Glorious Sussex Provides Top Sport at Hickstead and Goodwood.

For the first time in three years, The All England Jumping Course was able to stage the Royal International Horse Show. While at Goodwood, The Glorious Goodwood meeting provided another five days of horse racing for all abilities in the heat of this summer. Both meetings were competitive with Stradivarius being just pipped at the line while at Hickstead the British leg of the Nations Cup ended with a three way jump off.

Band at Hickstead playing before the Nations Cup

In the first of the four days of international show jumping at Hickstead, eighty four took to the hallowed turf in the Royal International Vase, a one round warm up class over 1.45mset by Kelvin Bywater, the course designer for all the show jumping at Hickstead over the five day meeting. (Day one was only for local national classes.) William Whitaker took the top podium spot with a clear round on board Jelallah Ol in 57.99 seconds. Thirty of the 84 runners went clear. The second and other international class of the day, The Royal International Trophy, a two phase class over at top height of 1.50m was won by another from the Whitaker clan, Robert, riding Evert. He was clear in both phases in the fastest time for the second phase of 26.24 seconds. There were sixteen of the runners taking clears in both phases.

John Whitaker wins the International Stakes

International competition gets serious in the second day of the meeting with the feature of the day being the British round of the Nations Cup. The first international class of the day was the Royal International Stakes where there were forty riders taking on the one round class with the best clear round taking the glory. The course was set at 1.45m and yet again a Whitaker took the honours. Veteran John this time riding Sharid; he was second to go in the class and screamed round with a clear in 61.97 seconds, a time that no one coming afterwards was able to match.

Flag line-up of nations taking part

After the razzmatazz of the presentation of all the riders selected by their country to the almost capacity crowd for the British leg of The Nations Cup; the competition started in earnest and at every turn was extremely tight between the seven nations. It was a surprising list of countries not taking part in many ways – no Swiss, Dutch, Italian or American representatives, and in fact only seven of the eight eligible slots were taken up. This was probably a mark of countries not wishing to risk their top riders or horses with the World Equestrian Games only ten days away. Apart from the home national of Great Britain, the six other competing countries were Ireland, Brazil, France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. It was clearly a round which any of the countries taking part could win. The first round of two consisted of twelve obstacles with 15 jumping efforts required in a time allowed of 77 seconds. In the first round, all the teams had a member who had a pole or two down. The disregard score in this round of the FEI Nations Cup was clearly going to matter immensely. The top of the leader board at the break – in other words, the break between the two rounds was from France and Germany, both with 4 faults after their discard scores. Edward Levy from France was discard with 16 faults, but in round two he did make amends by jumping clear.  Phillipp Weishaupt was the discard score for Germany as he officially retired.

Ludger Beerbaum – back from retirement?

The German team also included Ludger Beerbaum, who everyone was told had retired from competition last year, but no he was back and jumped clear in the first round although collected 4 faults in the second. Brazil was sitting in third place with 8 faults, along with Belgium and Ireland. Great Britain was one fence behind on 12 faults while the Swedish team had a dreadful time with 20 faults and an elimination at the water with Jonna Ekberg refusing to jump the water. After that all the Swedish scores counted, and they all had 4 faults or more.

Apart from Sweden, who clearly not going to bother the judges, the other six nations all had a chance to take the British round of the Nations Cup and the  Edward, Prince of Wales Gold Cup trophy to boot. Jumping in reverse order with the worst team going first ending with the French going last, any faults from any of the team members would matter. The team from Great Britain were in fact the winners of the second round as they had no further faults to add to their score. Sadly, as they carried forward 12 faults from the first round, they were not going to be in the final reckoning. In the two rounds, Harry Charles of GB was the only team member comprising of Ben Maher, John Whitaker and Jodie Hall McAteer to go clear in both rounds. Like Belgium and Ireland, Great Britain ended the day on 12 faults. In the first round, only Shane Breen was clear for Ireland, but was unable to repeat the performance in part two as he had the second fence down. In the second round, the Irish only picked up another 4 faults as both Andrew Bourns and Jack Ryan both went clear. The fourth member, Alexander Butler collected 4 faults in each round. Again, with the Belgian team, only Koen Vereecke went clear in both rounds. In the first round, Pieter Clemens also went clear but had 8 faults in round two, the Belgian discard score. Wlim Vermeer went clear in round two, but Olivier Philippaerts had one fence down in the first round and two in the second.

