The Whitaker family started this year’s Horse of the Year Show in great form when Louise Whitaker rode the big mare Pamone to victory in the day’s flagship class, the Thomas Bates Seven-Year-Old Championship, thus emulating her cousin William’s Squibb & Davies Junior Foxhunter win.
William, a previous 138cm champion at HOYS, produced a fantastic round on John Oversby’s lovely black cob, Devlin, from midway through a hot 10-pony jump-off, while Louise had to do it the hard way. She and Pamone led off a six-horse finale and their lovely clear forced all their rivals into mistakes. Both riders were delighted.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said William, while Louise could not believe that she had won, saying: “I honestly thought that I was too slow.”
Solihull-based Mennell Watson began the show with another “from the start” victory when his partner Helen van Heyningen’s 15.2hh Darco gelding, Tiran, proved impossible to catch in a classy Great Leighs Newcomers jump-off.
“He’s only been to around 15 shows this year, but he’s so versatile that whenever you pull him out you know you’ve a chance,” said Mennell, who, despite his Irish accent, was born in Scotland.
Staffordshire-based Tors Mallin gained by far her best victory when she and Landini took the Unex Corporation young riders title. The 20-year-old and her Dutch-bred bay jumped a lovely round from the middle of a 10-horse jump-off and none of the established names could go clear again.
This was a popular win, as Tors damaged her arm badly at the start of the season and has worked her way back. “I’ve never felt as good as this before. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of,” she said.