Jamie Wingrove lifts the Blue Chip Grand Prix from the front at the Blue Chip Show Jumping Championships

Monday 08 April 2024

Jamie Wingrove lifts the Blue Chip Grand Prix from the front at the Blue Chip Show Jumping Championships

In an exciting Gala night finale which had spectators oohing and aahing on the edge of their seats, Jamie Wingrove claimed the feature Blue Chip Grand Prix from the front with Viv Thompson’s Marvin at the Blue Chip Show Jumping Championships at its new home Addington Equestrian Centre, Buckingham.

“I didn’t expect to win, everyone took similar lines, I just kept tight and quick, there was nothing else you could do, but taking out a stride to the final Blue Chip oxer helped and Marvin didn’t feel like he was going to touch a fence,” said Jamie.

A field of 41 competitors vied for supremacy over a 12-fence 1.40m track designed by Nigel Jess, some making their Grand Prix debut pitted against more experienced riders.  Sixteen posted clear rounds and there was an added dimension as they included all three riders in contention for the PRB Horseboxes £2,000 bonus – on offer to the top three of the Blue Chip Pro Challenge Trophy who went on to win the Grand Prix.  And on-form winner Sandy McLean had two chances. 

“The course wasn’t big, but it had wide oxers off the corners, your horse had to be rideable,” assessed Jamie, who gave his rivals a hard task from first draw.

Daring the Kannan x Wolkensdream 12-year-old Marvin with tight lines at an optimum pace, Jamie gave the rest a target to chase.  And he stayed ahead despite the challenges to win by 1.71 seconds.  Both Sandy on Eagele Z and bonus contender Sam Oliver with Gluk beat the time but at the expense of a rail apiece.  The other in line for the bonus, Phillip Miller, chased hard to jump into second place on Don Royale while Adam Taylor guided Gangster II into third.

Marvin joined Jamie 18 months ago at only Foxhunter level.

“He’s had a couple of good results in world ranking classes in Oliva Nova, Spain, and this was his first big show since Christmas, it’s a lovely show to get going for the summer season ahead.  There were plenty of fast riders in the jump-off, but he’s got a good stride on and it worked in our favour,” said Jamie.

The Gala evening started with an exciting Espsyo Junior Challenge, won by Georgiana Hills on Lucky Boys Strike while Geoff Billington gave plenty of tips and advice on producing the young showjumper in his masterclass.

Sandy powered his way to the top of the Blue Chip Pro Challenge Trophy with Eagele Z, making short work of the tight turn options on offer. 

Forty-five competitors tackled the 12-fence 1.35m course but Sandy had the win sewn up almost immediately, using his second draw to set a sizzling – and unbeatable – target.  Despite several challenges, Eagele Z remained comfortably ahead, and Sandy’s nearest rival Sam Oliver could only come within 2.32 seconds to ease Gluk into second with Phillip Miller in third on Don Royale.

Sandy had stepped the 13-year-old Eagele Z (Eldorado VD Zeshoek x Ramiro Z) up to Winter Grand Prix at the beginning of the year and promptly won at Onley Grounds Winter Classic after concentrating on his rideability.  Placed fourth twice in two world ranking classes in Valencia, Spain, brought the gelding on with a noted improvement.

“He’s athletic and careful and now I’ve sussed how to go fast.  I changed his bridle from a pelham to a snaffle, now he’s not fighting me anymore – he likes the snaffle, is easier on the turns and he’s quicker naturally; he’s changed for the better in four weeks and hopefully will be more competitive,” said Sandy. 

An on-form Megan James claimed two rides in the 11-horse decider of the Blue Chip Dynamic B and C and lifted the title on second ride, Kevin Sleap’s home-bred Balouish.

“I hope she’s going to be my Grand Prix horse,” said Megan, on the eight-year-old mare she has produced for the past three years – “It was her birthday the day before this win!”

The entry of 46 faced a technical 12-fence course handicapped at 1.25/1.30m with only one Grade B joining the 10 Grade C horses against the clock. 

