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
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