Nigel Coupe takes the big prize at Arena UK

In a thrilling 11-horse finale, Nigel Coupe landed the richest national grand prix at Arena UK with Sue Simmons’ Golvers Hill, taking home a whopping £20,000. A very good day at the office.

Di Boddy had set a testing, 13-fence track with committed related distances and big, wide oxers asking questions of the 45 starters. Clears proved scarce in at first, but eventually 11 made it to the jump-off, with Billy Twomey and Diaghilev setting a smooth, deceptively fast target.

Robert Bevis (Courtney), Robert Smith (Ilton) and Graham Gillespie (Celine) all provided clears but couldn’t catch him. Nigel had other ideas. Tighter turns in the latter half of the track and a smooth gallop to the last just gave him the edge – they took the lead by 0.35 sec.

Robert Smith on second ride Cimano E gave them a run for the money, coming within 0.30 sec to claim second and relegate Billy to third.

“He’s returned from Calgary [Spruce Meadows 5* show] fresh and there were one or two clears, if I’d have gone steady I’d have ended up fifth or sixth, I had to give it a go, and when it works out for him, it’s good. I’m absolutely delighted, I'll be having a few celebratory drinks with friends now,” said Nigel.

Penultimate drawn Lance Whitehouse took fourth on Vik II, just ahead of Robert Bevis and Courtney. Robert Smith and Ilton claimed sixth and the final double clear and seventh went to Graham Gillespie, who must be delighted with the promising Celine.

There’s just no stopping Joe Whitaker! Winner of the topscore at Arena UK on the Locarno daughter Lovarno, Joe again hit the top spot in a higly competitive 1.25m grand prix.

Drawn early in the 14-horse decider, Joe set a sizzling target and held the lead despite several challenges. Matt Sampson beat the time but at the expense of a rail on Avalon Alalan, and try as he might, Keith Shore on the speedy, evergreen 18-year-old Zegreanne Z could not catch them and finished second 0.26 sec in arrears.

Joe also claimed third on his second ride, the Landgold 13-year-old Lareeco, with Chloe Winchester on Zandokan H in fourth, Charlene Bastone fifth aboard Newbridges Master Brown and Derek McCoppin sixth on Whiterock Lucky Lady.

Rachael Connor was another on form, taking an amazing double of wins in the six-year-old and Venture grands prix.

She topped the six-year-old title with the consistent Fantastic, the Casantos/Oklund mare that missed most of her five-year-old year due to a bout of pneumonia. The mare made a miraculous recovery despite an anxious first month and is now back jumping among her peers and will contend the HOYS newcomer final.

Their penultimate round here earned first place by an impressive two sec in the 17-strong jump-off. Beth Vernon took second spot on Billy Twomey’s Hashtag with Mark Williams aboard Greenacres Diadoro in third and Sally Hopkinson fourth on Fadograaf. Emma Stoker with Townhead Everton De Villee claimed fifth and James Whitaker on Black Flyer took sixth.

Rachael’s second win came in the Venture grand prix. Matt Sampson had set a seemingly unbeatable target on D Amore Date, but Rachael and B Valeree – winner of the 1.05m and 1.10m titles at Scope Festival – wiped more than two sec off the time.

The pair had already fired a warning shot by winning both qualifiers here.

“She’s only just moved up to Foxhunter,” said Rachael on the Larino/Andiamo 10-year-old.

Matt took second on D Amore Date with Graham Lovegrove in third aboard Jakarta Van De Roshoeve and Joe Clayton fourth on Ballinsteskin Eye Catcher. Samantha Jimmison took fourth on Ebolensky and Holly Miller was sixth on HHS Darmmarko.

Photos © Jumping Around