“The arena is quite tight and spooky for green horses with all the distractions [tradestands, flowers, etc] to look at but it’s good experience – and they have to learn to cope if they are going to be any good,” said Megan, who is based in the New Forest with Megan Broadway and is a long-term fan of the Blue Chip Championships – “I’ve been coming to Blue Chips since I was 12 and in my pony days, it’s a great atmosphere, like a mini HOYS.”

Megan had an insight to the jump-off track with first ride Good Luck Turkish but made one mistake.  There was no such error with Balouish – aka Laura – by the Baloubet Du Rouet stallion son Balou Mena G II and out of an Indoctro mare, and they won by 2.33 seconds.  Stephen Mercer came closest to take second on Gadget De Hus with Lulu James claiming third on Full Monty.

“She’s been competing in Oliva Nova, Spain, and only returned eight days ago but she’s naturally fast.  This was only her second time indoors, her first time was qualifying for this class at Onley Grounds in January,” said Megan, who will target Foxhunter Second Rounds this summer before stepping her up at the end of the year.

Eleni Falla made her Blue Chip Championship debut a winning one with victory in the Blue Chip Karma Performance title with Lightning W, having ridden the eight-year-old only a handful of times. 

“He’s actually belongs to my twin sister Alicia and I’d only ridden him a couple of times a year ago until I borrowed him to jump here at Addington six weeks ago.  We qualified for this final and this is the first time I’ve sat on him since,” said Eleni, who hails from Guernsey.  “It’s our first visit to the Blue Chips but Alicia moved to the UK with him and is based with Tom Hedgecock at TSH Sporthorses in Surrey.”

Sixty-seven riders tackled a testing 12-fence course with 11 returning to battle it out in the jump-off.  As the horse’s name suggests, Eleni was lightning fast, slicing into angled turns and trusting Lightning to be careful and quick in their early draw, fending off any challenges to win by 0.52 seconds.

“He’s so easy, loves his job and wants to win,” said Eleni, on the Stakkato Gold x Classe VDL gelding was purchased two years ago.  “He qualified for three Blue Chip finals on the first attempt – the Blue Chip B and C with me and the 1.25m with Alicia.”

Bryony Crippen galloped Catyana MDS into second and Megan claimed third with Good Luck Turkish.

Twelve months after taking second in a battle of a jump-off, Gemma Hallett and flying phenomenon Billy Jive seized the Windmill Farm Estate 1.25m Championship. 

“She busts a gut for me every time, for anyone who doesn’t like a chestnut mare, they haven’t sat on this one,” said Gemma. 

The 45 starters were reduced to 11 for the jump-off with Emma-Jo Slater setting a seemingly fast target on Kimba Castello.  But the competition was ultra-hot, Gemma and the Billy Mexico x Billy Congo 15-year-old Billy Jive posting a blistering round to wipe more than two seconds from the time.  Emma Sargeant chased hard to slot Whisper’s Love into second 1.72 seconds in arrears and Daniella Johnston slipped Elton John II into third.

Gemma and Susan Jarman’s consistent mare have notched up countless wins in their five-year partnership and fired a warning shot of their intentions by winning the 1.20m here the previous day.

“I watched Emma-Jo as first to go and thought she was so fast, how was I ever going to catch her on a little mare around a gallopy jump-off course.  I didn’t know how I’d make the time up, but she [Billy Jive] was flying.  She knows what she’s doing and, as long as I’m [riding] half decent, she’ll win – I sit on her and just feel at home,” said Gemma, who was on her first visit to Addington Equestrian Centre.

A determined Millie Dickinson saved the best until last, hitting top gear from the off on FS Warriors Quest to secure the win in the Blue Chip RLF Power Championship.

Sixty-six hopefuls started over the 12-fence 1.15m course and 21 came up with the answers to claim a place in the jump-off.  Jessica Cunnington held the lead with Nakante over Thomas Pritchard’s Double M Sensation, but the result wasn’t guaranteed until the final rider, and Millie left no stone unturned. 

FS Warriors Quest lived up to his name for Millie and was firing on all cylinders before they flashed through the start, hitting every line with a great shot.  Executing a tight angled turn over the penultimate oxer, Millie trusted the Noble Warrior x Quick Star seven-year-old to power to the final fence and pull off the win by 0.66 seconds.   

