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Next Staying Star? 3 Candidates for National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham Festival

Nicky Henderson has the National Hunt Chase ante post favourite in his stable this season” (CC BY 2.0) by danheap77.

While the RSA Chase has considerable claims for being the classiest race for up-and-coming stayers over fences, its supremacy at the Cheltenham Festival has come under threat in recent years.

This is because horses that have won or placed in the National Hunt Chase – also for novices – during the last three years went on to land some of the most valuable stayers’ races in 2018.

What’s the difference between the two Festival events? The RSA is over three miles and holds Grade 1 status, but the National Hunt Chase is a four-mile Grade 2 contest for amateur riders only.

Despite that, the likes of Native River (Cheltenham Gold Cup), Sizing Tennessee (Ladbokes Trophy), and Tiger Roll (Grand National) have all run well in the inferior race, but then gone on to even greater things.

Who could be the next staying star of jumps racing? Here are three candidates for the 2019 National Hunt Chase.

OK Corral

One of the few races reigning British champion trainer Nicky Henderson hasn’t won is this one. In OK Corral, he has a hugely talented Mahler gelding who is lightly-raced for a nine-year-old and unbeaten in two starts over fences.

As OK Corral represents leading Irish owner J. P. McManus, who since 1995 has had more winners of the National Hunt Chase than anybody, he’s a serious prospect. Crack amateur jockey Derek O’Connor partnered the horse to his second chase victory over the stiff fences of Warwick at Listed level – strongly suggesting this race is the plan.

Bookmakers were quick to make OK Corral ante post favourite off the back of that victory, and he is now 100/30 with Betfair in the latest Cheltenham betting. If getting the trip, and he has a stamina laden pedigree being out of a Flemensfirth mare, then the Henderson hoodoo in the National Hunt Chase could well end.

Ballyward

Willie Mullins holds the rare feat of riding and training two winners of this race. The Closutton master handler saddled Rathvinden to the spoils 12 months ago and impressive Naas Grade 3 winner Ballyward is the sole representative from his yard in the early closing entries.

Mullins’ son Patrick is one of the top amateur riders in Ireland and Emerald Isle raiders have won four of the last eight renewals of the National Hunt Chase. Ballyward was sired by Flemensfirth and placed fourth in both staying novice hurdles at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals last season.

Connections didn’t mess about over the smaller obstacles, giving the seven-year-old just four starts, but he’s taken his form to a new level now sent chasing. While Ballyward may seem young to be taking on a four-mile marathon, he fits the age profile of most winners since 2005; so, at a general 6/1 with bookies, he is respected for an Irish stable that targets the Cheltenham Festival.

Impulsive Star

As the National Hunt Chase is over an extreme distance, there are very few obvious trials for it. One horse who has acquitted himself admirably in a real stamina test is last year’s fourth Impulsive Star, who retained novice status for this season.

Although the Neil Mulholland trained nine-year-old was beaten 24 lengths by Rathvinden and also finished behind gutsy mare Ms Parfois and Sizing Tennessee 12 months ago, and has something to find on Plumpton form with OK Corral, he took a big step forward last time out. Impulsive Star is now rated a 7lb better horse because he’s won a race over fences in the Grade 3 Classic Chase over 3m 5f at Warwick.

Given his victory in a competitive staying handicap like that under the owner’s son and former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider Sam Waley-Cohen, an each-way punt looks great value at 14/1 with William Hill and others.

Will Paisley Park Prove to Be the Real Deal?

The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and the trainers and jockeys are busy preparing their horses for what could be the biggest race of their season. For Paisley Park and everyone involved with him, there is a real feeling that he could be the next big horse.

With four wins from four races this season, he is already proving that he has what it takes to go all the way in the sport. Although Paisley Park isn’t running in the main event at the festival, the Gold Cup, he is the current favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle on St Patrick’s Thursday, according to Paddy Power.

His trainer Emma Lavelle is confident of victory in the race at Cheltenham and is fearful of just one horse. She said, “How could he not be made favourite?

