Mark Edwards reclaims his Welsh Masters crown on the home-bred Flying Tinker

Monday 15 April 2024

Mark Edwards reclaims his Welsh Masters crown on the home-bred Flying Tinker

Welshman Mark Edwards regained his 2022 title to be crowned Welsh Master of 2024 in the top-billed Equestrian Surfaces Grand Prix at the Welsh Masters at the David Broome Event Centre in Chepstow with Flying Tinker II.

Square oxers and skinny planks featured in course-designer Raf Suarez’s 13-fence track, run under A10 rules – the first six fences standing at 1.40m and the latter half of the course at 1.45m.  Faults were recorded all over the track with several hard-luck stories amongst the 43 starters. The final tall vertical with water tray proved particularly heart-breaking for several hopefuls with just eight making it through to the jump-off.  

The slightest of taps meant the first three riders came home on four faults apiece, leaving Bethanie Knight to set the standard from mid-draw on Mr Thunder. She remained at the top until penultimate drawn Mark Edwards galloped Marlene Edwards’ Flying Tinker into the ring. 

The pair, winners of two three-star world ranking classes in Italy a month earlier, left no stone unturned.  Setting off at a blistering pace and slicing every tight turn to the max, they wiped an impressive 3.49 seconds off the time and claim the £1,600 first prize.

“He started the season off as he left it last year, he’s a super little horse and I’m so lucky to have him.  This big ring is so competitive, everything jumps well off it, but I could trust him to keep going at the verticals,” said Mark, on the Tinkers Tale 13-year-old gelding – bred by his father Martyn at their Cowbridge, South Wales home before later selling on to Marlene Edwards and keeping the ride.

Due to his small stature, at first Mark didn’t consider Flying Tinker would be in contention in the bigger classes and viewed him as a future speed horse.

“He’s so careful and on his size, I didn’t think he’d have the scope he has, but at every level he found more scope and now, the bigger they are, the better he jumps.  He’s phenomenal.  I’d like to get into a few Nations Cups, keep progressing and win some international Grands Prix,” added Mark.

Nick Benterman used his final draw to slot Billy Quids In into third, just ahead of Serena Kullich’s Benfields Victory, in fourth with the only other double clear. 

Ella Quigley maxed on her final draw to land the Liz Edgar Cup with Mark Nicholson’s short-named I.  

The 13-fence 1.30m course asked plenty of questions with a skinny stile, double and combination and finishing with a final set of skinny stile planks, and the 53 started were drastically reduced to six for the jump-off.

Gemma Ellison, a winner of this title two years ago, set Miss Conthargos TW alight to post a sizzling target from the front that appeared unbeatable as following riders chased hard without avail.  Ella made a determined and lightning-quick start and maintained a relentless pace with I – aka Ivor – I to shave 0.14 seconds off the time.

“I’d watched Gemma’s round and she was very fast.  Going last, I’d got nothing to lose,” said Ella.

The Douglas x Caesar Van De Helle 11-year-old was purchased from Enda Carroll’s Ashford Farm – the Irishman was originally based with Ella’s parents David and Shaz at their Shropshire base.

“He’s such an amazing horse for me, he’s so sweet and easy, he’s my pet and loves going to shows and I’d like to thank his owner Mark for all his support,” added Ella, 20, who is juggling her time between competing and studying economics at Liverpool University.

Will Fletcher commandeered the Jon Doney Cup on Alison Walton’s Qian Van Heiste over the same track as the Liz Edgar Cup. 

“We got to watch the Liz Edgar Cup so we had an advantage but there were plenty of ways to make up time and the track kept asking questions,” said Will, who rates Qian highly.  “He’s the most exciting horse I’ve had, so talented and a freaky jumper.”

Two former winners were touting for this title in the eight-strong decider, Mark Edwards and an on-form Joe Trunkfield, who was aiming to retain his 2023 crown with two rides.  But it was not to be.

Chris Smith gave them an early target to chase on Rio Bravo Z but Will cut his lead short by 0.80 seconds.  Ollie Tuff gave him a run for his money, up on the clock all the way and beat the time by almost two seconds, but Jelly Bean W hit the final fence to drop to third.

Will and the Cabrio VD Heffinck x Cooper VD Heffinck eight-year-old Qian have recently returned from a two-month tour in Spain, taking in Valencia and the Andalucia Sunshine Tour.

“This was the first time I’ve really pushed him against the clock, and I was very pleased with how he responded.  I’ve got a lot of hopes for him but he’s only eight and I don’t intend to push him, he’s too talented for that,” added Will.  “This summer we’ll aim for Talent Seekers and Foxhunter Second Rounds and maybe set him up for a little bit bigger towards the end of the year and next year, he’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

John Crippen lifted the Saracen Horse Feeds Seven and Eight-year-old Championship on the eight-year-old Bennys Kelly.  This handicap class saw nine of the 24 seven-year-olds jump clear over 1.35m while six of the original 15 eight-year-olds tackled the same track at 1.40m.  Last year’s winner Mark Edwards was looking for a consecutive win and took an early lead on the home-bred seven-year-old Tinkers Touch (Tornesch x Tinkas Boy).  John was slightly quicker with the more experienced Bennys Kelly (Tullibards Bennys Legacy x Harlequin Du Carel), flying into the top spot by 0.37 seconds.

