William Whitaker lands the Le Mieux 2* Grand Prix at Bolesworth International Equestrian Summer Festival

Monday 10 June 2024

William Whitaker lands the Le Mieux 2* Grand Prix at Bolesworth International Equestrian Summer Festival

William Whitaker left the best until last, snatching victory in a nail-biting jump-off for the feature Le Mieux 2* Grand Prix on P. Sultan Saud’s Chacco’s Lando to conclude week one of the Bolesworth International Equestrian Summer Festival on a high.

“I had the best draw and knew I had to do everything to get the win and luckily it paid off and got the result I was hoping for,” said William.

Forty-nine riders faced course-designer Raf Suarez’s thought-provoking 13-fence track which challenged with technical distances and time allowed with an added element of unplanned, intermittent showers. 

“There were plenty of questions – Raf puts a lot of thought into his courses,” assessed William.

Twenty-five per cent went through to round two, the seven initial clears joined by six carrying their faults.  But fittingly, the clears won out with six double clear rounds recorded – the clock ruled despite the jump-off being hit by a hard, driving shower. 

An Irish win looked on the cards as Shane Breen set a formidable target on the 10-year-old Cato Boy, taking out a stride between the first two fences of triple bar and vertical and attempting to take a flyer to the last. 

“I left a bit of room, he’s got a big step but I didn’t quite get the turn I wanted after the second fence and went wide. I was aiming to take out a stride to the last, but he jumped the [penultimate] vertical a bit ‘up and down’ and although I was going for eight strides, I got windy and went on the nine,” said Shane.

Chris Smith chased the time with his wife Nicola and father-in-law Jim Barry’s home-bred nine-year-old Messarado Blue (Messenger x Indorado) to come within 0.89 seconds.

“I’ve been throwing it away in a jump-off recently and I wasn’t going to do that this time.  In the back of my mind, I could hear Nicola’s voice – I had my plan and stuck to it,” said Chris.

It went to the wire. As last to go, William knew exactly what he had to do and easily negotiated taking out a stride down the first line and the turn to the oxer at three gave them the edge. A gallop to the final fence secured victory by 0.60 seconds, finally handing the win the Chacco-Blue x Lando 11-year-old deserved after taking second place in both recent Chard and Chepstow 2* Grands Prix.

“He’s very talented.  I’ve had him 18 months now and I’m getting to know him, although he is a stallion and can be easily distracted, especially at this time of year,” said William.  “He had a fence down at Wellington International and I felt I hadn’t done my job well enough to keep him settled, but I’m learning how he needs to be managed to perform at his best.

“He does make a plenty of noise – he’d be a lot quieter as a gelding – but he’s a kind horse and great to work with.”

It isn’t the first time William has won the top-billed Grand Prix at this unique venue with moat arena in front of its special Castle background as Upperclass obliged in 2014 – “I’m hoping I don’t have to wait 10 years to win the next one – I’m back here next week!” he quipped.

Chris picked up a win in the concluding 1* 1.35m Grand Prix with Chaplin De Leau, the Monti Obolensky x Arko III nine-year-old heading the 11-strong jump-off with 0.93 seconds over second-placed Beth Vernon aboard Incognito BH.

Longtime leader Tabitha Kyle got her Bolesworth campaign off to a flying start with a commanding victory in the world ranking Thomas Plant Hire 2* 1.45m speed on Desterly.

Fifty-three competitors tackled course-designer Rafael Suarez’s 12-fence speed track, but no-one could come close to Tabitha’s early round aboard TJ Hall’s 16-year-old Tolan R x Murano mare. She remained way out in front, winning by more than six seconds.

Omar Abdul Aziz Al Marzoooki, riding for the United Arab Emirates, claimed the other 2* 1.45m Grand Prix qualifier on offer with the 10-year-old Chacco Bay. Thirteen of the original 73 returned for the jump-off, Omar pushing ahead to relegate Simon Buckley’s Millfield Hickson into second by 0.48 seconds.

Jay Halim outpaced his 62 rivals to top the Hird & Partners 2* 1.40m speed with Gentle, the Libero H x Lord Calando 13-year-old powering to victory by 3.10 seconds.  Harry Wainwright came the closest for second on Pinheiro Beech with Chantelle Duggan slotting Linton De La Chapelle – winner of the final day’s 2* 1.35m two-phase – into third.

“It’s always an honour to have a win here at Bolesworth, especially with Gentle – he seems to love this venue and I love being here,” said Jay.

