Joker shows qual­ity side

Last year’s puis­sance win­ner turns his hoof to the speed ti­tle, John Whi­taker takes the lead­ing rider bonus and Ir­ish­man clears 7ft to land the big wall hon­ours

Horse & Hound - - Show Jumping -

HOLLY SMITH has al­ways made the most of her op­por­tu­ni­ties at ev­ery level and her Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in­ter­na­tional de­but was no ex­cep­tion. She glided to a Zinc Man­age­ment speed horse of the year tri­umph with the hugely ver­sa­tile Qual­ity Old Joker.

The big-jump­ing 18hh geld­ing was the win­ner of the puis­sance here last year and his stamp might not have pin­pointed him as a favourite for this com­pet­i­tive ta­ble A class.

It was his huge stride, how­ever, that pro­vided a win­ning ad­van­tage as he threw down an easy five where ev­ery­one else de­liv­ered six on the fi­nal line to carve a lead of 0.08 of a sec­ond. Only Bel­gium’s Karel

Cox (Jaguar) beat the time but at the ex­pense of two poles, while his coun­try­man François Mathy Jr col­lected the run­ner-up spot in 61.32 sec­onds against Holly’s 61.24 sec­onds, rid­ing Casanova De L’Herse.

“If you looked at him, you wouldn’t think he was as ver­sa­tile as he is. But he’s so light on his feet, he’s like a bal­let dancer,” said Holly, who also came sec­ond in this year’s puis­sance and third in the Hick­stead Derby with the Ir­ish nine-year-old, whom she coowns with James Moss­man.

“I thought he had a good chance of win­ning as he is very com­fort­able at 1.45m and can take strides out, which can make up a cou­ple of sec­onds.

“I de­cided I could take a risk at the fence be­fore the last and I came round the turn for­ward and loose, which made the five strides easy,” she said.

Holly — who di­rectly qual­i­fied for HOYS at Keysoe — had al­ready col­lected a win on the open­ing in­ter­na­tional day when she was one of three com­bi­na­tions whoe shared the spoils in the Grand­stand Me­dia five-fence chal­lenge.

Part­ner­ing new ride Hearts Des­tiny [see box], she joined Shane Breen rid­ing Team Z7’s

Can Ya Makan and He­len

Tred­well with Se­bas­tian VII in jump­ing clear in the fourth round. The daunt­ing track fea­tured a fi­nal ver­ti­cal at 1.85m and the pre­ced­ing triple bar at 1.70m with a 1.90m spread.

“I have been a joint-win­ner and fin­ished equal third in this com­pe­ti­tion, so it’s a favourite class of ours,” He­len said. “You have to get into a good rhythm, and you need a horse that can jump a big fence. No one was keen to go again in a fifth round, so it was bet­ter we had an equal first.”

Shane’s ef­fort­lessly scopey 11-year-old stal­lion was ini­tially pro­duced by Mar­ion Hughes and is one of sev­eral he has re­cently taken over for the Dubai sta­ble.

“I got him in June and this is my third show with him — he went to Dublin [Horse Show] in Au­gust and then spent three weeks at stud,” said Shane, who will com­pete the horse in the UAE early next year be­fore re­turn­ing to Europe.

WHI­TAKER EX­PE­RI­ENCE TAKES THE LEAD

JOHN WHI­TAKER never likes to dis­ap­point a home crowd and his strong form through­out the week earned him the show’s lead­ing rider bonus.

The first of his wins came in the NAEC Stoneleigh Stakes, a take-your-own-line class where he used his decades of ex­pe­ri­ence to cal­cu­late a faster route.

From penul­ti­mate draw, he opted for a fi­nal fence jumped away from the fin­ish, end­ing his round with a gal­lop for the beam on his 15-year-old stal­lion Ar­gento.

“The route in­volved a bit of a

jog from the last but I thought it was bet­ter to go full gal­lop to the fin­ish than at a ver­ti­cal. We used to have a lot of take-your-own lines in the old days and if you do a lot of them, you get good at them,” the 62-year-old said.

Ar­gento last jumped in Rome two weeks ago, where he was fourth in a grand prix, and was in fresh form for HOYS.

“He had an in­jury at Olympia and had four months off. It takes a bit of a while to get them back af­ter that, but he’s been jump­ing back at the top for the past two months,” John said. “He was pulling my arms out this morn­ing when I rode him out­side with all the ponies and cobs fly­ing around.”

Team Har­mony’s Crum­ley, a new ride this spring, col­lected the York­shire­man his sec­ond win of the week in the Horse & Coun­try TV chal­lenge cup two-phase.

The class hinged on an in­flu­en­tial gate at the last, where John was one of the only competitors to suc­cess­fully ex­e­cute the in­side line, gain­ing 0.02 of a sec­ond on He­len Tred­well’s early lead with Lark­song.

