Another week, another win! Mikey Pender takes back-to-back Grand Prix wins

Monday 29 April 2024

Another week, another win! Mikey Pender takes back-to-back Grand Prix wins

Ireland’s Mikey Pender hit the turbo button on Hughes Bravo’s scopey HHS Cornetta to land the feature 2* Grand Prix at Chepstow Spring International, one week after taking the Chard Equestrian Grand Prix.

“She’s [HHS Cornetta] amazingly fast for a big horse and every round she’s getting closer to taking a step up to the bigger shows,” said Mikey, who got the day off to a good start with a win in the 2* 1.30m speed by 1.40 seconds on the eight-year-old stallion HHS Cyprus, a full brother to HHS Cornetta.  

The young Irishman took full advantage of the super-careful demeanour of Cornetta to outpace his Grand Prix rivals and win by an impressive 1.67 seconds, again superseding the efforts of William Whitaker aboard Chacco’s Lando, who again had to settle for second.

Course-designer Colm Quinn (IRE) asked plenty of questions in his world ranking 13-fence 1.45m track using technical distances, wide oxers, skinny planks and a restrictive time allowed to whittle down the 62 starters to 12 for the jump-off. 

An early clear could not be found but mid-drawn Mikey soon changed that.  Setting off at optimum pace and trusting the carefulness of Marion Hughes’ home-bred Cornet Obolensky x Acorado nine-year-old, Mikey skilfully negotiated the vertical at two, skimming close to the right-hand wing to get the angled line over the skinny black planks and took strides out to the last to post a fast clear.

Second to Mikey at Chard Equestrian the week before, William Whitaker set off determinedly to change the order, taking a risky two strides out from the skinny planks to a sizeable oxer, kept pushing into the double and hit top gear at the final vertical on Sultan Saud’s 11-year-old stallion Chacco’s Lando (Chacco-Blue x Lando).  It wasn’t enough, and he had to again settle for the runner-up spot.  Young rider Lauren Caroline gave a good account of her herself to guide Gait L into third spot with Tim Gredley filling fourth on Imperial HBF.

“I’ve had a very good two weeks.  This is my first visit to Chepstow – I never managed to come here in my pony days – and it’s a lovely show; brilliant facilities and good ground.  The course was spot on with a great jump-off that wasn’t too gallopy, good to watch, great education for the horses and two world ranking classes makes a big difference,” said Mikey, who valued the last two weeks. 

“I brought six horses, three older ones and three youngsters, and the shows at Chard and Chepstow have been good education; each one has learned a lot and gone in the right direction.”

George Whitaker snatched the first of the world ranking classes with the final draw on Peanut.  Sixty-five riders initially came forward but the 2* 1.45m track held several challenging questions with related lines, a tricky double of verticals and a time allowed that caught out a few. 

Only five competitors found the key with Joe Clayton setting a competitive target from the opening draw on Unex Competition Yard’s Gentlemen Van Het Veldehof.  They held off Ireland’s Billy Twomey’s challenge on Chat Botte ED but George maximised on his advantageous draw with Martin Wood’s Barrichello x Quasimodo Z 11-year-old, using tight lines to wipe 0.41 sec off the leading time and take the win.

“I’m very happy, he felt at his best and has jumped clear on the big tour all week.  He’s been there or thereabouts this year and has been knocking on the door for a win.  The course was built for a careful horse and perfect for us, and the luck of the draw worked out well,” said George.  

Guy Williams got the ball rolling in the Big Tour classes, winning the 2* 1.40m on his seasoned campaigner Rouge De Ravel.  A total of 82 contended this two-phase but no-one was a match for Guy, and the Ultimo Van Ter Moude 19-year-old stallion proved he’s still got it with a 0.18 second advantage over Mark Edwards and Royale Tale.

Joe Fernyhough topped the 2* 1.40m speed with the eight-year-old mare Calcourt Countdown (Westpoint Quickfire x Landjunge), outpacing their 34 rivals by 1.03 seconds to comfortably take the win.

Jake Myers outpaced all to take the Medium Tour Final on Gamin Des Rondets.  The 63 starters faced a 12-fence 1.40m track and 18 returned to battle it out against the clock, Joe Clayton set an early, competitive target from second draw on Hucalinde DV but Jake immediately relegated them by 0.38 seconds with a fast, relentless pace aboard the Diamant De Semilly eight-year-old.

“The courses have been amazing all week, but this jump-off didn’t entirely suit us; I’m a big fan of turns rather than moving-on lines but I pushed him on in a few places and he came back to me easily,” said Jake, 19, who has ridden ‘Cuba’ since a four-year-old.

