The Jaguar Gentlemen’s Jumping Championships, which has been reinstated at Royal Windsor after an absence of two years, was as fierce and closely-fought a battle as could have been expected.
Not only did the riders have victory of the prestigious event in mind, they were also well aware that the beady eye of the World Class Performance manager was firmly fixed on their every move, with the two British Olympic places in mind.
It was a positive start over a course which was one of the largest this season so far, with the first three riders, Sebastian Pellon Maison, Michael Whitaker and youngster Ben Maher produced neat and accurate clear rounds, making the track look far easier than it was.
Just as the crowd was beginning to wonder whether the poles could actually fall, David McPherson, who has been on great form this week, went brilliantly with Poet until bringing the final pole to the ground.
Next to go, Geoff Luckett, who is usually well-known for his stickability, came off after the third fence, landing on his feet, but dashing any hopes of victory.
William Funnell‘s run of bad luck at Windsor continued, and he rapped two fences on Cortaflex Macchiavelli while John Whitaker ended on 12 faults.
Young Irishman Billy Twomey kept up the brilliant form he has shown over the last three days, as did Nick Skelton on Pandur, on whom he won in the Land Rover Grade A Jumping Competition here yesterday. Similarly Robert Whitaker, who rode his mare Karina to victory in a grade A competition yesterday morning.
Other clear rounds came from Robert Bevis, Mark Armstrong and John Renwick, to make a total of nine going into the jump off for the £5,000 prize money.
Sebastian Pellon Maison started off at a relatively sedate pace on French-bred Gypsy de Bacon, but finished with four faults. Highest ranked British show jumper Michael Whitaker really did set the pace, however, and raced around, faultless in a competitive time of 50.02 seconds.
The competition was just a little too stiff for Ben Maher, who rode as part of the very successful Young Riders’ team last year. In his bid to match the tempo, he rattled two poles, finishing on eight faults. Robert Whitaker and John Renwick, who always loves a challenge against the clock, suffered similar fates, and all three ended out of the placings.
Mark Armstrong and Billy Twomey both picked up an unlucky four faults, although their speeds were good enough to put them well in the money. The real battle commenced, however, when Nick Skelton, half way through the jump off, finished just six hundredths of a seconds slower than Michael.
But the star turn was Robert Bevis. Ranked twenty-first in Britain, he is on occasions somewhat overshadowed by his rivals, but he rode flawlessly on Hosire des Chaines to finish well ahead of Michael Whitaker.
Jaguar Gentlemen’s Jumping Championships results
1. Hosire des Chaines (Robert Bevis) 49.97, 0 faults;
2. Sandica (Michael Whitaker) 50.02, 0 faults;
3. Pandur (Nick Skelton) 50.08, 0 faults;
4. Winnie Jackson (Bill Twomey) 51.42, 4 faults;
5. Thesaura (Mark Armstrong) 52.22, 4 faults;
6. Gypsy de Bacon (S. P. Maison) 54.92, 4 faults.