Firing on all cylinders from the penultimate draw, Nick Benterman seized the top-billed grand prix, and valuable world ranking points, with his consistent 11-year-old bay gelding Zorland D Volo.
William Whitaker had led from the front with a fast, decisive round on Kington Langley Stud and Robert Livock’s 11 year-old grey gelding Mersley Chakotay, but conceded to second by a fraction to Nick’s late dash on Volo Sport Horses’ Zorland D Volo.
“He’s so careful, I can ride forward and not have to stress about having a fence down, he’ll gallop flat-out to verticals and jump them,” said Nick, who wisely used tactics here.
“He jumped on day one, rested on day two and then came out and won the grand prix.”
The pair, winners of the Chepstow 2* grand prix, had been knocking on the door for another win, taking third in the British Masters grand prix just four days earlier.
“He’s a member of the family and my best friend, he has a great personality, a real people person,” said Nick, on the Corland/Indoctro gelding who has put him on the showjumping map.
The win is a family affair.
“We don’t have a groom and have decided to do it ourselves. My wife Katharina has been grooming him for the last month and you can tell the difference, she gives him confidence,” said Nick.
It was a return to old hunting grounds here, as Nick first based himself at Keysoe when he returned from Norway with Katharina and their children. They are now settled in Suffolk.
“I’d been away for 10 years building up the business, dealing and training students. That will continue, but I want to concentrate on the sport as well,” he said.
Just 0.11th of a second prevented William from claiming victory on Michael Whitaker’s British-bred 11-year-old Chakotay. They were also runners up in the 1.40m two phase behind Ireland’s Billy Twomey on Joe Flynn’s 11-year-old Ardcolum Duke, an Irish-bred stallion with Gypsy Duke and Clover Hill bloodlines.
Tracy Priest topped the first of the big tour classes, heading a hard-fought jump-off on Millfield Ultymate, a British-bred 10-year-old by Ulysses M2S she bought as a five-year-old.
“He hasn’t done a great deal this year as I was slow to start,” said mother of two Tracy, who has Queens Cup aims at the Royal International Horse Show, and intends to improve on last year’s score.
“We just had the last but one fence down, but he loves that big ring and I think he’ll be quite competitive.”
Jay Halim headed day one’s medium tour competition with Abrisco, a Dutch-bred 10-year-old bay gelding with Unistar and Zeus bloodlines who picked up two wins and a handful of places at the San Giovanni, Italy 3* meeting in April.
“He’s so consistent,” said Jay, who was worried he’d lose the ride on this talented gelding and went to the extraordinary lengths of advertising for a buyer in Horse and Hound. “It worked. Buyers – who want to remain anonymous – came forward to buy him especially for me thanks to that ad.”
The winter B and C final at Hickstead in three weeks time is the next target.
Jay almost secured another victory in the final 1.35m with Abrisco, but was denied the double by Anna Edwards and the scopey, big-jumping Chesterfield Z. The ultra-careful, Dutch-bred nine-year-old ate up the ground as Anna dared him at the gallop in the two phase section.
“I hadn’t planned to go fast, but I got a really forward shot to the stile and kept going like a rocket, and he did me proud, stretching for the back rail on the double – he knows exactly where the poles are,” said Anna, who was second in the previous day’s 1.35m.
Tim Page claimed victory here on Elaine Tague and Justin Skinner’s Steady The Helm. The versatile Irish-bred 10-year-old, renowned for his speedy prowess, tackles accumulators, area trials and speed classes with equal gusto, and was twice a winner on the Spanish Sunshine Tour.
Kayleigh Watts with Mandy Hall’s 12-year-old mare Blush headed a 1.20m, and Suzanne Posnett scored a hat-trick for Ireland on Pamela Posnett’s two horses. She doubled up with two 1.25m wins on Maxim Van Overis Z and took the concluding 1.15m on Queen Of Clubs.
Ollie Fletcher is out to follow in his parents Graham and Tina’s footsteps with a 1.15m win when making his International debut in senior competition on Jolyon Hobby’s Fun Time Frankie. Tony Pearson and Tracy Cottrell’s Arash were also 1.15m winners.
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