“I took him to his first show and have produced him slowly as he’s a big horse; he’s quite blood but he’s pretty chilled and well-behaved,” added Jake, who would like to step up to world ranking classes later in the year with Wellington International and Bolesworth two-week tour the next international aims.

Gemma Ellison scooped the 2* Small Tour Final with a deceptively quick round on Helsinki VDL.  Less than half the entry was lost over the 12-fence 1.35m track as 21 of the 39 starters contended the jump-off.  Summer Tanner set an early target on Billy Colman but Gemma used Helsinki’s big stride to negotiate the shortened course, acutely angling the vertical two from home followed by another tight turn to the penultimate upright to win by 1.13 seconds. 

The Baltic x Corland 12-year-old Helsinki won the Welsh Masters Grand Prix at this venue 12 months ago.

“He’s had some time off over the winter and only started to return to competition four weeks ago, so I’m hoping he’ll be up for some bigger classes again in a couple of weeks,” said Gemma.  “He started this show a bit too fresh but by day three he felt at his best and the jump-off course suited him; it was a good time to push him.  He answered every question, gave me such a smooth ride and he very much enjoyed himself, too!”

Gemma also headed the initial 61-horse 1* 1.15m two-phase with 1.56 seconds to spare on the 12-year-old Fernhill Off Chance (Sligo Candy Boy x White Clover).

Chris Smith scored a victory double.  Triumphing in the initial 62-entry 2* 1.35m by 0.33 seconds aboard the Big Star x Luidam eight-year-old mare Ashdale Allstar, he went on to head the final day’s Gold Tour 1.30m Final on Chaplin De Leau.  The 40 starters were reduced to 17 for the jump-off with Chris in flying form to win by 1.17 seconds on Jane Jackson’s nine-year-old stallion.

Mark Edwards was another double winner, heading Friday’s 1* 1.35m on Vicky Gillard’s 10-year-old Ede Peasy with only 0.08 seconds to spare.  He left his second win until the final day, topping the concluding 23-horse 2* 1.35m two-phase with a flying round on the nine-year-old Montreuxs Tale daughter Royale Tale 0.22 seconds.  

Arianna Kuligowski scored a hat-trick of wins with the ultra-consistent Ivascalle.   Claiming the initial 59-entry Gold Tour 1* 1.25m two-phase with 1.41 seconds in hand over Eve McCoy’s Cocktail D’Azur, Arianna and the 11-year-old Baltic VDL x Lincoln mare seized the 1* 1.25m Accumulator 24 hours later.  Fifty-one competitors came forward in this class with Arianna and Ivascalle claiming almost four seconds over Gemma and Fernhill Off Chance.

Arianna’s final win cane in the Silver Tour Final.  Gemma and Off Chance again had to settle for the runner-up spot as Arianna and Ivascalle stormed to victory.  Nine from a field of 45 contended the jump-off but Arianna claimed the advantage to win with 0.65 seconds to spare.  

Ireland again finished out in front in the 1* 1.40m Platinum Final in the form of British-based Billy Twomey.  He used his mid-draw to secure the top spot by 1.15 seconds on the Belgian-bred eight-year-old Quelle Dame Van’t Meehof in the eight-strong decider.

Harriet Thompson fired a warning shot across the bows with a 0.88 second victory in the 53-strong 1* Silver Tour 1.20m speed on Hero’s Chin De Litrange III, the pair going to head the Bronze Tour Final.  Twenty of the original 50 starters returned for the Bronze 1.10m Final jump-off, Harriet convincingly beating all by 2.49 seconds on the Chin Chin x Cruising 17-year-old.     

Stephanie Cruise doubled up in the 1* Bronze 1.05m with the Hungarian-bred nine-year-old mare Genesis, heading the initial two-phase by 0.35 seconds and returning triumphant in the final day’s speed with two seconds to spare.

Abbie Shackell gave fair warning of her intentions with a 0.48 second victory in an early Six-year-old 1.20m on Nala’s Pride (Fruselli x Namelus R) and went on to head the Six-year-old Final.  Sixteen of the original 33 starters returned for the jump-off, Abbie finding the shortest route to win by 0.54 seconds.

Daniel Moseley guided Lisa Hales’ home-bred SFS Getaway (Escape Z x Arko) into a treble clear to take victory in the three-round Five-year-old Final.  Twenty originally started over a 1.10m track with eight contending the final round against the clock, Daniel winning by 0.72 seconds.


Image: Mikey Pender and HHS Cornetta. Credit: Showground Photography

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