The first rounds of the YH1* classes for five and six-year-olds took place today, with 18 combinations executing double-clears in the 1.10m five-year-old class and fourteen posting the same over the 1.20m track in the six-year-old class.
Eventer Alice Dunsdon took the top spot in the 1.10m CSI2*, riding her own Sambo III. Although the British-bred 12-year-old competes at three-star eventing, this is his first competitive appearance since Blair Castle International Horse Trials in August, at which he came 4th in the CCI3*.
A lightning-fast round late in the class propelled Nici Wilson and her own Naomi 55 to the win in the 1.20m CSI2*. The compact ten-year-old, who Nici has owned and produced from a three-year-old, laid down a double-clear in the first phase and completed the timed section of the course in just 23.58 seconds, snatching the lead away from Corinne Collins and Dolores P, who had dominated for most of the class.
“She’s a little speed machine – it was a bit crazy, but sometimes you’ve got to go hard or go home,” laughed Nici about her versatile mare, who has also won three times at the British Eventing Jumping and Style finals. “She’s definitely one for a speed class – she just loves it. At some point she’ll have a foal, but in the meantime I’ve decided to have a bit of fun with her.”
A new ride – and a small one, at that – didn’t stop Adam Botham from claiming victory in the hotly-contested 1.30m CSI2*. Riding Leonne George’s Katinka, he made easy work of the course.
“The course rode great,” said Adam. “She’s only tiny – just 15hh – and I’ve only had her a week, but she jumped fantastically. There was a big five to the last, which was a long way for her, but she’s a real trier and she jumped amazingly.”
The ride on Katinka came to Adam circuitously: “Her owner was competing her, and she brought her to my yard for a lesson, and asked if I’d have her for a week. Straight away, we went to a show and won a 1.20, then I took her to a Blue Chip qualifier and she won the B and C. My best horse is a bit unwell at the moment, so at the last minute we had to swap her in to come here – so she’s done three classes and three wins! I’m hoping I can keep her!”
Less than a third of the field in the 1.40m CSI2* made it into the jump-off, and when it was won, it was won not on blistering paces, but on playing to the horse’s strengths. Joe Clayton rode Luron SZ, owned by Stall Gullik, to the top of the leaderboard by utilising tight turns and economical lines.
“It was a difficult course, actually – you saw a lot of faults and not too many clears,” he said. “I knew my horse would be quick in the jump-off because he’s very good at tight turns, like turns back to verticals, and I can turn him before I’ve even landed, so I didn’t have to go too quick. I just let him go and let him think about it, and followed him.”
Luron S Z will fly to America in a week’s time to contest the winter circuit. Joe, who has had the ride on the horse for a year, plans to travel to America himself for a few weeks to compete him:
“He’s just starting to hit form, so it’s perfect timing.”
The excitement continues throughout the weekend, with the feature class, the CSI2* Grand Prix, taking place on Sunday afternoon. The competition is free for spectators, offering the chance to get up close and personal with some of the sport’s biggest names, including John and Michael Whitaker, Trevor Breen, William Funnell, and Harriet Nuttall. With the well-stocked Keysoe Boutique offering Black Friday bargains and plenty of winter warmers in the on-site café, a day at Keysoe is well worth bundling up for.