Smooth, cool and unbelievably quick – Michael Whitaker gave a masterclass in riding a jump-off to take the Outlanda 1.50m - the big class of New Year's Day at Liverpool - with JB’s Hot Stuff.
“She did the business. They way she jumped the first round I thought we must be in with a shout, so I put my foot down in the jump-off and took a few chances and she really responded,” said Michael.
Louise Saywell – already on winning form after heading the first of the International classes – got the nine-horse decider off to a great start, daringly taking out a stride to the last double on James Hughes’ Cordalis Z.
But following riders found a crucial inside turn to the penultimate oxer was quicker, and Emanuele Gaudiano on Chalou took a brief lead. It was brief. Michael followed a similar track with Jayne Bean’s home-bred Locarno daughter Hot Stuff but hit top gear to wipe an amazing two sec off the Italian’s time.
“It all felt very comfortable for her, she did everything I asked and did it well, there were no hassles – she was on form,” said Michael.
“She’s very quick across the ground and was consistent all the way, I just wanted to get a couple of key turns right in the jump-off.
“It’s nice to win one, I’ve had a lean couple of weeks, but that was a real competitive jump-off.”
Robert Smith’s final challenge was determined from the off, taking out a stride between the first two fences with the impressive stallion Ilton, and they slotted into second 0.65 sec behind Michael.
Louise Saywell hung on to fourth with William Funnell and the nine-year-old Billy McCain in fifth and William Whitaker’s sensibly steady round on Utamaro D Ecaussines in sixth.