Cousins Robert and Thomas Whitaker kept things in the family by taking the grand prix honours on the final afternoon of the Unex Masters at Towerlands.
Robert has enjoyed a fantastic season and he finished the show in style with a terrific round on Lacroix in the major grand prix.
Bob Ellis’s tough first-round track caused numerous problems and only five of the 51-strong field could go clear. They were joined in the jump-off by the three fastest four-faulters, but with the fences now of considerable proportions, care was the name of the game.
French-based Briton Alex Rident held the lead after a terrific round on the scopey Hermes De Bruyeres, but she knew last-drawn Robert would be hard to beat. And so it proved. Robert set off quickly and with some superb turns, broke the beam almost 1sec ahead to take the £5,000 prize.
Robert was delighted with Lacroix. “He’s just a real winner,” he said.
Robert may have partnered his 12-year-old Holsteiner for some years now, but Thomas was at only his second show with the French-bred Henri De Herne, the gelding who has won so much for his sister Ellen and elder brother Joe. And the teenager from Yorkshire had it all to do when he came up against 105 rivals in the small grand prix.
Bob Ellis again designed a difficult course and only 12 made the jump-off. But Thomas never took a pull and Henri popped neatly round to demote another new partnership, Sophie Tobin and Crown Rhodonite, by a cool 3.5sec.
After a day off on Saturday, the young horses returned to action in their grands prix. Ben Maher took the five-year-olds by storm, capturing the class on his own Triple X and finishing a fraction behind with Chateau De Brion Quainton.
“I think a lot of both these horses,” said the Essex-based rider.
The six-year-old title also stayed in local hands. Laura Renwick shrugged off the handicap of opening draw of 14 to win by a mile on her dual Horse of the Year Show champion, Beluga II. This daughter of Heartbreaker has been consistency itself this season.
“She’s won every six-year-old championship I’ve jumped her in,” said a
Don’t miss H&H’s full report from the Unex Masters, including fantastic photographs, in this Thursday’s issue