“I don’t think there is anyone this side of the water who wasn’t in the Cleeve on Saturday, and with last year’s winner Penhill not having run this season he would have to come over in tip-top shape. Then Paisley Park would have a fight on his hands.”

It’s hard to blame her for being so confident given Paisley Park’s incredible start to the season. His first race this season, the Racing UK Handicap Hurdle at Aintree, saw him set off as the joint favourite with Lygon Rock and Byron Flyer. In the final 100 yards of the race he pulled away from Lygon Rock and won the race by 2 ½ lengths.

Race two of the season for the Irish thoroughbred was the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. In the Grade 3 race he was the third favourite behind the favourite First Assignment and second favourite Captain Cattistock. He finished the race strong, defeating 20/1 longshot Shades of Midnight by just ½ a length.

In the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle at Ascot, he had pre-race odds of 8/1, making him the fifth favourite to win the race. Despite starting slowly, Paisley Park steadily gained ground on the leaders and after the last, he drove ahead and maintained pace to finish two lengths clear of second place West Approach.

For the first time this season Paisley Park ran as the favourite. The Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle saw the 100/30 favourite obliterate the rest of the field, taking the lead before the last. Finished impressively and finished ahead of West Approach for the second time in a row, but this time finished an incredible 12 lengths clear.

He is currently the 9/4 favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, ahead of Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy. Last year’s winner Penhill is the fourth favourite at 5/1, but having not run so far this season, it is likely to take a monumental effort to defeat the in-form Paisley Park. Jockey Aidan Coleman has ridden him to four victories in four races and if he were to go on to win the Stayers’ Hurdle, then perhaps people will start to see the potential in this horse.

Cheltenham Festival: Most Memorable Gold Cup Wins

The highlight of Cheltenham Festival and by far the world’s most prestigious jump race, the Gold Cup has provided some of the most iconic and memorable moments that racing has ever seen.

The gruelling 3 miles and 2 ½ furlong track is not for the faint-hearted, and only those who have the stamina and willpower will be in with a chance of success.

Here, we take a look back at the most famous Gold Cup wins ahead of the 2019 event – where you’ll find all the latest ante-post prices right here: https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/horse-racing.

Desert Orchid 1989

Desert Orchid was undoubtedly one of the finest jumpers racing has witnessed, and his success throughout the 1980s was incomparable. ‘Dessie’ won the King George VI Chase at Kempton four times, but the Gold Cup was considered beyond him due to the harder course and longer distance.

In 1989, ‘Dessie’ proved all his doubters wrong when he clinched the Gold Cup in his first ever run, pipping Yahoo by one and a half lengths. Although he was losing ground on Yahoo with the post in sight, ‘Dessie’ called up all of his strength and determination to start gaining on his rival and clinch the coveted prize at the post.

Best Mate 2002-2004

Best Mate wrote himself into Gold Cup folklore when he completed a hat-trick of successive victories, the last being in 2004. It was the first time a trio of consecutive victories was achieved since the legendary Arkle in the 1960s, which further highlights just how good Best Mate was in his prime.

Perhaps it was Best Mate’s second win at Prestbury Park which was the finest win, romping home by ten lengths from Truckers Tavern and Harbour Pilot who filled the places. Although his victories in 2002 and 2004 were much closer, Best Mate’s record in the Gold Cup is imperious.

Long Run 2011

The youthful legs of Long Run proved to be the deciding factor in the 2011 Gold Cup, after he burst past Kauto Star and Denman to take top spot. The race itself was billed to be a classic, with a really strong field present.

Midnight Chase was leading for the majority, but after fading away, it gave Kauto Star, Denman, Imperial Commander, and Long Run the incentive to clinch glory, whereby the last showed his worth to charge through and take first place.

Denman 2008

The 2008 Gold Cup was arguably one of the most entertaining races in the modern era, which saw two of the finest jumpers in the business go head to head. Kauto Star and Denman had built up quite the rivalry prior to the Gold Cup in 2008, with the latter coming out on top.

