Joe Clayton wins Connolly’s RED MILLS Senior Newcomers Championship

Joe Clayton wins Connolly’s RED MILLS Senior Newcomers Championship

Joe Clayton added his name to a who’s who of show jumping when he won the Connolly’s RED MILLS Senior Newcomers Championship at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham. Joe, who is based with British Olympian Michael Whitaker in Nottinghamshire, claimed a pulsating victory on Michael’s seven-year-old bay mare Lexi III.

And in taking the newcomers class, he joined an illustrious list of previous winners that includes riders like Laura Renwick, Billy Twomey and Michael Whitaker himself, who took top honours in 2002.

Joe’s victory was forged in a brilliant turn from fences one to two in a nine horse jump-off, a manoeuvre that brought a collective gasp from the audience, and left him admitting: “I think I gasped as well!”

Rachael Connor, riding Zaha, was seven hundredths of a second quicker than Joe’s time of 31.64 seconds, but a final fence knockdown cost them dear, with Holly Smith and PLS Halo Diamond finishing second and Laura Pritchard, on Horse Victory’s Fayot, third.

“The turn didn’t look really on,” Joe said. “Normally, when someone else has done it, you have a bit of confidence there, but I was the first one to do it and it came off. I had confidence in the horse’s ability. She wouldn’t have done any turns like that before, but I was always confident in the horse to jump the fence and get in the right place. That’s the risk you take, and it came off for me today.”

“Michael bred the horse, so we know her inside out. I think she has got all the ability. She is a really good horse with a really good brain.

“I knew she would have a good chance and probably go double clear – she has jumped a lot of clear rounds – but I thought there were a lot more experienced horses in the class, so to win it is a big achievement.”

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