Tom Francis-Jones was crowned the new Charles Britton Equestrian Construction winter JA classic champion with the small but mighty Kiltormer Hero in the feature class at the British Showjumping Winter Championships held at South View Equestrian Centre in Cheshire.
Sixteen competitors tackled an 11-fence track designed by Gillian Milner over the newly-laid Charles Britton Equestrian surface and five found the key to access the jump-off, Tom riding the feisty 138cm Hero – the smallest pony in the class who has been with Tom since December 2016. The pair have contended top 138cm tracks, including HOYS and Hickstead, with success but switched to the JA tracks as Tom is now out of 138cms.
“He has plenty of power and stride, there are no problems down distances, I kept him balanced and square to every fence in round one and took a few angles in the jump-off,” said Tom, who used his opening draw to take an unbeatable lead, winning with 1.71 sec in hand.
Tom and Hero had qualified for this final at South View in February.
“He is excitable and a little anxious at a show but he’s relaxed at home and so switched on and intelligent,” added Tom, who also credited his mother Amanda for the win - "I have to thank my mom for everything, I couldn't do any of this without her."
Holly Cooper used her final draw on the 14-year-old Beech Comber to secure second spot. Tatiane Mauree tapped out a rail to finish third on Horseabout Zibu with Red Morgan in fourth aboard Bodysseee Des Avelines and Frances Young finished fifth on Carnhill Luna.
Tabitha Kyle has been on sizzling form all winter and she continued with her successful streak with a hat-trick of wins on the final day. She kicked off with victory in the British Showjumping 128/138cm handicap special with Caher Silver, cruising into the top spot by 2.72 sec.
The Irish-bred 12-year-old joined her two months ago as Francesca Young is now out of 138cm classes.
“He’s so easy and straightforward, beautiful to ride, careful and with a big stride,” said Tabitha.
“If we didn’t have three good 138cm ponies already, we’d buy him,” added her father Mark.
The top six in the 10-pony jump-off all came from the 138cm section with Keira Bromley claiming second on Stadsmorslow Angel. Evie Banks rode Mayfly Green Peter into third with Rachel Proudley taking fourth on a steady double clear aboard Icaris W, Poppy Deakin steered Astral Ruben into fifth on clear and four and Lila Davies clinched sixth spot on Dun N Dust It.
Tabitha went on to head both 128cm and 138cm grand prix classes, underscoring her talent in the concluding 138cm grand prix by taking first second and fourth.
She opened the 138cm seven-pony decider with a flying round on Playboy Van De Zoetewei but just clipped the front rail on the final oxer. Nonetheless, she was still in the lead when she returned on the Irish-bred 15-year-old Lissduff Royal to post a copybook, economical clear. And the talented little grey remained in the top spot as Tabitha guided third ride Mister Proper into second spot, just 0.09 sec separating the two.
Alfie Miles slotted D Amour D Amerrier into third with Tabitha and Playboy – who was more than five sec faster than the winning time – in fourth ahead of Olivia Banks in fifth on Ferrybound Roy, Edie Coles took sixth with Shappen Pilgrim and Rachel Proudley was seventh on Buttons Two.
Tabitha used her final draw in the four-strong jump-off of the 128cm grand prix to sweep into victory by a handsome 5.51 sec on the Irish-bred nine-year-old Borderhill William. Thomas Hogan clinched second spot on Little Miss Millie and the final oxer fell for connie Mensley to put Gemstone Sienna into third while Sophie Wicks took fourth on Camizion.
Glain Watkin Jones sliced every corner to the max to secure the winter 1.10m title with Trevor H. Eight contended the jump-off with Glain and the German-bred eight-year-old bought last October claiming the win by just 0.13 sec.
“I was originally going to go steadier and take the longer routes but changed my mind once I was in the ring,” said Glain, 15, who finds Trevor is “laid back at home but brightens up at a show.”
Francesca Young claimed second place on Quantico with Ellie Ward in third on Jumping Charlie V. Ellie Thomas finished fourth aboard Pocahontas with the steadiest of the double clears, Seamus Taylor took fifth on Priestown Tomboy and Jake Gibson rode Ilar Max into sixth.