Kauto Star was having something of an off day, which enabled Denman to win by seven lengths and clinch his one and only Gold Cup. It was unfortunate that Denman couldn’t increase his tally of wins at Prestbury Park but “The Tank” enjoyed a stellar career before retiring in 2011.

Lord Windermere 2014

The longest-priced winner since Cool Dawn in 1998, Lord Windermere wasn’t enjoying his finest form as Cheltenham Festival approached. Defeats in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Lexus Chase, and Irish Gold Cup saw the five-year-old’s price drop to 20/1.

However, on the day of the race, Lord Windermere tore up the form book and beat 16/1 shot On His Own by a short-head. meaning a steward’s enquiry ensued but the Willie Mullins-trained thoroughbred was victorious after a thrilling encounter.

Who Are the Irish Bankers at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival?

Cheltenham Racecourse” (CC BY 2.0) by UAV Filming

Irish raiders were especially dominant at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, with warm favourites Footpad, Samcro, and Tiger Roll among those scoring big victories.

There are certain races at the four-day meeting in mid-March that runners hailing from the Emerald Isle do particularly well in, but where do the banker bets lie this year? Here, we take a look at the main horses from Ireland with the best chances.

Apple’s Jade

Powerful owners Gigginstown House Stud have the world at their feet with tough mare Apple’s Jade, who has taken her form against the geldings to dizzying new heights on her side of the Irish Sea this season. The Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old has won her three starts this season by increasingly wide margins and holds Cheltenham Festival entries in the Champion Hurdle over 2m, against her own sex in the Mares’ race and the 3m Stayers’ Hurdle.

If the ante-post markets are any indicator, then Cheltenham betting odds 2019 of 11/8 with William Hill suggests a third run in the Mares’ Hurdle is the route Apple’s Jade will take. The Champion Hurdle looks a muddle, however, and she’s running in the Irish equivalent at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Betfair are as big as 16/1 Apple’s Jade is redirected to the 2m championship race at Cheltenham before contesting the Irish Champion Hurdle. As for the Stayers’, she is two from two over three miles and a best-price 10/1 with the same bookmaker about that event.

Davy Russell in the Presenting Percy colours” (CC BY 2.0) by Florian Christoph

Presenting Percy

It’s bold to suggest any horse winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a banker, but Presenting Percy has sat and watched all his rivals throw up more questions than answers en route to the blue riband event of steeplechasing. Pat Kelly’s stable star has done nothing wrong in contrast, and finally made his anticipated return to action when successfully defending the Galmoy Hurdle over 3m at Gowran Park.

That may seem like an unusual preparation for the elite staying chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but Presenting Percy took that en route to landing the RSA at the meeting 12 months ago. The bookies have shortened him up for Gold Cup glory as a result, with betway going a standout 100/30.

Last year’s one-two Native River and Might Bite have doubts hanging over them. Will the former get the soft ground he needs to be shown to best effect? The latter, meanwhile, has flopped in two starts this season and failed to defend his King George VI Chase crown at Kempton over Christmas.

While young improvers like Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy have staked their claims, they simply don’t have the Festival pedigree of Presenting Percy. He won the ultra-competitive Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle two years ago before tasting RSA Chase success as a novice last season.

Tiger Roll

Grand National hero Tiger Roll is also Gigginstown owned and trained by Elliott, and already boasts three victories at the Cheltenham Festival. This nine-year-old landed the Triumph Hurdle as a juvenile, then proved his stamina with a win in the 4m National Hunt Novices’ Chase two years ago before delivering again in the 3m 6f Cross Country Chase.

Tiger Roll relishes running in the spring and clearly loves Cheltenham. Winning another Grand National is a big ask for him, because only Red Rum in modern times has done it, but the Cross Country is a conditions race and he goes there fresh as a general 5/2 chance with bookmakers to defend his crown.

Could There Be a 2019 Grand National with No Irish Runners?

Our lives have been consumed with Brexit for more than two years and with things getting down to the wire, there are no signs of it stopping any time soon.