“I watched He­len on the screen and I knew she was quick,” said John. “I orig­i­nally in­tended not to turn in­side to the gate as I thought it was a bit risky, but when she did such a fast round I thought I’d have to. It was a dif­fi­cult turn and not many peo­ple pulled it off.”

Nine-year-old Crum­ley was pre­vi­ously rid­den by François Mathy Jr and was fifth in the Va­len­cia grand prix ear­lier this year.

“He’s ac­tu­ally a re­ally big horse for me — he’s 17.1hh and a bit more François’ size as he has a lot longer legs than me,” said John. “Although he’s big, he’s quite ner­vous and gets a lit­tle bit tense. It re­ally showed yes­ter­day when we had the joker down [in the ac­cu­mu­la­tor] but to­day he was more re­laxed. We put plugs in his ears which prob­a­bly helped a bit.”

A TIE IN THE AC­CU­MU­LA­TOR

THERE was a highly un­usual re­sult in the ac­cu­mu­la­tor with the Nether­lands’ man of the mo­ment Har­rie Smold­ers (Cas 2) — win­ner of the 2017 Global Cham­pi­ons Tour — ty­ing on a pre­cise 40.12-sec­ond clear with Bri­tain’s gold league leader Men­nell Wat­son (Whis­per In The Wind).

Har­rie led the 31-strong field from the start with the 10-yearold geld­ing, set­ting a stan­dard that forced the oth­ers to take risks.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to go first but I thought I set quite a good pace,” he said. “I didn’t do the in­side turn be­fore the last [to the Rio fence] — you needed an ex­pe­ri­enced horse and one who can jump from all an­gles,” he said.

Har­rie has been rid­ing Cas 2 for a few months and it was their third show as a part­ner­ship.

“Emer­ald is hav­ing time off, so this filled in a gap in the sched­ule. We de­cided to bring the younger horses to see how far we are with them — all three of them are 10-year-olds,” said Har­rie.

“It’s our first in­door show and a good op­por­tu­nity to show them a crowd, lots of peo­ple and an at­mos­phere. Not that many places of­fer that.”

IRE­LAND OPENS PRO­CEED­INGS

AN­THONY CONDON opened the ac­count for Ire­land with the first in­ter­na­tional win of the show, net­ting the ta­ble A Grand­stand wel­come stakes with the bold grey, Zira Van

Het Kapel­hof Z.

The eight-year-old mare showed some dra­matic scope to clear the fi­nal oxer af­ter not quite hit­ting the dis­tance on

the last line. “I asked her a bit of a ques­tion on the turn into the sec­ond last and she had to stretch,” An­thony said.

“She has such a big heart and is so care­ful, and she has a lot of self-be­lief, which helped me out there,” he added.

An­thony had to take some risks to beat the stan­dard that was set by 23-year-old French rider Ti­touan Schu­macher (Oceane De Nantuel), who fin­ished sec­ond but went on to claim a win in the 1.45m This­tle­down Stakes.

“The French fed­er­a­tion said there was a place to come here and I thought it was a good op­por­tu­nity,” said Ti­touan, who was mak­ing his UK de­but.

Ir­ish rider Padraic Judge also made a suc­cess of his first trip to the NEC, tak­ing an out­right win in the Nay­lors Eques­trian puis­sance with Don­nacha An­hold’s 15-yearold Citi Busi­ness (JJ).

Four rid­ers ini­tially re­mained into the fourth round — although

Robert Whi­taker chose not to present Cat­walk IV — and Padraic was the only one to leave the 2.14m (7ft) wall stand­ing. Holly Smith (Qual­ity Old Joker) and Louise Say­well (Dassler) shared the run­ner-up spot.

“I knew there was a buzz here

but I never thought that it would be any­thing like this,” Padraic said. “I went off by my­self for half an hour [to calm my nerves] but once I was in the sad­dle, I was fine.”

The Co. Mayo rider orig­i­nally bought JJ from Men­nell Wat­son and He­len Van Heynin­gen as a four-year-old but sold him two years ago.

“My plan was orig­i­nally to jump grands prix but he’s a very sharp and ner­vous horse and there was too much go­ing on in his head,” Padraic ex­plained. “I al­ways thought from day one that if he wasn’t a grand prix horse, he’d be a puis­sance horse.

“We might do Olympia now

— I wouldn’t want to do more than one or two of these a year with him at his age. There’s a good heart on the horse and he’d break his neck for you.”

‘He’s so light on his feet, he’s like a bal­let dancer’: Holly Smith mo­tors to a win in the speed horse of the year with Qual­ity Old Joker — whose size be­lies his ver­sa­til­ity

John Whi­taker steers Ar­gento to vic­tory in a take-your-own-line class

Ire­land’s An­thony Condon pi­lots the scopey Zira Van Het Kapel­hof Z to net the wel­come stakes

Padraic Judge and Citi Busi­ness clear

7ft to tri­umph in the puis­sance

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