Yet, ironically, Clayton’s lowest-placed finish could be his biggest building block for the future.
The Yorkshireman says 2013 was all about establishing a new team with hopes high of a return to the main event at Olympia in 2014. Clayton, 23, finished 16th at the Christmas Under-23 British final on board Valentin R – an 11-year-old new ride grey stallion by Heartbreaker. And it is with Valentin R and another new recruit – Cassianato – that Clayton is hoping for big things in 2014.
The Yorkshireman says 2013 was something of a rebuilding operation following the sale of two of his stable stars on Aiyetoro and Mr Darcy.
But Clayton accepts that selling equine stars is part and parcel of his industry with the former Salendine Nook High School pupil hoping a patient and considerate approach will pay dividends with his new recruits in 2014.
“2013 was still a good year and I’ve had a couple of good results such as when we went to Arezzo in Italy for the Nations Cup,” Clayton told the Yorkshire Post. “But it’s been quite a tough year in that I have lost a couple of my good horses in Mr Darcy and Aiyetoro who have both been sold. I’ve just been regrouping really but I seem to have a couple of nice horses coming through like Valentin R so hopefully I can push on again in 2014. I wouldn’t say 2013 was disappointing but losing a couple of good horses is always going to push you back a little bit but hopefully I can crack on in 2014. You have to sell horses just to keep the job going really.
“If the money is right then you can’t keep on to them because for nice horses a lot of people pay a lot of good money now. You have to keep turning them over and doing your best and that’s what I have been doing really – regrouping and rebuilding my string. I’ve got a couple of nice ones and I’ve got one called Cassianato who is a nice eight-year-old owned by Beverley Widdowson and he looks like a nice horse. It looks like I’ve got a couple of good ones so hopefully we can get to the good shows.”
Clayton, 24 in April, also has Nations Cup aspirations with his new recruits and the Yorkshireman was far from despondent about Valentin R’s efforts at Olympia.
“Olympia went well – I had one down but he jumped well,” said Clayton.
“It’s a still new combination and it’s hopefully looking good for the future.”
And high on future ambitions is a return to Olympia – only this time for the full week. Clayton, who is now ranked 20th in Britain, added: “My ranking has slipped a little bit but hopefully with these new horses I can get back up there. Hopefully next year I can fight for a place there for the week.”
Hopkinson trying for Olympia once more
WOMERSLEY show jumping star Sally Hopkinson has firmed up her initial plans for 2014.
Hopkinson will be competing in the qualifying competitions for Olympia 2014 with the first of these being held at Bury Farm from next Thursday until a week on Sunday.
Further qualifiers follow at Arena UK (January 16-19), Ingliston (March 7-9) and Hand Equestrian Centre (March 27-30).
These are all premier shows where Hopkinson will jump in the Grand Prix classes and also in winter qualifying classes, in which the finals are held at Hickstead.
Yorkshire is well blessed with young showjumping talent with seven riders from the White Rose county having fought their way through to the under-23 British final at Olympia last month.
In addition to Hopkinson, who finished 17th after an unlucky final fence knock down, Yorkshire was represented by runner-up Scarlett Ward as well as Joe Clayton, Jessica Hewitt, Laura Robinson, Thomas Whitaker and Stephen Crosby.
The first Staintondale Point-to-Point of 2013 will be held next Sunday. Throughout 2014, the Staintondale Hunt will help raise money for the The House That Jack Built – a rehabilitation centre for injured jockeys and stable staff which is due to be built in Malton, 10 miles from the Sheriff Hutton point-to-point course venue.