The number of industries likely to be affected by the current situation is far too many to count. But one that will definitely be affected is British Horseracing. With Prime Minister Teresa May’s Brexit deal getting the big thumbs down last week, those at the BHA are bracing themselves for its impact on the rest of the racing season, particularly the Grand National at Aintree on April 6th 2019.

A race known for its notoriously difficult fences, a huge portion of the entries come from Ireland. The likes of Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins and last year’s winning trainer, Gordon Elliott, enter a significant amount of potential runners.

As those entries get whittled down through the declaration stages, more than a third end up taking part in the race. In 2018, last minute withdrawals from Regal Encore and Walk In The Mill saw the number of starters reduced from 40 to 38 and 15 of them were brought from Ireland.

So why would Brexit impact the Grand National? The answer is simple. The UK, Ireland, and France are signatories on the Tripartite Agreement. This is an amendment to an existing European directive that allows the free movement of horses within those three countries. If Britain leaves the EU with no deal, then the Tripartite Agreement ceases to exist. And if it doesn’t exist then there is no free movement of horses from Ireland to the UK.

Bookmakers have cut the odds of no Irish runners in the Grand National to 16/1, which may seem quite drastic. However, that’s due to an unusual increase on Brexit bets. It’s also highly unlikely.

The British Horseracing Authority are keeping a close eye on the political developments and are determined to ensure that the Grand National still takes place with the best horses taking part.

“We are watching the political discussions around Brexit very closely and talk frequently to government,” a BHA spokesperson said.

Furthermore, a statement on the BHA’s website states clarifies the situation even more.

It reads: “In a No deal scenario the same rules and laws will apply the day before and after exit, with further changes agreed over time by the UK Parliament.

“Therefore, in broad terms, the starting point for the UK Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry is that rules and regulations relating to imports and activities from the EU to the UK will remain the same, in the short term.”

The BHA have put in place plenty of measures to ensure that racing continues as usual and thankfully, for fans of the Grand National, it means the odds of no Irish runners lining up is slim to none.

USET Foundation Awards Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant to Ryan Keefe

Ryan Keefe and Flintstar. Photo: Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Gladstone, N.J. – Jan. 14, 2019 – The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation is pleased to announce that it has awarded the 2019 Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant to up-and-coming eventing rider Ryan Keefe of Sandy Spring, Maryland.

“It’s a really big honor to be chosen for the [Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant] because I know that a lot of other great riders before me have received it,” said Keefe. “It definitely feels good to have the support of the USET Foundation and other people behind the grant who believe in me.”

The Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant is awarded through the USET Foundation Amanda Pirie Warrington Fund. Keefe, this year’s winner, has demonstrated her talent at many of the nation’s top CCI1* and CCI2* events. At just 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Kentucky, Keefe has piloted her top mount, Flintstar, to a number of impressive finishes, including winning the Virginia Horse Trials CCI1* in 2017 and finishing 11th overall at their first CCI2* at Fair Hill International in 2018.

Keefe credits much of her success to her veteran partner Flintstar, who she acquired in 2016. The 2000 Thoroughbred gelding was previously ridden by New Zealand’s Jonelle Price up through the 4* level and even contributed towards New Zealand’s team bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In July 2018, the pair competed for the first time on the Area II CICOY2* squad at the Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC), which took place in Kalispell, Montana, in conjunction with The Event at Rebecca Farm, where they won team gold and placed fourth individually.

Most recently, Keefe was selected to the Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 program by the US Equestrian (USEF) Eventing Sport Committee in December 2018. The program will host its winter training session with USEF eventing emerging athlete coach Leslie Law in Ocala, Florida from Jan. 14-17.

The Amanda Pirie Warrington Fund was established by Pirie’s family in her memory with the purpose of helping to provide financial assistance to an eventing rider who has been identified as an athlete with great talent and ability to represent the United States in the future.

As the recipient of the grant, Keefe, who trains with her mom, Rumsey, and Sharon White of Last Frontier Eventing, will receive up to $5,000 to help offset expenses associated with her training over the next year.

