Last week saw the return of the National Amateur and Veteran Championships held at Aintree International Equestrian Centre, and with a record number of competitors in attendance, it was set to be an exciting week of competition.
Emily Morris hit a purple patch, winning the first two Veteran Championship titles of the week. She excelled in the 1.10m Minor Veteran Championship with the top two places, winning on Westpoint Foreign Affair and claiming second with Bean Cruising. Only seven of the twenty-nine starters tackled the jump-off. Second to go, Emily set the bar high with a speedy clear on the 6-year-old Westpoint Foreign Affair, only to come out fighting on her second ride, Bean Cruising, to also take second place.
Foreign Affair [aka Trixie] was bought from Westpoint Stud as an unbroken 5-year-old.
“She’s come on so quickly this year, jumped at the Blue Chip Championships and the National Championships at Stoneleigh, now she’s jumping Foxhunter; I’m very excited about this one – she hasn’t done much against the clock but there’s a lot more to come,” said Emily.
The 11-year-old mare Bean Cruising (Mr Jumbojangles x Cruising), joint 2021 Amateur 1.10m Champion, was the star for Emily in the Love2Swim 1m Mini Veteran Championship, winning in a competitive 51-strong single-phase class, with 1.16 seconds in hand.
“I compete at Aintree whenever I can but especially these championships, there are great courses, a great atmosphere and a lot of my friends are here,” said Emily. “I came here having a bit of a confidence crisis and the first few fences were a bit sticky but once we got into the jump-off, she was confident and raring to go. She’s super-quick and careful, a lovely mare who always tries and wants to please.”
South Wales based Katherine James took the victory in the 1.20m Major Veteran Championship on Herciro Van’t Kiezelhof.
Just four came forward in the jump-off with Brian Thompson claiming two of the rides. Katherine held her nerve to produce the only double clear of the class to commandingly take the win.
“This was my big aim, I’ve been placed before and now I’ve finally achieved the win,” said an emotional Katherine, who couldn’t express how much this meant. “I couldn’t stop crying.”
Katherine bought the 15-year-old four years ago but has only competed for two of these four years as Herciro had to recover from a colic operation, and Covid-lockdowns accounted for the rest of the time.
“Showjumping has been my passion since childhood. I didn’t get a chance then, but I want to make up for it now – the European Veteran Championships is my aim for 2023,” she added.
Julia Helm retained her 2021 National Amateur 1.05m title with her home-bred Helms Rossio, winning by 1.68 seconds in the 13-strong jump-off.
“He’s not one that gallops, I can’t take out strides down distances, but he’s very good on the turns,” said Julia, who has enjoyed a good year with this Eros 2000 x Fritz Luke 14-year-old gelding. “We were fifth in the HOYS NAF Bronze League Final, won the quarter and semi-finals to get here and were third in the accumulator earlier in the week.”
Rossio will now go on holiday until mid-February and will then prepare for the Blue Chip Championships, having already qualified for the Star Final.
Catherine Macbeth took her very first National Amateur and Veteran Championship at Aintree, winning the National Amateur 1.10m Championship with Levisoun.
“I didn’t expect to win, I came here for a holiday with my two sisters and we’ve been tourists in the week, the win hasn’t quite sunk in,” said Catherine. “I got time faults in the 1.05, and my sister Mandy Kingwill told me off and said I’d got to put my foot down!”
Wiltshire based Catherine, who works full time for the MOD, owns just one horse and bought the German-bred Levisonn 11-year-old gelding from Carron Nicol four and a half years ago.
“He’s exactly what it said on the tin, a good 1.10m amateur horse, not flamboyant, does the job and a great all-rounder,” said Catherine, who will celebrate her 45th birthday next year – “I’m looking forward to the veteran classes!”
Norfolk-based Veterinary School graduate Paige Staff sliced every corner to take the National Amateur 85cm Final in style on Laraghlease Blue Jeans.
Thirty of the original 73 starters contended a hot jump-off as riders took increasing risks, but Paige and the Irish-bred 15-year-old mare, on lease for the past two years, held on to the top spot by just 0.22 seconds.
“She was just five minutes down the road from me and we clicked straight away, it was meant to be,” said Paige, who juggles her riding around working three jobs.
Katharine Davis chased hard but couldn’t quite catch Paige and had to settle for second place on Inshalless. Nevertheless, Katharine claimed her own championship win and coveted rug in the 90cm Micro Veteran Championship with Princess Tinara.
Seventy-four competitors bid for this title over a 90cm single-phase track with Katharine and the Irish-bred 12-year-old mare emerging triumphant with 0.19 seconds in hand.
Newbury-based Katharine, a racing permit holder, was a self proclaimed ‘uninspired owner’ when Tinara arrived eight years ago.
“She was very grumpy, windsucked and napped but we overcame her attitude with long-reining. Now she lives happily in the field, has been successful showjumping, dressage and eventing – she’s a delight,” said Katharine.
Kelly Read landed the concluding National 95cm Amateur Championship with the Irish-bred 15-year-old Jack’s Diamond Cruise, seizing the title in the final moments of the 18-horse jump-off by two seconds.
“He covers the ground and it was a forward track so it suited him,” said Kelly, who has owned Jack since a 4-year-old. “He’s usually very chilled but he was so wound up in the stable and almost fell in the warm-up. I was on my own at the show and just had to dust down and go in [the ring] but he pulled it out of the bag,” said Kelly.