British riders hit the heights in Spain with Grand Prix wins as siblings Ellen and Donald Whitaker dominate at two major shows

Monday 25 March 2024

British riders hit the heights in Spain with Grand Prix wins as siblings Ellen and Donald Whitaker dominate at two major shows

The British riders were on fire on the final day of the seven-week Andalucia Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, with almost a clean sweep of the Invitational Grands Prix.

Ellen Whitaker came to the fore in the final week, winning the 4* Invitational Medium Tour 1.50m and coming close to landing victory in the feature Invitational 1.60m Grand Prix.

Fifty-four riders came forward over course-designer Leopoldo Palacios’ 13-fence 1.50m track but only nine found the key to qualify for the jump-off.  Ellen provided another immaculate clear on Demi Louvo, the Vigo Cece x Starsky De Brix 11-year-old flying into the top spot by 0.60 seconds.  Max Routledge also returned a double clear for fourth on Crystal King.

“I’m delighted with Demi Louvo.  We’ve only been together since the last week in January and she seems to have been making big steps every week and it was a lovely way to finish her tour in Spain. She has an exciting future ahead,” said Ellen.

Fifty riders received the elite invitation to the 4* 1.60m Grand Prix Final but course-designer Gregory Bodo set a challenging 13-fence track – a qualifier for the Paris Olympics and the 2025 European Championships – and reduced them down to eight for the jump-off.  Ellen was again in the mix but Spain’s Jesus Echevarria Garmendia set such a fast target on Callias, he proved impossible to beat.  Ellen gave it a good shot with Tilly Shaw’s talented nine-year-old Cornet Obolensky daughter Korlenski and was the closest rival, crossing the finish line 2.31 seconds in arrears for second place.  British-based Irishman Billy Twomey slipped Diego Del Caribe into third and Joe Fernyhough gave a very good account of himself for fourth on Calcourt Particle.

“Korlenski just amazes me, I’m very proud of her result in what is always a tough Grand Prix.  I’m thoroughly enjoying her and so excited for her future and I want to thank owners Alycia Port [Demi Louve] and Andrew and Tilly Shaw [Korlenski] for their support of two lovely mares,” said Ellen. 

Ellen jumped Conshira Blue PS into second in Thursday’s 64-entry 4* 1.45m speed, the 11-year-old Conthargos x Chacco Blue mare 2.94 seconds off the pace.  The consistent pair also finished third in the 4* Dunas De Barbate Small 1.45m Grand Prix in an 11-horse decider 0.62 seconds off the winning time. 

It was a British whitewash in the 4* Invitational Small Grand Prix as Britain’s on-form riders swept up the top four places.  Eight of the original 44 competitors made their way into the jump-off with Jude Burgess outpacing the rest to score a 0.91 second win on the 10-year-old mare Oilina (Emerald x Orame).  Jake Myers sped into second on the Chaman 10-year-old J Superstar ahead of Red Morgan in third aboard the 13-year-old Golia and Fraser Reed was also double clear for fourth on Westbank Rio.

“I’m super-happy, the mare jumped two fantastic rounds.  She really loves the big grass ring here [The Hickstead Arena] and everything went to plan in the jump-off, it’s a great way to finish the tour,” said Jude.

Nicole Lockhead Anderson claimed the Sergio Grasso Ladies Invitational for the second consecutive year.  Forty-three ladies tackled the 4* 12-fence, 15 effort 1.45m track and 20 found the key.  Britain again came out on top as Nicole galloped to the top of the podium on Tom Williams’ Mecoblue PS (Messenger x Chacco-Blue) with more than two seconds to spare.  Joanne Whitaker made it a British one-two in second on the London 10-year-old London Eye.

“He jumped super.  He’s only eight so I didn’t go too fast, the fences needed jumping and luckily, he was fast enough,” said Nicole.  “I won it on an eight-year-old last year – Emerald Irish Cruise – and it’s a lovely class; not too big, not too technical but it still needs jumping.  It’s a class we aim for.”

Nicole was less than half a second off winning Saturday’s feature class with Madagascar Dwerse Hagen.  A total of 72 riders contended the 4* 1.50m speed but that didn’t daunt Nicole and she guided the Va Vite x Diabeau 13-year-old into the runner-spot 0.32 seconds behind the winner, British-based Irishman Richard Howley riding Mansini Ltd.

Double winners in week six, Emma Stoker and Robert Lemieux’s consistent Q Seven continued with their winning ways in Friday’s 4* Small Tour 1.45m.  Sixty riders came forward in this speed competition but no-one could catch the on-form Emma and she skilfully guided the FRH Quaid x Stakkato 11-year-old into victory by 0.39 seconds.  William Walker was also clear for third riding the 12-year-old Ustino.