The pair joined forces last August and have recorded recent wins at 1.25m and 1.30m level.

“I spotted him at a show and rang Julian Mincher but he didn’t get back to me.  Then he qualified for the National Six-year-old Final and several people clocked he was a nice one, so I called Julian again and begged to try him,” said Millie, who manged to seal the deal.  “He [Warriors Quest] is very cheeky and almost savaged me in the stable when I viewed him, but he has improved.  He’s brave, careful, scopey and very quick, I’m hoping for an exciting year ahead.”

Chantal de Verteuil beat the odds in a big-entry jump-off to land the Joshua Jones UK Discovery Championship with Agata Smolen’s Noko.

Thirty-three competitors from a start list of 82 qualified for the jump-off but the final vertical proved the heartbreaker for several in contention for the top spot.  Chantal used her late draw to her advantage, flying to victory by almost three seconds.

“He came to me last May and has been brilliant to produce, achieved all his double clears in British Novice, Discovery and Newcomers and is now jumping Foxhunter, he’s such a consistent little horse,” said Chantal, on the Zirocco Blue VDL x Etoulon VDL six-year-old.  “He’s cute but with character, a little bit cheeky but very level at home and at shows; he’s very easy.”

Anya Brown used her penultimate draw to snatch victory in a hard-fought jump-off for the Bliss of London Novice Championship on Donna Z I. 

An entry of 88 came forward over a 12-fence 1m track with 31 gaining initial clear rounds to access the jump-off.  With 15 double clears recorded, it was all about the clock, times becoming increasingly faster as riders dared with tighter and tighter turns.

Anya hit top gear with the six-year-old Donna Z (Dallas VDL x Cassinland), taking a flyer to the final vertical to secure the top spot by 0.94 seconds.  Second and third was decided by the narrowest of margins – Lauren Roach taking the runner-up position on Harlequin VI with only 0.01 seconds over Myles West in third aboard DoubleM Royal.

Clare Miller outpaced all rivals to claim the WB Equiline Star Championship with Helrite. 

A mammoth 96 competitors initially contended the 12-fence track, these reduced to 23 for the jump-off.  But clears proved scarce second time out, Clare setting the target from fifth draw and holding off all later challenges to win by 0.28 seconds.

“She’s awesome, the most honest mare inside and out, she always gives 100%,” said Clare, who purchased this Elvis Ter Putte x Jus De Pomme 12-year-old chestnut mare nine months ago from ESM Equestrian.  “I almost bought her as a four-year-old and now she’s teaching me the ropes, she’s so easy at home and lights up at a show.”

Aims this year include the Chepstow one-star classes and competing at Hickstead again.

“I’d only owned her for three weeks last year and she qualified twice for Hickstead’s Main Ring.  She gives me so much confidence, I’ve gone from jumping 90cm to 1.20m and she helps me out at every fence,” added Clare, who describes herself as an amateur in full-time work as a Regional Finance Manager for Hyundai.      

Caitlin True netted second place on Brownheath Collateral and Isabelle Porter filled third aboard Alvescot Innovation.

Making her Blue Chip debut a winning one, Georgia Darlington hit top speed to claim the Socks By Ruby Diamond Final with the super-quick Lisas Dream. 

More than 100 competitors contended the qualifying rounds in hope of gaining a place in the final, with 30 consistent pairings achieving their aim to ride in the Championship Arena.  Twelve reached the jump-off over the 1m track with Jassy Pyke setting the standard from first draw on Bon Amego.

Georgia risked tight turns and put in an enormous leap of faith to the final oxer, kicking on to take out a stride and stand off the fence, the 18-year-old Templebready Fear Bui daughter Lisas Dream clearing it with ease.  They won with 0.91 seconds in hand.

“She’s my Horse of a Lifetime and a real all-rounder.  I’ve had her for eight years, she won the 1m at Hickstead and we’ve qualified for Royal International in the working Hunter Pony and she events to Novice level,” said Surrey-based Georgia.  “This is my first visit to the Blue Chip championships, and I live it.”

Grace Wallace used her final draw to slip Eau Claire V into second, pushing Jassy and Bon Amego into third. 

Photos Suzanne Jones

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