Robert Smith on top in Sheffield

  • Robert Smith retained his lead in this year’s British Open Championship when he and Kalusha finished second in Friday’s qualifier.

    In a scintillating 11-horse jump-off, Robert was just 0.17sec in arrears of the Dutch winners, Harry Smolders and Omar, with Nick Skelton (Arko), Hauke Luther (Index), Michael Whitaker (Sandy) and Tim Stockdale (Fresh Direct Jerome) jumping the other double clears.

    Harry Smolders, 24, is paying his third visit to Britain after competing in the young rider European Championship when they were held at Hartpury and jumping at Great Leighs in Essex in 2002.

    He is thoroughly enjoying his time at Sheffield’s Hallam FM Arena, saying: “The crowd is fantastic and the people are getting behind every rider. It makes you want to do well for them.”

    Tim Stockdale celebrated the birth of his second son, Mark, with a terrific win in the accumulator. Tim arrived back after an overnight visit to wife Laura at a Northamptonshire hospital just in time to ride John Bosher’s great servant Fresh Direct Glenwood Spring to pip John Whitaker and Lactic Two by 0.12sec.

    The Grandstand Classic speed class provided a welcome change of luck for Robert Whitaker, who had suffered from “four-faultitis” until that point.

    However, Robert and Liz Hunt’s Karina were foot-perfect this time to defeat his proud father, John — gaining his third consecutive runner-up spot — on Gem Of India by a cool 1.5sec.

    The second of the young rider classes, the innovative black ball challenge, gave Louise Pavitt a chance to make amends for an over-ambitious turn that cost her victory the previous day. The young lady from Surrey had learned from her mistake and a lovely performance on Make Haste V gave her a 4sec win from James Billington and Casyopaya.

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