New records were set and tears of joy were shed. It was the annual, everpopular Blue Chip Championships, and a capacity crowd created a great atmosphere for the Gala night.
Mark Bunting brought one horse for one class – and headed the top-billed Blue Chip Grand Prix with UB One.
“He’s been knocking on the door” said Mark, who started riding this Namelus R son in 2010 after originally meeting him five years before when training owner Shayla McInulty. Sammie-Jo Coffin slotted Willem De Lux into 2nd with Sam Hutton’s Cornetta 10 in 3rd. Kerry Brennan clocked an amazing championship double with Wellington M, taking both Blue Chip Pro challenge and Dynamic B and C.
Young riders gained the upper hand in the Pro challenge, with Alison Barton’s CS Online in 2nd. “Wellie’s been jumping well over 1.40m, technical tracks” said Kerry, 19, who has young rider European aims with this Quidam Du Revel-sired nine-year-old. Danielle Joliffe led all the way on the impressive Explosief Van De Heffinck, but Blue Chip B and C victory was denied by last-to-go Kerry on Wellington M – one of only two grade B’s in the 12- strong jump-off. Geoff Luckett powered Old Lodge’s Final Strike to Blue Chip Karma performance victory, pushing Emily Davies into 2nd and 3rd with Fernando and King Carnute. Geoff has produced this seven-year-old steadily since the gelding’s purchase from Brightwells Sales at Addington three years ago. “He’s coming into his own now” said Geoff, on the Hickstead’s B and C and British Masters grade C finalist.
Jessica Botham clinched the Halsall Electrical 1.25m with Claire Beecroft’s Zininova, a Lupicor-sired eight-year-old previously ridden by Geoff. “I bought her three years ago, but she’s too quick for me, and she’s a ladies’ horse so not suitable for Geoff” said Claire. Jessica was thrilled to get the ride in January. “I can’t thank them enough” she said, “Zininova’s careful with a big stride.” Beth Tuff took the Blue Chip power RLF championship with Sally Ellyatt’s Britishbred No Promises II. “She’s low mileage, we’ve taken it quietly this winter” said Beth, who has produced this six-year-old Armitage daughter since September, “but she’s easy.”
Relegated with Trina Lewis’s homebred Nick Of Time, a determined EmmaJo Slater found tighter turns in the 37-strong jump-off to take the Horsequest novice title on Kim Barzilay’s Olympic Lux seven-year-old Tantrum II. “I thought I’d done enough first time” said Emma-Jo, who won the 2011 novice on Spot Of Business. Emma-Jo’s opener in the Joshua Jones discovery put Tantrum into 3rd, with Tim Page’s slick round on William Stewart’s Steady The Helm winning by 2 seconds. The seven-year-old, winner of four classes at Hand’s premier, joined Tim in January. “He’s only in discovery, but he’s consistent and naturally quick” he said. Risking a flyer to the last double, Norman Proffitt headed the Tri-Zone Airlite star championship for the second consecutive year aboard Audrey Evans and Castell Stud’s Patent. “He was so good” said Norman of his multi-veteran and amateur national title winner, “He slipped but picked up and carried on. He wants to win as much as I do!”
Record-breaking Beth Vernon scored her fourth consecutive victory in the Blue Chip Pro Sparkle JC/JA. Not content with that, she also headed the Horsequest UK Pony Coral for Zirina to head two Championships. “It’s my final pony year, next year someone else will get the chance” said Beth, 16, whose previous JC/JA winners are Falaza and Cinderella Girl.The eight-year-old Zirina, 2011 Pony Sapphire Champion, was bought 18 months ago through Beth’s coach Liane Smith, and will be aimed at HOYS Newcomers and Foxhunter this year.
“Liane is top trainer” said Beth.
Cornwall-based Kayla Setford, 14, and the seven-year-old Diptford Stardust triumphed in the Horsequest UK sapphire.“She’s always eager to get in the ring” said Kayla, who trains with Zoe Gwennap, “but I was nervous.”
On her Blue Chip debut, Kent-based Charlie O’Conor, 13, scored her biggest win in the Equitility pony novice on Aughnacliff Boy. The Irish-bred ten-year-old was bought two years ago. “He was wild, but we knew he had scope, so we persevered with lots of flatwork” said Charlie, who trains with Chris Moyce.
3rd in the novice, Ashlea Silk-Jones went two better for the cool, calm and collected discovery title with Majestic Melody, a part-Welsh cob bought as a wild two-year-old. “We needed a lasso to catch her” said Ashlea, 15, who is based at Brook Farm Training Centre, Stapleford Abbotts, Essex, “She’s still lively, but more manageable.”
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