Hollie Gerkin, 9, scored a superb double of wins with the Springboard 128cm championship and the 10-year-old and under style and performance title.
The 19-year-old Dimples Dilema came to the fore in the Springboard 128cm in an eight-pony jump-off, winning with a handsome 6.86 sec to spare.
“She’s awesome and gives me lots of confidence,” said Hollie, trains with Sue Harris.
Persia Calderbank finished second on Bylands Music Man with the only other double clear and Ryan de Souza steered Mintfield Magic into third. Isabelle Harris rode Ashsars Miami Bound into fourth ahead of Ted Holt in fifth on Ashurst Quicksilver and sixth-placed Amelie Tredennick on Rockbury Fascination.
Neat, stylish riding earned Hollie the 10-year-old and under style and performance title by just one point in a hotly-contended class on Killaloe Gypsy.
“She’s easy but different from Dimples; Gypsy is more forward-going and goes straightaway as soon as I put a bit of leg on her,” said Hollie on the 19-year-old mare.
Both Hollie’s ponies were purchased in Ireland in September and Hollie has quickly gone from jumping 70cm to moving up to this level – “They are both amazing,” added Holly.
Lexie Knot on Senateview Grace and Persia Calderbank with Bylands Music Man shared second place after they were both awarded 271 points on style and performance. Hollie also finished fourth with Dimples Dilema, Cate Kerr took fifth on Taggarts Express and Sula von Bulow finished sixth aboard Bellfield Benjamin.
Bella Wild maxed on her final draw in the 11-pony jump-off and executed a breath-taking turn to win the 11-year-old and under title on Cefn Sweetlife to record her first big win.
“She can be strong and sometimes when I’m turning she jumps the wrong fence – it has happened a few times but I trust her, she never stops,” said Bella, 10.
Bella has had the ride on the eight-year-old mare for six months with mom Cara buying her from Paula and Sophie Pope two months ago and they have an unusual warm-up routine.
“We only ever walk and trot at home and we never jump a fence in the warm-up arena, I just get on in the entry way and go straight in the ring as she gets too buzzy.”
Sienna Palin had led most of the way but had to settle for second on the 128cm Kip Kip Hooray and finished third aboard the 138cm Calusa. The rest of the line-up came from the 128cm section with Amelia Tredinnick in fourth on Rockbury Faccination, Persia Calderbank finished fifth with Bylands Music Man and Sula von Bulow guided Bellfield Benjamin into sixth spot.
Lila Davies used Dun N Dust It’s ground-eating stride to secure victory in the Springboard 138cm final with more than five sec to spare in a six-pony decider.
“He can be tricky and quite strong so it’s taken time to get to know him; he’s fast but he gets fizzed up so we do lots of hacking at home,” said Lila, 11.
Keira Bromley produced the only other double clear to take second on Stadsmorslow Angel and Alfie Mills finished third and sixth with D Amour D Amerrier and Milika. Isabelle Doyle finished fourth on Bobby Sox and Charlie Clapham slotted Little Madam II into fifth.
Jake Barton swept into an unbeatable victory from the front to take the 1m championship title on Opan – a 13-year-old former event pony he started riding last October. The pair took a near-impossible angle to the final oxer to take the win.
“I was last to go on my other pony in the first round and first to go in the jump-off, I didn’t have time to plan my track and turned so tight into the last fence, but he jumped it. If I’d realised it was that tight, I’d never have attempted it,” said Jake 14, who had started competing again at the backend of the winter season.
“My pony had an unscheduled break after I broke my hand on a skiing holiday at Christmas,” he explained.
Iwan Carpenter rode Merllyns Mermaid into second place almost three sec in arrears with Charlie Rea Nelson in third on Chase Me Sharlie. Ben Barber-Riley eased Dylon Brenin Ddfydd into fourth with Imogen Hall in fifth on FC flirty For Thirty and Elica Banks took sixth on Orchids Aniko.
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