An on-form Emily Gulliver landed a superb double victory with the Charles Owen Children-on-Horses Grand Prix and Pony of the Year Show Pony Grand Prix.

Emily has hit a purple patch recently, taking third place in the De Wolden Pony Grand Prix in The Netherlands, on Fleur Du Nuit 8, before dashing home and qualifying two ponies for the Horse of the Year Show. 

The nine-year-old Fleur (For Pleasure x Quick Star) stepped up to the plate at Bolesworth, making short work of the 13-fence 1.35m track with scope and flair.  Six riders produced clear rounds to access the jump-off, Emily taking advantage of a late draw to win by 0.42 seconds.

“It was a nice, flowing track with long runs, so I made the most of her massive stride.  I never worry, I know she will always jump and she is so careful and quick through the air,” said Emily, who relied on jump-off advice from Dad Ben; ‘Use your lines [to go tight]’ and fellow competitor Hollie Gerken’s Mum Jade; ‘Use her stride’.”  

Lucy Capper slotted Oscar Van De Beekerheide into second with Katie Bradburne filling third on her previous day’s winner, Westpoint Foreign Affair.

Emily had already fired a warning shot as to her winning intentions in the penultimate day’s Children-on-Horses 1.30m speed with Glamor.  The Mylord Carthago x Quouglof Rouge eight-year-old mare looked confident, scopey and careful to take the Grand Prix in style.

Four of the original 10 starters supplied initial clears over the 12-fence 1.30m track to return for round two, Tabby Morgan-Evans claiming two of the rides.  But Emily confidently secured the win with more than two seconds to spare, pushing Tabby into second and third on Bermudez BDA and Broadstone Primrose.

“The track was strong and technical.  Luckily, I have jumped Nations Cup courses recently and it has really helped with my riding. Glamor is easy, level and so straight, a different ride to Fleur,” said Emily.

Jack Whitaker landed the Al Shira’aa Seven-year-old Final with Chique RV Z.  The 50 competitors facing the 12-fence 1.30m course were whittled down to nine for the jump-off.  Four Irish contenders were out for the win, but they had to settle for second to fifth as Jack skilfully guided the Cicero Z x Gelha’s VDL Emilion mare into a 0.09 second win over closest rival, Ireland’s Shane Breen on Konrad Obolensky.

An early round from Richard Jenkinson remained unchallenged to secure victory in the Peel Ports Logistics Amateur 1.10m Grand Prix with the home-bred Jiroscade, the pair beating their 31 rivals by 0.27 seconds.

Will Walker broke in and produced Jiroscade as a five and six-year-old with Richard taking over for the amateur classes. 

“She’s consistent and won on the Spanish Sunshine Tour and Olivia Nova,” said Richard on the Millfield Cascade x Super De Bourriere seven-year-old mare, who is considered quite a character.  “Personality wise, think Megham Markle!”

Bolesworth is one of Richard’s particular favourites: “Thank you to Nina and the team for putting on such a fabulous show,” he added.

Kath James posted a strong, smooth round to head her 17 rivals to take the hotly contended Dodson & Horrell Amateur 1m Grand Prix with long-term campaigner Isidoor, edging ahead by 0.05 seconds.  Only daughter Issy James Wright, 12, and the youngest in the class, beat her time, but Calle just clipped a rail to drop them down the line.

Kath was delighted with the win: “My kids [twin daughters Issy and Daisy] tell me as I’m getting older, I’m getting slower, but I’ve proved I’ve still got it!”

The 16-year-old Isidoor (Nonstop x Calvados) joined Kath at her South Wales base 14 years ago after visiting a nearby stud when competing at Fontainebleau.

“I owned his brother and when I saw him, I had to buy him, although the owners needed persuading as they don’t usually sell until they’re four-year-olds. He never lets me down and tries his hardest every time,” said Kath, who is looking forward to competing at the British Showjumping National Championships and the Global Champions Tour in London this summer.

Saturday night fun included the Genesis Cheshire Ride and Drive Relay with some exciting driving skills on display. Madison Heath (rider) and Dave Quick (driver) taking the win. 

Riders tackled a 1.25m course before quickly dismounting in a designated box, hopping over a small vertical on the own two feet before joining the driver in an electric Genesis GV60, provided by Holdcroft Motors, and negotiating a course of scurry cones, including a slalom. The majority had never driven an electric car but coped well, Dave and Madison racing ahead with almost four seconds to spare over second-placed Ellen Whitaker (who was surprised to be faced with jumping a 1.30m vertical herself after dismounting!) and driver Richard Davison.

 

Image: Suzanne Jones

 
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