Samantha Jimmison sees off Oliver Townend in biggest career win
World number one Oliver Townend was within touching distance of completing the second leg of the Northumberland Challenge – a £22,000 prize-pot for winning the CCI2*-S classes at three northern events – but was denied victory in the AW Jenkinson CCI2*-S at Alnwick Ford by Samantha Jimmison.
Doncaster-based Samantha was 13th after dressage on her six-year-old mare Lenelaheleen W, but added nothing in the showjumping and cross-country phases to her mark of 31.8 to score her first-ever international success.
“I would have taken a top-10 placing in this company today! I am absolutely thrilled to win and it means a lot,” said Samantha, 34. “I bought this mare from The Netherlands just before lockdown in 2020, so she hasn’t had a great deal of experience, but I really love her – she’s got everything I could want, and I joke that she might be my CCI5* horse one day.
“She was phenomenal in the showjumping today, and she’s a brave mare with a really good gallop, so the cross-country really suited her.
Oliver collected four penalties in the showjumping but was faultless across country to finish on a mark of 32.8 on Sir John Peace’s eight-year-old En Taro Des Vernier, a son of the French championship event horse Upsilon, for second place. The pair won the first leg of the AW Jenkinson-sponsored Northumberland Challenge last month at Belsay and, although they cannot win the maximum prize in this innovative new series, a top-three finish at Hambro Sport Horses Burgham International Horse Trials (28-31 July) could still mean they win £10,000.
Oliver said: “Everybody knows that it is extremely hard for owners and riders to recover any of their considerable costs in this sport, and initiatives like the Northumberland Challenge are greatly appreciated and should be well supported.
“We bought En Taro Des Vernier for Sir John Peace and Caunton Stud from France last autumn, where he’d mainly showjumped. He’s been slightly thrown in at the deep end, but I think he’s a top, top horse for the future. He’s hugely progressive; he’s getting better and better at dressage each time out. Showjumping on grass, rather than an artificial surface, is quite new to him, which is why he has the occasional mistake at the moment, but he’s very talented and seems to be loving the cross-country – he has a lot of ‘blood’ and gallop.”
Oliver praised the extensive efforts of the Alnwick Ford organising team to produce excellent ground conditions after a spell of very dry weather.
“They did an incredible job to make everything as comfortable as possible for the horses; there was nothing else they could have done and the ground was perfect,” said the Tokyo Olympics team gold medallist.
Third was Elise Rea, another rider to remain on her dressage score, this time of 33, on her own Cara Touch.
Local rider Harry Mutch triumphed in the Blackshaws CCI3*-S on his mother Carole’s 16-year-old HD Bronze.
Harry was second to Izzy Taylor (Jane Timmis’ SBH Big Wall) after dressage on a score of 28.7, but rose to the lead when Izzy knocked down one showjump. Both riders were foot-perfect round David Evans’ cross-country course – as was Wills Oakden, who slotted into second between Harry and Izzy on Keep It Cooley.
This was also a first international success for Harry, 25.
“It was the perfect run from start to finish,” he said. “I only entered on Monday – I had a silly fall off him at Bramham, and I wanted a nice run and to see how he felt before we do the CCI4*-S at Barbury. We’ve had a lot of help from Pippa Funnell through the Wesko Foundation, and she has done wonders with our dressage – he was brilliant here; so focused and happy.
“I went quite quickly across country, but he’s very fit and I didn’t push him – he was just comfortably inside the time. I am so pleased – everything seems to be coming together very well and I am aiming for Burghley in September.”
Wills Oakden enjoyed a good day at Alnwick Ford – he won both national intermediate classes. Kathleen Wilkinson and Rachel Wood’s Arklow Puissance was his victor in the open intermediate, while Stephanie Oakden’s Cooley Pot Of Gold took the restricted intermediate section.