The Grandstand Challenge Cup opened Saturday evening’s proceedings in the Andrews Bowen International Arena at the 2022 Horse of the Year Show.
A total of 29 horse and rider combinations came forward in a bid to beat the clock in the first round to make it through to the jump-off, where a prize fund totalling £20,000 was on offer.
Out of the seven Whitakers’ in attendance for this class, it was Jack who was the first to post a clear round on Q Paravatti N, with Harriet Biddick ne Nuttall (GBR) following suit onboard Night of Glory O.L.
With two through to the jump-off in as many riders, did the class so far look set to welcome a host of contenders in the second round? Sadly not, as it progressed a flurry of poles tumbling to the ground dashing the hopes of those gracing the arena at this early stage. Riders falling prey in the first round included Olympian, John Whitaker (GBR) and Sharid, following his success in New York on the Longines circuit only a few weeks before. Joseph Stockdale (GBR) also sent poles to the ground riding Bingo Du Chateau to finish on 26 penalties in the first round.
Fence three, which featured a water tray, was proving a stickler while the tall opposing white fence at 9, also knocked out a selection of the class’s best contenders.
The run of bad luck, however, did not last long as good fortune soon returned to those due to compete in the class. The next clear came from Ireland’s Shane Breen and Cuick Star Kervec, then William Funnell (GBR) and Equine America Billy Marmite, followed by Ellen Whitaker (GBR) and Equine America Ivanhoe Gph. Great Britain’s National champion, young Robert Murphy riding How Easy, also made it through without breaking a sweat.
To conclude, a total of 10 riders made it through to the jump-off.
A Jump-off that got better and better …
Eight imposing fences made up the jump-off round, each spaced evenly to encourage speed while demanding accuracy.
Opening up the round were Jack Whitaker and Q Paravatti N, who after faltering mid-course decided to retire. The next rider into the arena was a young woman known for both her speed and accuracy, Harriet Biddick Ne Nuttall. Sadly, by lowering a pole mid-course, the pair were unsuccessful in creating a stronghold to push through for the win.
Shane Breen and Cuick Star Kervec kept the crowd on the edge of their seats coming down to the final two fences, as there was a loud gasp when the pair crossed the finish line clear, throwing down the gauntlet on a time to beat of 35.02 seconds.
William Funnell and Equine America Billy Marmite only lowered one pole following an otherwise faultless ride. However, with a strong clear already from Shane, the win was far from reach.
Ellen Whitaker with EQ Ivanhoe Gph arrived at the finish line clear, with 1 second to spare against the leading round. However, Ellen’s professional etiquette and skill was only the start of even better rounds to come.
Jackson Reed Stevenson (GBR) and Exception quickly snatched the top spot from Ellen by jumping clear and stopping the clock on an incredibly quick 32.62. At this point, the heat from the hooves left from the combinations behind only helped pave the way for the remaining riders.
Young Robert returned to the arena on How Easy for their second round posting a clear and time incredibly close to leader Jackson, finishing a mere -0.2 seconds behind Jackson and moving Ellen into third.
Then, there was change once again when William Whitaker and Jalellah Ol rode an ever faster, faultless and accurate round for the win by shaving seconds off Jackson’s round.
I’m absolutely delighted with her”,
beamed Willaim following the win.
She’s been jumping really well lately, just not getting the results but I kept feeling it was coming. And tonight, I’m absolutely delighted she tried hard both rounds. It was a quick jump-off, I had to go in there and do everything I could and luckily she was on the same wavelength as me.
William’s win meant Adrian Speight finished in a respectable 2nd, with Jackson Reed Stephenson realising 3rd.