Kevin Staut takes France into a three way jump off

The Brazilian team on 8 faults collectively at the end of round one, managed to go clear in round two. This kept them well in the frame, putting pressure on both the final riders of France and Germany. Ludger Beerbaum, clear in the first round collected 4 faults in the second and it was hoped that his would be the discard score, but with Philipp Weishaupt also collecting 4 faults, one of the rider’s scores would count, leaving the Germans on 8. Finally, the French team needed to have no further faults to win the whole thing. However, the first to go for the team was Olivier Robert who collected another 4 faults. The second was Edward Levy, who had a bad time in round one, made amends and jumped clear in round two. Marc Dilasser was the third member in and he ended with the discard score of 12 faults. In any event now, there would be a jump off to decide the winners. If Kevin Staut was able to jump clear for the final team member, France would join Germany and Brazil in the jump off – which he did, so a very rare eventuality in any round of the Nations Cup – a three way jump off.

Marc Dilasser wins jump off for France

Each team Chef d’Equipe had to select one rider to go in a one round shoot out over a shortened course. Brazil went first with Francisco Mesquita Musa riding Alea Marathon. He had one pole down giving him 4 faults in a time of 44.38 seconds. Next in was Tobias Meyer for Germany riding Greatest Boy –H. He went clear in 42.89 seconds. That was it as people were getting ready to leave – but the French had other ideas. Henk Nooren, the French Chef, sent in Marc Dilasser riding Arioto Du Gevres to rescue the French claim. He went clear and was just faster than the German, finishing the round in 41.95 seconds. It was the first time in twenty four years – since 1988, that the French have won the British round of the FEI Nations Cup and along with that of course, they won the Prince of Wales Gold Cup.

The final table for the European leg of the Nations Cup, with only one round to go in Dublin after the World Equestrian Games, is Germany heading the board with 330 points with Belgium just behind o 285 points and France and The Netherlands in joint third with 280 points apiece. The final placings will be very close after the Irish leg of the competition!!

The Edward, Prince of Wales Cup for the winners of the Nations Cup
The French Team wins for the first time since 1988
Olivier Philippaerts from Belgium takes the International Silver Salver

After the excitement of the Nations Cup, day three of the Royal International seemed a little tame. There were two further international classes – The International Salver which had 38 runners – fifteen of which took first round clear of the two rounds. In the jump off, there were six who completed double clear of which Olivier Philippaerts from Belgium was the fastest to win with 36.34 seconds riding H & M Miro. He beat Britain’s Samuel Hutton riding Bonne Amie into second and Shane Breen for Ireland was third riding Cuick Star Kerviec. In the second of the international classes, the speed class of the week, The Royal International Speed Classic, thirty came forward for the one round helter skelter round the 3 ½ acre international arena. The fastest round was from Brazil – Catch Me Marathon ridden by Francisco Mesquita Musa. He went clear in 61.47 seconds ahead of fellow clear rounder from Britain – Jack Whitaker riding Scenletha in 62.04 seconds. Third was Ireland’s Alexander Butler riding Eindhoven G.H. There were eight clear rounds in the class.

Harry Charles after finishing yet another clear round for Great Britain.

The final day saw just the one international class. One of the most coveted prizes in the sport world wide – The King George V Gold Cup. The Grand Prix of Hickstead sponsored as was the whole show by Longines. Forty eight riders came forward for this in front of a capacity crowd. It is worth noting at this point, that the prize – The King George V Cup is one of the most valuable trophies in any sport in the world. It is pure gold and is guarded constantly with a team of special heavy men. Just in gold scrap value it is worth well over £1 million. It looked a quality field with some of the top riders word-wide taking their chance. In a big and fairly technical course, a typical Kelvin Bywater design, there were eight who finished clear at the end of the first round. Three of the clears were from Belgium, an astonishing fact as no Belgian rider has taken this trophy since 1931 – yes 1931, a small matter of 91 years!!

The first three to go in the jump off went as fast as they could and all had fences down. Robert Whitaker very nearly gladdened the British supporters with a fast round which looked as if it would go clear, but the last fence was rubbed just enough to have Robert earning 4 faults. Four of the jump off runners had clear rounds, and in a very exciting finish, the first one came from Trevor Breen from Ireland, who has won everything at Hickstead except the King George. Would his time of 53.46 seconds be enough? No. The Brazilian, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli riding Harwich VDL took the clear in 52.03 seconds.

