Pony riders took centre stage at Olympia on Saturday morning with Shaunie Greig scoring another major title on her double HOYS JA (2017 and 2018) winner Casino Royale VII.
Six of the 11 starters posted round one clears to access the jump-off of the Mince Pie Stakes but as penultimate-drawn Shaunie entered the ring, a second round clear was yet to materialise. In typical style, she executed a breath-taking ‘Shaunie’ turn into the penultimate fence and trademark flying gallop to the last to provide that much sought-after clear.
“I was aiming for the win so I needed to go clear, but not too crazy,” she said. “I had watched Perdi Digby [first to go on Kayleighs Star] so I knew where to go on the course.”
And she claimed victory with what turned out to be the only double clear on the 15-year-old Casino Royale.
Fellow Scots competitor Nicole Lockhead Anderson had crossed the line 1.31 sec quicker on the Irish-bred nine-year-old Gangnam Style but a rail down dropped the pair to second place. Hannah Barker guided Sannanvalley Santino into third with Perdi in fourth on Kayleighs Star and Rachel Proudley – also on four faults – finished fifth with Family Affaer. Jake Myers had two rails down for sixth on Razorlite.
Germany’s Daniel Deusser, the world number seven, set a fast pace in the jump-off of The Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree Stakes to take the class on the 14-year-old grey Cornet, by the leading jumping sire Cornet Obolensky.
This class bucked the trend, with only four of the 21 starters through to the jump-off. First to go, Daniel, who rides for Stephex Stables in Belgium, set a fast pace with a clear. France’s Simon Delestre on Conbelleza also left all the fences up but was 0.82 sec slower.
Maikel van der Vleuten was third for the Netherlands on Idi Utopia and William Funnell, who has now moved up to second place behind Geir Gulliksen in the Leading Rider of the Show rankings, was fourth on the eight-year-old Billy Diamo (Cevin Z/Andiamo) after clocking up six faults.
John Whitaker was unlucky not to join them in the jump-off after picking up one frustrating time fault in round one on Leen OL for sixth spot.
“I expected there to be more clear rounds but the track had lots of bends off corners and that seemed to be causing trouble,” explained Daniel. “Cornet is one of my top horses but sometimes it’s nice to drop him into a smaller height competition so that it’s easy for him.”
TRIBUTE TO THE LATE TIM STOCKDALE
Saturday came to a moving close with the Whitaker family’s annual presentation of the Ryan’s Son Trophy for services to the sport. This year, with many of his colleagues looking on, it was presented posthumously to Tim Stockdale whose wife, Laura, and sons Joe and Mark were there to collect it.
Photos courtesy Kit Houghton/Horsepower