Showjump­ing Bri­tish

Nigel Coupe’s con­sis­tent part­ner­ship with his Hick­stead Derby win­ner Golvers Hill lands an­other ma­jor ti­tle at a spec­tac­u­lar show where the Brits demon­strate their full force

Horse & Hound - - On The Cover - NIGEL COUPE ON GOLVERS HILL By SARAH RAD­FORD

con­tin­gent dis­play their full force

Horse of the Year Show, Gent­ing Arena, Birm­ing­ham

NIGEL COUPE and Golvers

Hills’ as­tound­ing sea­son hit the strato­sphere as they added the £13,200 lead­ing showjumper ti­tle to their al­ready ex­ten­sive spoils.

“I say it’s amaz­ing ev­ery time but at the mo­ment it truly is,” said the 46-year-old Lan­cashire rider, who has also laid claim to this year’s Hick­stead Derby and the cov­eted Cock o’ the North with the Ir­ish geld­ing.

It was a stronger night for the Brits in this grand prix than in re­cent years, with the home side seiz­ing the top three plac­ings in the fi­nale.

The Nether­lands’ Johnny Pals had been the first of seven rid­ers to tackle Kelvin By­wa­ter’s jump off track, and he pro­duced a fluid clear on the 14-year-old mare Wes­selina to set an open­ing bar of 43.71 sec­onds.

Egypt’s Sameh El Da­han and Suma’s Zorro suf­fered from an over-keen start, knock­ing over the wing of the first fence to add four faults, but smash­ing the tar­get time by 5.06 sec­onds.

The first of the na­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion, Robert Smith and his top ride Il­ton, were next in, ex­e­cut­ing some eco­nom­i­cal lines with an unchecked run down to the fi­nal ver­ti­cal to dive into the lead with a 39.09-sec­ond clear.

Bel­gian François Mathy Jr’s ef­fort on the nine-year-old selle Français geld­ing Uno De La Roque trailed by more than 2.5 sec­onds, mean­ing a Bri­tish win was guar­an­teed as the home side filled the last three jump-off slots.

CHEERS FOR WHI­TAKER CHAL­LENGE

WITH two wins al­ready on his card this week John Whi­taker was on short odds for vic­tory, and the 15-year-old Ar­gento looked in gleam­ing form as he en­tered the ring to a roar from the crowd.

The 62-year-old rider de­liv­ered

a pre­cise round on the Arko stal­lion, tact­fully nav­i­gat­ing an S-bend over the Rio boomerang fence and find­ing good shots all round the track to es­tab­lish a 0.21-sec­ond ad­van­tage.

But there should be no un­der­es­ti­mat­ing Nigel Coupe and the con­sis­tent 14-year-old, whom he co-owns with Su­san Sim­mons.

The bay geld­ing — who ap­peared at HOYS as a work­ing hunter in his younger days — met ev­ery fence on a for­ward stride to clip an im­pres­sive 0.88 of a sec­ond off the goal.

Last-to-go James Smith cer­tainly seized the op­por­tu­nity of­fered by his HOYS wild­card league win, not only reach­ing the sec­ond round of the grand prix but de­liv­er­ing a stir­ring ef­fort with the 10-year-old Kan­nan geld­ing Twix De La Roque.

Us­ing the grey’s big stride and find­ing a strong rhythm, he posted a de­cent 39.79-sec­ond round but caught the last fence.

‘A TOP HORSE WITH A HEART OF GOLD’

NIGEL’S win marked 30 years since he claimed the equiv­a­lent pony ti­tle.

“I first came here in 1986 and I won the lead­ing pony in 1987 so to win the big one is amaz­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter the year he’s had. He’s a top, top horse and he’s got a heart of gold,” said Nigel.

“We didn’t have the best prepa­ra­tion — he had a sore back and I didn’t ride him Mon­day or Tues­day and he had light work on Wednesday. I didn’t get the work I wanted but he’s a horse that has the abil­ity to not be fazed.”

Nigel said the de­ci­sion to go for an all-out win was a “no brainer”.

“There was a fast four-faulter and all the oth­ers were clear, if

I’d have gone for a clear I’d have ended up fifth, so you’ve got to have a go haven’t you?”

John may have set­tled for sec­ond place, but the York­shire­man’s two wins and grand prix sec­ond earned him the £2,000 lead­ing rider bonus.

“It was a good week,” he said. “Ar­gento jumped great in the grand prix and if you get beaten, you get beaten.

“I could have gone faster but I was try­ing to beat Robert with­out risk­ing too much — I could have gone quicker to the last but I knew what Robert’s time was and I didn’t want to risk hav­ing it down.

“I was aim­ing to beat Robert but in the end Nigel was quicker. He’s had a great year, he plugs away and he de­serves all he gets,” he added.

‘If I’d gone for a clear, I’d have ended up fifth, so you’ve got to have a go. He’s a horse with the abil­ity not to be fazed’

Nigel Coupe lands the lead­ing showjumper ti­tle on the in-form Golvers Hill with an au­da­cious chal­lenge from penul­ti­mate draw

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