The winner for Belgium – the first Belgian winner since 1931. Thomas Gilles

The next in was Harry Charles, who has had such an excellent show came in riding Borsato, and he got a clear. He has been jumping clears all week! He took the lead with 51.22 seconds. Finally, the rookie from Belgium came in, with all the benefits of going last. Thomas Gilles riding the 9 year old horse – Aretino 13. He jumped clear in 48.21 seconds. This gave him the Grand Prix and prize of winning one of the oldest show jumping classes in the world – The King George V Gold Cup. At 20 years of age only, we are sure to see more of this rider in the years to come!!It is unlikely with riders such as Thomas Gilles, that we will have to wait another 90 plus years for another Belgian win on this prestigious Grand Prix!

Racing at Glorious Goodwood

One of the biggest race meetings in the British racing calendar is The Glorious Goodwood Meeting on the South Downs in Sussex sponsored by Qatar. An extraordinary course with switch backs and undulations to keep both horses and jockeys on their toes and up to the game. It is a really quintessential British event with picnics had by many on the downs and of course famous for the wearing of panama hats which as usual were out in abundance. Over the five days of racing, there were 35 races for all types and quality of horse including just three Group 1 races in the week.

Kyprios wins the challenge against The Strad!

The first, on the first day and one of the feature races of the week was the Goodwood Cup. This year’s renewal was a vintage one with nine runners, and all with credentials to take their place in the line-up. Firstly, there was Stradivarius, the character full 8 year old stallion and winner of the race three times before. The Ascot Gold Cup winner from this year – Kyprios –  the young pretender was also in the line-up together with Trueshan, another prolific long distance expert. The other six starters were all in with a chance and are no slouches in their own rights either. As was expected, the Mark and Charlie Johnston trained Thunderous took the lead over the 2 mile contest. Nate the Great took them along with Thunderous and in the straight over 3 to 4 furlongs, both rather subsided allowing those who had been ridden just off the pace – Stradavarus, Kyprios and Trueshan to come to the fore. Trueshan ridden by Hollie Doyle and trained by Alan King tried to keep Stradivarius boxed in against the rail and there was some scrimmaging between the two protagonists before Stradivarius broke free to take his run up the outside rail. He just took the lead a furlong out, and the race ended with a dual between the Aidan O’Brien runner Kyprios ridden by Ryan Moore just getting the better of the older horse and Trueshan coming third. Many expected that this would be the last time we would see the great old stayer – Stradivarius. However, the owner Bjorn Neilson announced of TV after such a performance that the horse would run again. He would discuss where with trainer John Gosden, but the Yorkshire Cup at York in about a months’ time would be the likely venue.

Baaeed – winner of the Sussex Stakes

The following day, the 1 mile Sussex Stakes was run and this time there were seven runners in the Qatar sponsored Group 1. This too had some top class horses entered, including the world’s top rated miler – Baaeed. He was sent off hot favourite and was always likely to be the banker of the meeting. He was going for his ninth win and remain unbeaten. He duly obliged. He was a bit scatchy throughout the race, but when he was asked to deliver, he did so in spades, and after the race – one wondered whether he had ever been in a race of such quality. Alcohol Free, the four time Group 1 winning filly was there to try to retain her crown of 2021, but it was not to be and she came in third. Charlie Appleby sent out his recent French Derby winner Modern Games to try his luck and under William Buick came second, beaten by Baaeed by 1 ¾ lengths. Of the other four runners, none were likely to be able to win against these top three, but were certainly not bad horses and were entitled to take their chances.

The third day saw the final Group 1 of the week, the Nassau Stakes, again sponsored by Qatar. This was a race for fillies and mares of 3 years and up. This contest was not of the calibre of the colt’s equivalent of yesterday. Nashwa trained by John and Thady Gosden was thought to be the one to beat. She duly won the 1 mile 2 furlong contest with Hollie Doyle in the saddle. She was the winner of the French Oaks earlier this year over the same distance as this race. The second home was the Richard Hannon trained Aristia ridden by Sean Livey. This was an exceptional result for the filly as she certainly until now, did not have the ability of some of the others. In third was Lilac Road from the William Haggas stable ridden by Tom Marquand.

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