“The grant will help me a lot with our winter training in Ocala,” said Keefe. “Since [Flintstar] is getting older, I would like to get some Advanced Level experience out of him this year. He has been such a good teacher so far for me. A big thanks again to the people behind the grant for all of their support!”

Thanks to the Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant, Keefe can focus on continuing her training and preparing for competitions as she aims towards one day representing the United States on the international stage.

For more information on the USET Foundation, visit www.uset.org.

Aintree Grand National 2019

When the Cheltenham Festival is over in the United Kingdom, horse racing fans across the world start to look towards World’s most famous, exciting and prestigious Grand National. Held on the historic Aintree course in Liverpool, this is a huge test of jumping ability and stamina, where only the best and most courageous horse comes through.

This National Hunt horse race will be held on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. Look to the Grand National guide for an indispensable aid to finding the winner of the World’s most famous and prestigious horse race.

The “National” offers a different kind of horse-racing experience with a pack of horses competing along a 4-mile course studded with 30 fences. This is a handicap race where horses wear different weights. The National Hunt horse race’s Steeplechase style is popular in France and the United Kingdom. A Steeplechase is a distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump diverse fence and ditch obstacles.

Modern usage of the term “steeplechase” differs between countries. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, it refers only to races run over large, fixed obstacles, in contrast to “hurdle” races where the obstacles are much smaller. The collective term “jump racing” or “National Hunt racing” is used when referring to steeplechases and hurdle races collectively. Elsewhere in the world, “steeplechase” is used to refer to any race that involves jumping obstacles.

The drama is spread out over 3 days while spectators gather in the grandstands and all-inclusive restaurants to watch the winning horse pass through the finish line after jumping the last obstacle along the Steeplechase. The Grand Opening Day is on Thursday 4th and Ladies’ Day is on Friday 5th, before Saturday’s Grand National Day.

This steeplechase race course has much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these, particularly Becher’s Brook, The Chair, and the Canal Turn, have become famous and, combined with the distance of the event, create what has been called “the ultimate test of horse and rider.”

The Grand National site contains everything you need to know about this magical race. The National will be held at the Aintree Racecourse which is predicted to host over 150,000 racegoers across the 3 days. An estimated worldwide audience of over 600 million people will tune in to watch on TV.

The National is the most valuable jump race in Europe that captures the imagination of millions of watchers around the world. It has an ability to consistently produce thrilling finishes and heart-warming stories.

The National is popular among many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year. Read the Aintree Grand National 2019 Betting companion article for details and tips on betting.

Aintree Grand National 2019 – Betting

The Grand National is popular among many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year. For those of you that aren’t in the know, visit Grand National betting for the current favorites and to educate yourself in the best assistance for the best bets you can find with the best UK bookmakers.

After the Grand National Weights are announced, odds shift. Believe it or not, it is possible to apply an element of science to Grand National betting.

The Grand National is a handicap race. The skill in betting on a handicap race lies in predicting which horse can overcome its handicap. Although most handicap races are run for older, less valuable horses, this is not true in all cases; some great races are handicaps, such as this Grand National steeplechase in England and the Melbourne Cup in Australia. In the United States over 30 handicap races are classified as Grade I, the top level of the North American grading system.

The bookmakers are already offering Grand National betting odds – ante post markets will cover some of the most-likely Grand National tips for the horses that head up the market. But expect the odds/pricing to change by race time!

Are you new to ante post betting? Get the low down with the Ante Post Betting Guide. Learn about different types of Grand National Betting using Tote Betting, Simple Win Betting, and Each-way betting and pick the 2019 Grand National Winner! Ante post betting in Europe is similar to advanced deposit wagering in the United States, which is a form of gambling on the outcome of horse races in which the bettor must fund his or her account before being allowed to place bets.

Only forty horses are allowed in the National race, so for the numbers above that, those horses may not make the cut and be a part of the National. The key to having an ante post bet is to find a horse that is guaranteed to make the lineup on the day. Be sure to take in account illness and injuries, last-minute dropouts. Then what about the fairytale entries?