Adrian Whiteway jumped an easy clear in Thursday’s 54-strong 4* 1.50m speed to slot the Chacco-Blue 11-year-old Chacco Volo into fourth 3.32 seconds behind the winner.

Matt Sampson returned clean rounds in the 31-entry 4* Medium 1.50m two-phase for third place, the nine-year-old Kamal 1.52 second away from the winning time.  

Nicole secured victory in the Five-year-old Final with Ulero TW.  Twenty-six of the best from seven weeks of competition came forward over a 12-fence 1.20m course with 10 returning to contend the jump-off.  Nicole is known for her speedy prowess and this competition was no exception as she guided Jessica Williams’ Cicero Z Van Paemel x Heartbreaker stallion into the top spot by 1.35 seconds.

William Fletcher posted a double clear in the seven-horse decider of the Eight-year-old 1.45m Final to ease Calixte Heartbreaker Z into third.  Olivia Skinner picked up one time fault in the 11-horse jump-off of the Ashford Farm Seven-year-old Final to take third on C-Mikado Wapiti MP Z (Comme Il Fau x Lupicor). 

OLIVA

The British wins in Spain continued at the Spring MET III in Oliva Nova, as Donald Whitaker topped the feature 3* Grand Prix with Millfield Colette.

German course-designer Christian Wiegand set a 13-fence 1.50m track for the 44 starters and ten of them returned a clean sheet to gain a jump-off place.  Donald was in flying form and could not be caught, winning by 0.37 seconds on the 11-year-old Cornet Obolensky x Clearway mare – bred in Britain by Sue Jagger of Millfield Stud.  Fellow Brit Joe Clayton came home hot on his heels for second with the Comme il Faut 5 x Polydor 14-year-old Commissaire S.

 Joe claimed two third places in earlier world ranking classes.  He eased Commissaire S into third in the Friday’s 3* 1.45m speed, finishing four seconds behind the winner, Germany’s Nicola Pohl riding Arlo De Blondel – a former ride of Michael and Jack Whitaker.

Unex Competition Yard’s Gentlemen VH Veldhof stepped up for Joe in Saturday’s 3* 1.50m.  Ten of the 50 starters accessed the jump-off with Joe and the 18-year-old Quite Easy 958 stallion finishing 1.31 seconds off the winning time.

Carmen Edwards slipped Happy Valerie into second in Thursday’s 3* 1.45m Grand Prix qualifier over a 58-entry speed track, the 12-year-old Verdi TN daughter finishing 0.32 seconds off the winning time.

Graham Gillespie won the Silver Tour Grand Prix by 0.26 seconds in the 11-horse jump-off on the Pelgrim-K eight-year-old Partner In Crime.

Leo Lamb and the handsome stallion Chrysler Key SR proved their consistency to take the Young Horse Championship Seven-year-old Trophy.  Fifty-three competitors started over an 11-fence 1.40m course with 13 returning to contend the jump-off, Leo and his mother Carron Nicol’s Comme Il Faut 5 x Calido I stallion slotting into second place 1.01 seconds behind the winner.  Their final result earned them an impressive 17 points on their nearest rival to take the Championship title.

Graham Babes finished the age classes on a high by taking the Roelofson Horse Trucks Six-year-old Final with Nanieta P.  Sixty-one contenders came forward over an 11-fence 1.30m track with 20 producing initial clears to access the jump-off.  Graham made short work of the raised and shortened course on the Harley VDL x Diarado stallion to forge ahead by 2.29 seconds.

Graham also topped the Gold 1.40m speed with the 10-year-old Monks I Am Casall (I’m Special De Muze x Casall), beating their 54 rivals with more than three seconds in hand. 

Megan Broadway maximised on her final draw to crown Mr Co-K Van Kattenheye Z the Five-year-old champion.  Fifteen of the original 33 qualified for the jump-off with last-drawn Megan and the Mr Uno-K Van’t Kattenheye x Cascadello gelding the sole partnership to break the 30 second barrier and win with 0.63 seconds to spare.     

ST TROPEZ - GASSIN

Scott Brash eased Hello Vittoria into third in Saturday’s 3* 1.50m in St Tropez, France. 

Forty-eight competitors came forward in this two-phase class with Scott and the 10-year-old Kannan daughter finishing 0.65 seconds behind the winner, French speedster Julien Epaillard on Cancun Torel Z.

 
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