.
Robert Walker’s fourth win came in the small hunters, where Gunsmith was a clear winner.
This year’s novice hunters did not disappoint and the title went to Sarah Chapman’s stunning six-year-old lightweight hunter Take Note, an Irish-bred bay ridden by a jubilant Robert Oliver. Reserve was the heavyweight winner, John Dunlop’s five-year-old Owen Glendower.
There was plenty of action among the amateurs – with the traditional funfair wreaking havoc several times during the day.
The winner’s spot went to Ann McCarthy’s beautifully mannered grey, Mountain Road, who is produced by Katie Moore. In the final reckoning, she was pipped into reserve by the heavyweight victor, Lurgan Hill, partnered by Newmarket-based Irishman, Edmond Mahony.
Louise Bell won both divisions of the working hunters. Despite the slippery going, Kevin Millman’s course rode well and there were nine clear rounds in the lightweight class.
The 2002 Hunter Show champion, Cruise Control, lived up to his name and produced a lovely, flowing round to stay ahead of a delighted Jan Darwin with Sue Hookham’s home-bred Reverie.
The heavyweight division produced only three clear rounds with Louise’s ride, the HOYS winner Out Of Sight, taking the championship.
Jayne Webber had Carol Bardo’s 2002 HOYS winner, Soldier Brave, on song to take theriding horse championship, ahead of Katie Moore with Caroline Mackness’s home-bred mare, Victoria Cross.
The cancellation of the final day meant no £3,000 Horse & Hound British Isles championship. This had promised to be a thrilling finale, but few would have bet against the large riding horse winner, reigning RIHS supreme Broadstone Dee, from taking home the richest purse in showing.
For a complete Royal Windsor report including the M&M and show pony showing, plus all the show jumping action, don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (22 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.