For example, can “One for Arthur” become the first back to back winner since Red Rum, or can Richard Johnson end his streak as the unluckiest jockey in National history?

The scale of the UK’s Grand National betting activity is huge! It is estimated that if all of the betting slips from the Grand National were placed end-to-end, they would stretch all the way from Liverpool to Las Vegas and back – a distance of more than 5,000 miles!

Records:

  • Leading horse: Red Rum – 3 wins (1973, 1974, 1977)
  • Leading jockey: George Stevens – 5 wins (Freetrader, 1856; Emblem 1863; Emblematic, 1864; The Colonel, 1869, 1870)
  • Fastest winning time: Mr. Frisk (1990); 8:47.80
  • Oldest winning horse: Peter Simple (1853); aged 15
  • Most rides in the race: 20 (A. P. McCoy, 1995-2015), (Richard Johnson, 1997-2016)
  • Most rides without winning: 20 (Richard Johnson, 1997-2016)

For those that are concerned about Steeplechase deaths: equine deaths in the Grand National are higher than the average steeplechase, with six deaths per 439 horses between 2000 and 2010. Due to the high number of injuries and deaths suffered by participating horses, animal rights groups have campaigned to have the race modified or abolished.

After two horses died in the 1989 Grand National, some of the National’s most challenging fences have been modified, while still preserving them as formidable obstacles. Also, changes in setup and procedure allow veterinarians to treat horses more rapidly.

Winx Beats Justify in the 2018 Secretariat Vox Populi Award

Source: Blood Horse via Twitter.

Horse racing fans have had their say online and Australian wonder-mare Winx has emerged as the winner of the 2018 Secretariat Vox Populi Award. She was up against a hugely competitive field of four but U.S voters decided that the 33-time winner was the queen of thoroughbred racing.

Winx saw off stiff competition from Enable, whose victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe capped off a tremendous 2018, and triple-crown winner Justify. Connections will be presented with the custom-made trophy at Santa Anita racecourse in January 2019. She follows in the footsteps of American Pharoah, who picked up the award in 2015, and two-time winner California Chrome who was successful in both 2014 and 2016.

She made it 29 races unbeaten at the end of October with an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, finishing two lengths ahead of Benbatl. Fans were blown away by another terrific performance from the 7-year-old whose success was part of a tremendous card at the Melbourne track. Cliff’s Edge, Mystic Journey, and Ventura Storm were also winners on this particular card with the latter also featuring in the 2018 Zipping Classic in November. He was beaten by The Taj Mahal in that particular race with the JRA Cup winner was tipped up by Oddschecker to make it back-to-back victories in the Grade 2 event.

She has acquired legions of fans during her unbeaten sequence and has accrued over $17million of prize money during her time on the turf.

Source: Dennis Mills via Twitter

Justify may have enjoyed tremendous success during his short career, but it’s Winx’s longevity and ability to reproduce top-class performances on a regular basis that have helped her achieve worldwide notoriety and legendary status amongst racing fans. The Sydney-trained mare is unbeaten since April 2015 and has struck up a great understanding with jockey Hugh Bowman, who has been on board for 27 of her last 29 victories.

The award was founded in 2010 by Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat, and recognises racing excellence. Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of the award’s founder, praised the public’s decision, saying, “Winx represents everything we envisioned when we created this award and reaffirms her notion that a beloved horse will captivate fans and draw interest to the sport no matter where they race.”

Winx becomes the first International horse to receive the award and her fans took to social media following the announcement to express their delight at the decision.

Mr Blue Sky Dazzles as Williams and Billot Share Puissance Title

Day three of Olympia, The London International Horse Show attracted a sell-out crowd for The Cayenne Puissance, one of the star attractions of the week-long event. The Puissance title was eventually shared by Great Britain’s Guy Williams (Mr Blue Sky UK) and France’s Mathieu Billot (Dassler), after both pairs cleared the formidable 7ft 4in (2.23m) high ‘red wall’ in the fifth and final round.