“I knew I’d have my work cut out chasing Mark but I just kept telling myself to keep going and this horse gives me so much confidence, I know he’s going to jump the fences,” said John, on the eight-year-old now owned by a syndicate so he could keep the ride.  “He’s the boldest and yet the most careful horse I’ve ever ridden.  He’s got an impressive jump but he does like to go his own way and he’s so consistent, his form has never dipped – he just likes jumping clear rounds.”    

With three in the jump-off, Joe Trunkfield set out as favourite and duly claimed two of the top three places in the Hazelden Saddlery Six-year-old Final, winning on Nozem III.  Thirteen from a field of 51 returned for the jump-off, Joe’s easy clear in the opening round on Inkitho Z immediately relegated by Nicole Lockhead Anderson aboard the Diaron x Kannan mare Diagolda PS by almost six seconds. 

Joe returned with Neil Fiddes’ Nozem III (Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve x Zavall VDL) and supplied a smooth, deceptively fast pace, easily taking out a stride down every line, to slip into the top spot by 0.22 seconds.  His final ride Nomthago M (Comthago x Indoctro) was less than two tenths of a second behind Nicole for third.  

“It was a great experience for the young horses to get in that big ring.  Nozem didn’t start competing properly until last year, but he caught up quickly.  He’s still big and weak but has abnormal reflexes through his body, so much scope and he’s crazy careful,” said Joe, who got the ride 11 months ago.  “He jumped big into the double on the angle, but I knew I could drop my hand and he’d prop coming out.  He lacks nothing and I think he’s a proper Grand Prix horse for the future.”

Thomas Pritchard, the only rider with two in the jump-off, claimed victory from the latter half of the draw in the Billy Stud Five-year-old Final on Princess SW.

Encouraging and educating the young horses forward in this championship, every fence in the flowing 11-fence course came with a groundline.  Twenty-four of the field of 49 were awarded initial clears to access round two of this three-round competition, the raised track of the first seven fences yielding 16 for the jump-off against the clock.

Thomas had taken an early lead with first ride Otto’s BB but ended up an eventual fifth as riders found more pace.  Riding the more experienced Princess SW, winner of Aintree’s Five-year-old Final back in January, Thomas upped his game to guide the athletic and careful Eldorado VD Zeshoek x Caretino mare by 1.68 seconds.  Keith Shore brought Vale Royal Dark Knight into second with Liam Robins’ Baluchi Lancer in third.

Princess SW was bred by Sophie Wallace out of her Junior competition mare Countess II, also a former ride of Helen Tredwell and Joe Fernyhough. 

Princess was sent to Julian Mincher to break in and sell as a three-year-old – “But we decided very early on she was far too good to sell,” said Julian.  “She won four-year-old Style and Performance classes last year then had time off through the winter and has competed in two five-year-old finals so far and won both of them but this one was special – it’s a big ring, three rounds with a lot of quality horses in it.”

Thomas is also impressed with this mare with a good brain – “I look forward to riding Princess, she has all the qualities – blood, scope and care, but most of all, she loves to jump,” he said.

Another Princess scored a win as Bex Mason topped the Equine America 1.20m Final with new ride of two months, Princess III. 

An entry of 52 set out over the 12-fence 1.20m course with 17 gaining initial clears to reach the jump-off.  With the Cortaflex Arena at its full dimensions and all riders following a similar route, it was who dares, wins with tighter lines at the gallop.  Bryony Martin’s early effort on Pablo Imagine Z set a fast target and she held on to the lead grimly, until Bex made her challenge in the latter half of the jump-off.  Cutting a tighter route from the off with a tight turnback from one to two and maintaining a good pace, Bex risked taking a stride out to the final oxer, the Diar Noir x Loran 11-year-old Princess taking a flying leap to win by 0.48 seconds.

Fresh from their Blue Chip Championship success in the Winter 1.25m Final, Gemma Hallett and Susan Jarman’s Billy Jive added another title to their tally in the Showground Photography 1.25m Final.

Eleven from a start-list of 31 contended the jump-off with Gemma claiming two of the rides. Her brief lead on Colibria II Z dropped down the order as riders dared more and more, but Gemma had her speed star Billy Jive in the wings, and the pair hit top gear to take the win.  Angie Thompson gave them a good run for their money in the final draw but had to settle for second 0.97 seconds in arrears on Freddie 55.

“She knows what she’s doing and always busts a gut for me,” said Gemma, on the flying Billy Mexico x Billy Congo 15-year-old.

Victoria Lundy returned triumphant in the Bailey Farm Equestrian 1.15m Final riding Rolex II Van Berkenbroeck Z.  Only five of the original 26 forward posted clears to qualify for the jump-off, Victoria and the Russel II x Nonstop 11-year-old the fastest of the three double clears, winning by 1.39 seconds.

Scarlett Bracey landed the Keith Price Garages 1.10m Final with Easy Sunday.  It was no easy win as 13 of the 30 starters returned for the jump-off, Scarlett and the TJ Talent x Tresor eight-year-old mare flying into the top spot with 1.05 seconds in hand.

Claudia Bird outpaced all her 49 rivals to take the Deebees Rosettes 1.05m Final in a 17-horse decider on her ride of five months, the nine-year-old chestnut mare Mexican Phizz with 2.48 seconds to spare.  

Image: Showground Photography

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