James Whitaker lands the grand prix at Northcote Stud

If your name was James, the odds were definitely favourable of picking up money on the final day at Northcote Stud’s popular young horse championships as James Whitaker and James Smith battled for the honours.

But it was James Whitaker, 19, who maintained his 100% record to win the Mizon Event Services 1.40m grand prix from the front to claim £1,000. The consistent pair had headed Wales and West’s area trial two weeks earlier on their last outing.

Only five of an original 36 posted first round clears over Raf Suarez’s 12-fence track – an on-form James Smith claiming two chances. But first to go James Whitaker had it all sewn up on the Mon Capatain/Centauer Z 13-year-old Mersley Chakotay to set a sizzling standard.

“It was a tough track as the few clears showed, but he always tries to miss the poles, in fact, the faster he goes, the better he is,” said James, who reckoned his turn to the penultimate vertical gave him the win by 1.63 sec.

“He was very good back to the vertical and made it easy to take out a stride to the last – and it always helps when they try to clear the fences.”

James Smith used his final draw to slot new ride Twix De La Roque into second.

The Kannan/Cumano 10-year-old previously ridden by Geoffroy de Coligny and Michel Hecart joined James a month ago and the new partnership posted a 1.35m win at Reims 3* last week.

“He feels good and is getting better each week, potentially a top horse,” said James, who also picked up fourth on Quattro 27.

Don Whitaker and Billy Z picked up third with Beth Vernon on Lotus finishing in fifth spot.

Locally-based Rachael Connor took every risk to head the seven-year-old final from the front with the big-jumping Zaha.

“He’s so powerful and has so much more to give, I can turn him back to nothing he’s so scopey, the more you dare him, the better he is,” said Rachael, who topped the 11-strong decider with more than two sec to spare.

The pair, placed sixth in the HOYS 2016 newcomer final, recently qualified to return to HOYS in the talentseekers final. They jumped their first world ranking class for four faults and took places in tow 1.40m classes in Bonheiden under British Showjumping’s ‘Step up to Gold’ programme.

“He had a break after Bonheiden and is now ready to tackle Foxhunter second rounds and HOYS grade C.“He loves his field life, he comes out, does his job at a show and goes back in the field for a mini-break,” added Rachael.

James Smith slotted Flinstering into second with Suzanne Posnett’s Foesuela third and Pippa Goddard aboard Tom Williams’ No Name TW in fourth. Joe Whitaker posted the fastest time of the lot with Billy Jean but the final oxer hit the floor and dropped him to fifth and Reece Oliver took sixth aboard Coalition.

Beth Vernon found all the shortcuts at a deceptively quick pace to claim the Yaris Equestrian six-year-old title with Annbalou.

Twelve of 39 reached the jump-off with Beth slicing the corners to take the win by just 0.03 sec from Joe Whitaker’s early lead on Fairy Tale.

The Balou Du Rouet daughter Annbalou was purchased in February.“She’s quirky – a typical mare – but she’s talented and gets better and better each time out,” said Beth, who set up on her own back at her Nottinghamshire base six weeks ago after spending four and a half years with Billy Twomey.

Joe had to settle for second on Fairy Tale with sponsor Yaris Equestrian’s Simon Buckley in third on Uirhir Amhain third. Danielle Ryder took fourth aboard Grand Touched Numo with Megan James in fifth on Garness Fox and Hannah Downes in sixth riding Julietta Flamenco.

Harry Bateman topped an ulta-fast, hotly-contended Sovereign Equestrian five-year-old final on Zuniek VD Tojopehoeve with inside turns at a heady pace.

“She’s very modest and will jump bigger than she lets on, but she’s the sweetest, kindest mare, she just wants to try for you,” said Harry, who bought the Zirocco Blue VDL daughter as an unbroken three-year-old.

Twenty-six of the 54 starters posted initial clears to make their way to the jump-off, and this track was the biggest – and fastest – Harry has tackled with ‘Zola’.

“It’s the first time I’ve ridden her in a five-year-old class [due to International rule restrictions limiting two horses per rider], and friends Mimi Beecher and Joss Williams rode her at Chepstow and Allington,” explained Harry, “I’m over the moon, she answered every question I asked.”

Harry also claimed third on Ingrid Wood’s Heerdelon, sandwiching Pippa Goddard into second aboard Hot Bluebird (Plot Blue/Heartbreaker). Donny Janciauskas slotted Cool Quarz into fourth with Sam Ward fifth on Holiday VD Hazelhof and Christina Foley in sixth on MPF Maximus ZR.

Seventeen four-year-olds jumped double clear to share the four-year-old final, with Pippa taking the style and performance title by a clear seven points on Nero Van De Kwade Keyde.

“He has everything you want – he’s light off the floor, so scopey and careful – and this is only his third show,” said Pippa on the Echo Van T Spieveld stallion spotted and bought by Tom Williams 12 months ago.

“This was worth the journey from Kent.”

Photos © Jumping Around