John Whitaker received a standing ovation from the near sell-out crowd at Sheffield’s Hallam FM arena when he and Lactic Two cleared 7ft to take the £4,000 first prize in Saturday night’s puissance — the end of a fabulous day’s jumping.
The local hero — who was looking for a win after three second places throughout the show — had only one rival in this final round. When Keith Shore’s ride, the big grey Anderson’s Free Spirit, stroked out a brick, it was all over. Keith had his own moment in the spotlight earlier when he and Pakko stormed to victory in the knockout.
The highlight of the afternoon’s jumping was the final qualifier for Sunday’s British Open Championship. There were only five clear rounds in this class and Warwickshire-born Lesley McNaught — who now rides for Switzerland — lifted herself right up the points table with a flying winning performance on Markus Fuchs’s good mare, Granie.
Nick Skelton jumped a lovely round for second place on Russel, with Paul Barker maintaining his good form here in third with Blue Chip Quinton.
Robert Smith maintained his overall leader’s spot after Kalusha jumped a great round for fourth place, but with less than a fence between him and Nick Skelton, there will be everything to play for.
Tim Stockdale is still on a high after the birth of his son the previous day, and he celebrated with another victory in the Meadowhall Classic jump-off class on Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs, a horse who is so difficult to beat when things go right.
The Home International Challenge also began today, and the young Welsh quartet produced a stirring performance to finish first, second, fourth and sixth in the individual leg, won by Gemma Plumley and Continue B.