The opening day of the Show Jumping competition was certainly one to remember for Darragh Kenny. The 30-year-old Irishman (Cassini Z) first pipped Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) by just one hundredth of a second to take top spot in The Santa Stakes supported by Olympia. Kenny then made it a memorable double after he and his 10-year-old bay gelding, Carlson, fought off a valiant effort from Great Britain’s William Funnell (Billy McCain) to take the honours in The Musto Inside Edge Stakes. The afternoon performance of the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National was won by Meredith Reader-Smith and Holydell Poseidon, while the evening performance was won by Poppy Dadson and Merkisayre Sea Duble.

Katie Bradburne Scores a Runaway Victory

British international rider Holly Smith (Grennanstown Sarco Lux Hill) and 10-year-old Katie Bradburne (Runaway Dolly) won the ever-popular Pony Club Mini-Major from the front.

After Smith’s faultless start, Bradburne raced against the clock with the Irish-bred pony her brother, Thomas, had finished third with in this class last year.

“Holly advised me to try not to let my nerves get to me, and act like I was at home… but go a bit faster,” said Bradburne, a member of the Old Berkshire Hunt branch of the Pony Club.

However, Bradburne is well bred when it comes to jumping at speed over fences. She comes from a family steeped in racing history. Her parents are successful former jockeys, Gee Armytage and Mark Bradburne, with her uncle being 1990 Grand National winner, Marcus Armytage.

The Cayenne Puissance

A thrilling Cayenne Puissance class had the crowd roaring with excitement at Olympia, The London International Horse Show when four riders took on the 7ft 4in wall in the fifth and final round.

Only two, however, managed to leave all the bricks intact: Britain’s Guy Williams on Mr Blue Sky UK and French rider Mathieu Billot on Dassler, a horse jumped in the 2017 Cayenne Puissance by Louise Saywell.

The wall was at its highest since 2006, when John Whitaker, Robert Whitaker and Markus Fuchs shared first prize, also at 7ft 4in. Coincidentally, Williams, who lives in France, and Billot had shared the spoils in a puissance class in Rouen recently, jumping the same height.

“C’est magnifique!” said an elated Billot, who was paying his first visit to Olympia.

Williams is considering trying for a record on Mr Blue Sky because he jumps so smoothly. The horse has been taken slowly because of his height and has had some dressage training to calm him. “He makes it look easy but he’s actually quite sharp and nervous and he becomes strong to ride,” Williams explained.

Young rider Alfie Bradstock, riding H.d’Or, and regular puissance specialist Karline de Brabander from Belgium (Fantomas de Muze) also reached the final round but Bradstock hit the wall and de Brabander suffered an unfortunate fall.

Darragh Kenny’s Olympia got off to a splendid start with a double of victories. The Netherlands-based Irishman took the Santa Stakes on Cassini Z and set an unmatchable target of 48.56 seconds on Carlson in The Musto Inside Edge Stakes, a speed class. For good measure, he was also second in the opening Welcome Stakes on Billy Dorito behind Dutch rider Doron Kulpers on Freestyle. “It’s been a great day – it’ll probably all go downhill from here on,” he joked.

Kenny plans to ride Cassini in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ on Saturday, but might consider Carlson, a new ride, in the Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix on Sunday: “He’s a special horse, competitive and brave. I think he’ll be good.”

The Pony Club Mini-Major, a special class in which Pony Club members have the unforgettable experience of being paired with senior riders in Olympia’s atmospheric arena, was won by Holly Smith and Old Berkshire Hunt member Katy Bradburne, whose parents, Mark and Gee (Armytage), were successful National Hunt jockeys.

Harry Charles may not have won a class, but he collected two awards for the most promising under-25 rider: The Raymond Brooks Ward Trophy, presented by brothers Simon, James, and Nick Brooks-Ward in memory of their father, and a saddle from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers as voted for by members of the British Equestrian Writers’ Association.

Tickets can be purchased at www.olympiahorseshow.com or by telephone on 0844 995 0995.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355