Christopher Smith lands the Aintree Winter Classic Grand Prix with Harthill Mexico

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Christopher Smith lands the Aintree Winter Classic Grand Prix with Harthill Mexico

Christopher Smith sailed to victory in the Winter Grand Prix at Aintree International Equestrian Centre’s Winter Classic with Thomas Dunning’s Harthill Mexico.

Twenty-two combinations contented Rafael Suarez’s 13 fence 1.40m track with seven returning for round two against the clock, Christopher Smith claiming two rides. Three combinations unlocked the key to jump double clear so placings would come down to time.

Chris set an early target from second draw, cutting corners and taking inside lines, riding a deceptively quick round on the 11-year-old Cevin Z X Lady Mexico gelding. Despite the strong challenge from the rest of the field, the pair could not be caught, although Leo Lamb and the on-form Gmail came close, finishing one second behind.

Guaranteed first place already, Chris gave it his all with his second ride and final draw, Messarado Blue, but couldn’t quite piece everything together as they tipped a pole to finish fifth.

“The courses are always well built at Aintree; it was tricky, and you had to be careful. There were seven clears so Raf [Suarez, course designer] did a good job. He [Harthill Mexico] has a good stride so I used that to our advantage,” said Christopher.

“He is a nice character, an easy and careful horse. He learnt a lot at the back end of last year in Oliva in Spain jumping some bigger tracks. He enjoys his job, and he wants to win.”

Rebecca Marsh lifted the Winter 1.35m qualifier with Susie Gibson’s 12-year-old Stevie G. Seven of the 28 starters did enough to make the jump-off with Rebecca using her mid-draw to maximum advantage. Four combinations jumped double clear so positions would be decided by the clock as Rebecca negotiated tight lines to finish in top spot by just 0.20 seconds. Keith Shore steered Zero 24 into second and Holly Truelove finished third with Jonti.

Joe Trickett made the journey from Shropshire to seize victory in the Winter six-year-old on Pat Baggot’s Royal Star X. Credit to the talent on display, 12 of the 17 starters returned for the jump-off with five combinations jumping double clear. Joe and the Big Star x Mid Oak gelding used their late draw to challenge leader Thomas Pritchard, galloping at the last to take victory by 2.24 seconds. Thomas Pritchard took second on Honkey Cat and Danielle Ryder on Ecclestone Z claimed third.

Dafydd Watkin Jones on SHW Candies C and Thomas Pritchard and Double M Cristalla shared the spoils of the Winter seven-year-old qualifier as the only two double clears from seven starters, both riders opting to withdraw from the jump-off.

Thomas Pritchard and Double M Cristalla finished joint first once again, opting with Charley Hamilton, riding Loretta Blue MFS, to withdraw from the jump-off and share the victory as the only two double clears in the Winter Grade C qualifier.

Rachel Proudley jumped to the top of the Winter 1.25m qualifier on Susan Lincoln’s Happy Boy. Thirteen of the 29 starters posted initial clears over the 12 fence 1.25m course, with Rachel and the 17-year-old Kannan x Qulien gelding forging ahead to win by more than two seconds. Kelly Connor slipped Lacar II into second whilst Holly Louise Would finished third with Frimeur D'altenbach.

Thomas Dovkants came to the fore in the Blue Chip B & C qualifier. Ten of the 18 starters returned to for the jump off, with four jumping a further clear. Thomas, on Aaron Jones’ nine-year-old Arezzo VDL x Berline de La Vie Paparezzo De W&S, flew round the jump-off to set an unbeatable time from second draw. Keith Shore and Fabuleux De Riverland chased hard for second but were almost one second from catching Thomas. Anthony Condon steered SFS Houdini into third.

Lucy Parker outpaced all her rivals to take the 67-strong Blue Chip Karma Performance qualifier single-phase on Jane Hamshere’s 12-year-old KMR Flamenco (Je T’aime Flamenco x Renkum Finesse). Thomas Dovkants slotted Princess Volo into second ahead of Eoin Gallagher in third with Renco Van Papinglo.  

Chantelle Duggan maxed on her penultimate draw to take the Blue Chip Joint RLF Power Championships qualifier on Stephanie Hank’s Arkello. Seven of the 25 starters jumped double clear, Chantelle and the Argento x Mirage eight-year-old speeding into top spot by 0.71 seconds. Charlotte Purgal made a late bid to win from final draw but could not catch Chantelle, finishing second with La Carla H. Carmen Edwards finished third on Malou L Z.

 

Image credit: Majestic Photography

 
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