Robert Smith and Paul Barker gave the large and enthusiastic audience something to smile about when they took the major classes on the opening night of this year’s British Open Show Jumping Championships at Sheffield’s Hallam FM Arena.
Robert pictured produced a fantastic round to head the opening championship speed leg on the marvellous Mr Springfield. The pair flew round a substantial track to win by almost 2sec from in-form Essex man John Renwick on Cushty, with Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Anastasia), Nick Skelton (Arko) and John Whitaker (Lactic Two) gaining valuable points towards Sunday’s final in third, fourth and fifth places.
The Sheffield Masters produced a tremendous jump-off, with all six riders finishing within 2sec of each other. Paul Barker, 24, gained his best international win to date when some brilliant turns from penultimate draw on Blue Chip Quinton took the honours by just 0.14sec from local hero John Whitaker with Gem Of India.
The opening warm-up class, the Steel City Shield, went to Brazil’s Bernardo Alves, 29, who is enjoying his first visit to Britain.
Bernardo, a double Pan Am Games gold medallist, has been based with the Pessoas in Brussels for three years and their training certainly appears to have paid off. Riding the chestnut mare Solitaire, he finished comfortably ahead of William Funnell, riding Douglas Bunn’s British-bred Buddy Bunn.
Young riders also had their chance on the opening day and 18-year-old Welsh girl Sophie Heaven, straight from a month’s training with Di Lampard, jumped a lovely round on Jurius to win from fellow Welsh rider Gemma Plumley and Continue B.