Darcy Breen and Lucy Capper are Winter JA Classic stars at Aintree Equestrian Centre

Monday 22 January 2024

Darcy Breen and Lucy Capper are Winter JA Classic stars at Aintree Equestrian Centre

Darcy Breen claimed her second Winter JA Classic of the 2024 series on the consistent One Saharah at Aintree International Equestrian Centre.

The pair qualified for the Final at Morris Equestrian Centre, taking third on day one and scoring a win 24 hours later. 

At Aintree, 14 contended course-designer Shaun Sands’ 11-fence 1.30m track with only three finding all the right answers. One was lost on the way in round two to create a head-to-head between Darcy and Emily Gulliver. 

First off Emily clipped the vertical at two and hit top gear on the For Pleasure x Quick Star nine-year-old Fleur De Nuit 8 to set a fast target should Darcy also lower a fence. Darcy didn’t leave anything to chance and opted for speed from the off, flying around the course on the nine-year-old Daniel daughter. She made the right choice as Saharah tapped out the front rail on the final oxer but stopped the clock with 0.78 seconds in hand to take the win.

Emily finished second and Katie Bradburne – on four faults in round two – finished third with Ardough Boy.

Lucy Capper was another to claim her second Winter JA Classic win riding Capability Brown. Winner of the very first competition of the 2024 season at Morris, Lucy proved the best on Sunday at Aintree with the sole treble clear.

Four of the original 14 starters made their way into round two with the qualifying places already decided as three had already gained qualification as first round clears are a qualification requirement. The four were halved for the final jump-off, Lucy in a two-way decider with Maisie Allsop. 

Lucy set off in the opening draw and, despite an anxious moment at the double when the 13-year-old Capability Brown popped in an extra short stride, the pair came home unscathed. Maisie chased with the 15-year-old Vaughann De Vuzit but the challenge failed when a rail at the third fence fell and they also encountered problems at the double.  Nonetheless, they claimed the second qualifying spot.

The already-qualified pairings of Katie Bradburne with Ardough Boy and Emily Gulliver’s Fleur Du Nuit 8 claimed third and fourth respectively.

Lucia Caroline is already adding up the Agria Royal International Horse Show qualification tickets and made a winning return to Aintree to claim another in Saturday’s Winter JC/JD on The Beast From The East. Lucia, who already has two ponies through to the Hickstead 128cm Final – Desdemone De Marquis and Living The Dream – with good results the previous week at Aintree’s Small Pony Premier, seamlessly made the switch to 148cm ponies.

Fifty-two hopefuls came forward over an 11-fence 1.15m course to chase the three qualifying places on offer with 15 returning initial clears. These were further reduced to six for the jump-off with mid-drawn Lucia providing the sole treble clear on The Beast From The East, an 11-year-old previously ridden by elder sister Lauren with Lucia taking on the reins last June.

Honey Bowes proved more than two seconds faster but a rail on the floor dropped the 12-year-old VMS Dion Cruise to second and Persia Calderbank also came home on four faults for the third qualifying place with Zenzi Girl.

Persia hit flying form 24 hours later to claim a Winter JC/JD victory, and another Hickstead place, with Drumaweel Ronan. The original 46 starters were reduced to 14 for round two with five emerging with double clears to battle it out in the final jump-off for the two qualifying spots on offer.

It was all about the clock as three supplied treble clears, Persia maintaining an even but fast rhythm on the Irish-bred 11-year-old she has competed for two years, commanding the win with a handsome 2.77 seconds to spare. Nellie Lock claimed second and the final qualifying place with the nine-year-old mare Catho Van De Langvelden Z.   

Katie Bradburne topped the Blue Chip Pro Sparkle JC/JA Handicap with Derryinver Rocky. Seventeen from the field of 36 jumped clear but, as some were only using this class as a warm-up, 12 contended the jump-off, Katie and the 11-year-old Derryinver Rocky outpacing them all to win by one whole second.  Maisie Allsop eased Carnhill Misty into second.

Hollie Gerken dominated the Children on Horses 16 years and Under 1.20m qualifiers, winning both with Salut I. Eight contended the single-phase course with Hollie and her new ride of three weeks, the nine-year-old Stakkato daughter Salut, beating Tabby Morgan Evans and Bermudez BDA into second by 1.12 seconds. Darcy Breen guided Kunis into third.

In the concluding class, Hollie again came to the fore on Salut, on this occasion claiming a 2.35 second win. Benjamin Davies slipped Diva H into second and Tabby provided the only other double clear for third with Bermudez BDA.

Tabby and the Cevin Z 11-year-old Bermudez captured Sunday’s Children on Horses 16 years and Under 1.10m, edging ahead of Immy Spencer Blow in second on Arko’s Lad by 0.34 seconds.

Bella Wild returned triumphant in Saturday’s Children on Horses 1.10m on the Quinar Z 13-year-old Quintus W Z, beating her 12 rivals by 1.32 seconds, Emily Gulliver coming the closest aboard Billy Earp.

Gabriella Douglas captured first position in the Bliss of London Pony Coral qualifier by 0.61 seconds riding the six-year-old Farravaune Shannen.  The first of the Pony Foxhunter classes to run under the brand-new sponsorship of STX-UK Horseboxes was won by Emily Gulliver and the nine-year-old mare Fantastik Du Rieu.   

Image: Darcy Breen and One Sahara. Credit: Majestic Photography

 
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