Skelton proves a Big Star with Florida success

Nick Skelton
Nick Skelton
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BRITISH show-jumpers are continuing to make their mark while competing in the Florida sunshine in the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.

The festival is now in its fourth week and at the weekend hosted the $80,000 Adequan CS1 two-star Grand Prix.

Eighty-one riders, representing 19 countries, had entered, making this the largest recorded weekend grand prix field.

Bob Ellis, Britain’s Olympic Games course designer, was responsible for the track which soon narrowed the field down from 81 to 10 for the jump-off.

Nick Skelton took the top spot, jumping clear in 45.93 seconds, riding Beverley Widdowson’s nine-year-old stallion, Big Star.

“He jumped fantastic. I’m really pleased,” said Skelton afterwards. “He had one down in the WEF on Thursday but I think he was a little bit rusty. He hadn’t jumped for a while. Today, he was really very good. I’m very lucky to be riding him.”

British riders swept the board in the concluding competition of the weekend, the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic.

They took four of the top six placings. In first place, after a clear round in a jump-off time of 44.67 seconds, was Scott Brash, riding his father Stanley’s nine-year-old gelding Whiskey Mac IV.

Second place went to Ben Maher, riding Louise Flower’s nine-year-old gelding, Rowan. They jumped clear in a time of 45.608 seconds.

In third place was American rider Andrew Welles.

The fourth slot went to Tina Fletcher, who was riding the 11-year-old gelding, Unique IX, owned by Lady Pauline Harris.

Following his win the previous day, Skelton finished in sixth place, this time riding Beverley Widdowson’s 11-year-old bay mare, Unique XVIII.

Ireland’s Cian O’Connor took fifth place, riding KEC Alligator Alley.

British Eventing’s BE80(T) series is to have continued sponsorship this year from the Sowerby Bridge-based internet business EquestrianClearance.com.

There are 36 qualifying events in the series, with the final held at Brooksby Melton College Horse Trials in September.

The BE80(T) classes are aimed at introducing people to the sport of eventing and encouraging inexperienced horses and riders to build up their confidence.

The height of the fences is 80cm and the T means that it is a training class.

British Eventing accredited coaches are on hand at the competitions to helpd riders through each phase.

A new venue included this year is Frickley Park in South Yorkshire on September 8 and 9.

For more information about the series, which includes the British Riding Clubs championship, and a list of venues, go to www.british eventing.com.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is to be the official charity at this year’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials which run from June 7 to 10.

Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common, life-threatening inherited diseases.

It affects over 9,000 babies, children and young adults. Few sufferers live beyond the age of 38.

The CF Trust funds gene therapy research and relies entirely on fund-raising to carry out its work.

Money raised at Bramham will go towards the specialist training of doctors and nurses, plus a paediatric CF dietician at Leeds General Infirmary.

For more information, go to www.cftrust.org or call the helpline on 0300 373 1046.

The box office at Bramham is now open for tickets – go to www.bramham-horse.co.uk for more details.

Easterbys celebrate on home ground

THE weather may have been chilly but the competition was hot for the AGA Ladies Open race at the Sheriff Hutton point-to-point. The meeting, held at the home of trainer Mick Easterby, went ahead successfully after being postponed due to frozen ground earlier in January. And it turned out that the Easterby family had plenty of reasons to celebrate. The AGA race, sponsored by Country Warmth of Malton, was won by Easterby’s granddaughter, Jacqueline Coward, Fourth place in the race went to another granddaughter, Jo Mason, riding Impact Zone. Some strong contenders included a recent AGA winner, Sea Scout, ridden by Claire Methodical. Sea Scout was the bookies’ favourite and set the pace along with former Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Amicelli. Sea Scout, Amicelli and Optimistic Harry were all in with a chance but it was Amicelli who drew clear over the last two fences and coasted home over the last to win. Sea Scout came second and Optimistic Harry, ridden by Sam Drake, was third, with Jo Mason and Impact Zone fourth. The next AGA race will be held at Holderness on March 11. All the jockeys who take part in the 28 AGA Ladies’ Open races are eleigible for the £7,500 hunter chase final to be held at Cheltenham on May 2.