After four days of tough competition, Ellen Whitaker claimed her first British Open title, preventing her cousin Robert from winning for a fourth time.
The competition consists of three legs and a final. Faults and placings from the first three days are converted into points for the final round, where faults are added to decide the winner.
Robert held the lead by four points from Ellen, who rode her third leg winner Equimax Ocolado in the final. She remained clear, but Robert, competing USA Today also remained faultless, despite a lively round from the nine-year-old stallion.
“I have to ride him forward and try not to pull otherwise [his bucking] is a lot worse than it was tonight,” said Robert.
Only the top eight on points make the jump-off, which, like the first round, was also run in reverse order of merit.
After third-placed Dutchman Eric Van Der Vleuten’s clear on VDL GroepUtascha SFN, the pressure was mounting on Ellen to jump clear again and hold onto her second position.
She just skimmed the last fence, but it stayed and she kept her four-point score.
“I knew I had to be clear and not hang about,” said Ellen. “Because in the case of equalities time in that round is the deciding factor, I had to gamble that Robert could have a fence.”
Robert opted to go for a steadier round and was still clear as he headed down to the final vertical, but USA Today put in an enormous buck three strides away from the 1.67m fence disrupting his striding. He tapped the top rail with his back legs and his slower time meant that Ellen claimed victory.
“It’s a horrid feeling hoping that a member of your family has a fence down,” said Ellen. “I knew USA Today can buck when he’s under pressure, so I had to take the gamble of going a bit quicker and it all worked out.”
Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from the British Open Show Jumping Championships, on sale Thursday 15 April