James Whitaker scores his biggest win at Aintree

While his brother William was taking fourth in Zurich’s world cup qualifier, James Whitaker hit the top at the Evans Halshaw Elite Show, Aintree, to record his biggest win. He landed the concluding Country Frog grand prix with a well-executed, flying round on Mersley Chakotay to pocket £1,000.

Both James and Nigel Coupe touted two rides apiece in the 18-strong jump-off, but it was James’s day and he set a sizzling and unbeatable target.

“I got a good turn inside to the second last, and it won the class,” said James.

And no-one could catch the speedy pair, the Mersley Mon Capatain/Centauer Z 13-year-old answering James’s every instruction.

“He’s been unlucky in the jump-off of late with four faults. He’s always been able to jump the jumps, but we struggled going fast against the clock, but recently we’ve conquered it,” who plans to stay with William and take in a few shows in Belgium later this year. Nigel Coupe came close with the 13-year-old mare Jubilee III to take second and Nigel also netted sixth on Dragon.

A winner earlier in the week, Louise Saywell jumped into third on James Hughes’ 11-year-old Cordalis 7 – her contender in the imminent 5* Nations Cup in Al Ain. Julie Andrews finished fourth with Ayrton IV, Donald Whitaker guided Billy Z into sixth and James took seventh with second ride Glenavadra Brilliant – his brother William’s 2016 Hickstead Derby winner.

Jonathan Dixon claimed two of the top three places in the 1.30m, winning with Camona, a Vleut/Animo 10-year-old mare, and easing 10-year-old Centa Bella into third. Andrew Davies was sandwiched into second on the 15-year-old Vijlada MW. Chris Smith slotted Beech Leys into fourth with Morgan Carpenter on Tinkas Tyson in fifth and Taisie de Gruchy sixth aboard Hoodshill First Look.

Paul Barker continued on his successful assault at this show with the top two places in the DDS Demolition winter 1.25m qualifier with Lux Fabulous and Sandors Legacy. Paul had already taken a double victory on Friday, Lux Fabulous winning the 1.30m and taking second to Happy Boy in the 1.40m.

Emily Ward rode Witch into third with Jo McGlory and Camileo in fourth. Suzanne Posnett took fifth with Queen of Clubs ahead of sixth-placed Jessica Botham on Utah’s Utopia. And taking the final two Blue Chip qualification places was Aileen Craig on Drumconnick Verdi and Robert Maguire with Britney.

Douglas Duffin triumphed in the newcomers with the Crespo VDL/Douglas six-year-old Gogobantos, relegating Graham Babes into second on Glencoe, a Chellthago Z/Numero Uno six-year-old. Carla Bowlam guided Quality Street into third with Greg Taylor and London Times in fourth. Charlotte Flack claimed equal fifth with Ashdale Luxon and Luxalike.

Photos © Jumping Around & Majestic Photography at http://www.everybodysmile.biz/majesticphotography/eques/