Christopher Smith takes his second win of the Winter Grand Prix series at South View

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Christopher Smith takes his second win of the Winter Grand Prix series at South View

Christopher Smith continued his Winter Classic success, recording his second Grand Prix victory in two shows with Tom and Holly Dunning’s Harthill Mexico, who are over the moon with his recent achievements.

“We have had him since he was an unbacked three-year-old. Tom produced him up the levels and then I stole him to jump up to Silver League,” commented Holly. “He took me round my first 1.40m Grand Prix at Addington last August and since Chris took on the ride, he has been to Oliva [Spain] and has just gone from strength to strength.”

Twenty-five competitors faced the 12-fence 1.40m track designed by Gillian Milner with seven supplying clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. As each rider came forward, the times were getting quicker, but no one could unlock a clear round as the poles kept also kept falling.

Gemma Wright jumped the first double clear round, opting for a steady clear over speed with Daniel Wright’s 10-year-old gelding Justin Bieber. Their lead didn’t last long, however, as Jess Hewitt quickly knocked them into second, taking nearly three seconds off the leading time with Sonny Broberg’s 12-year-old mare Arbitrage.

Last to go, Chris left nothing to chance. Using the 11-year-old gelding’s big stride to his advantage, he rode a deceptively fast clear round to fly into top spot, 5.56 seconds ahead of Jess, who finished in second place.

Known affectionately as Bentley at home, Holly described him as “such a genuine horse, a nice character and a genuinely lovely horse to own.”

“He’s so versatile, taking us all round different classes, he’s careful and scopey and at 17.3 he’s very big but he’s fast and very competitive. He’ll go to Lier (Belgium) in a few weeks for a 2* show so we are looking forward to going out there as proud owners to watch.”

 

Ryan Page secured victory in the Winter 1.35 Qualifier with Beech House Stud’s nine-year-old BP KO Jax. Twelve of the 19 starters returned to contend the jump off with Ryan using his penultimate draw to work out exactly what he needed to do to take top spot.

Ryan cut corners and galloped to the last, crossing the line in a time of 33.49, over one second ahead of Graham Babes and Caught Red-Handed PS in second place. Kelly Connor took third with Glamour Boy H, a further 2.77 seconds in arrears.

 

Dafydd Watkin Jones jumped to the top in the Winter six-year-old qualifier with Carl Edwards Touche De Muze. Thirty competitors came forward over the 10-fence 1.10m track as 13 qualified for the jump-off with initial clears. The competition was fierce but Dafydd, who picked up the ride on the six-year-old mare in January, rode a decisive round to secure the victory. Joe Trunkfield steered No Mercy PH into second place and Freya Barry finished third with No Nonsense Solier HB.

 

The Winter seven-year-old qualifier went the way of Graham Babes, forging ahead with Stephanie Babes’ Bambi VII. Thirteen of the 28 starters unlocked the key to the jump off, Graham claiming three of the rides. He was on top form, securing the win by 1.33 seconds on the mare he has produced for two years. Ashlea Silk Jones jumped Diamant Top into second place with Jess Hewitt securing third on Troy Capitama V Z.

 

Rebecca Marsh claimed the Winter Grade C qualifier with Jessica Gracie’s 13-year-old Naviedes Gymnastics, recent winners of the Billington Stud Farm’s 1* Grand Prix at Kelsall Hill’s inaugural International Show. Six of the original 13 starters jumped clear to make their way into the jump-off with Rebecca using her first draw to set an unbeatable time, winning the class by almost eight seconds. Gemma Wright produced the only other double clear with Daniel Wright’s eight-year-old Liqilly.

 

Graham Babes also took victory in the Winter 1.25m qualifier with Stephanie Babes’ Glencoe. Forty-three competitors faced the 11-fence track and were whittled down to 18 for the jump-off. Mid-drawn Graham took a flyer to every fence, claiming the win by half a second. Derek Morton eased Darcon V & V into second and Adam Ellery finished third aboard F Kwanah IS.

 

Carmen Edwards came to the fore in the Blue Chip B & C qualifier riding Escape The Gossip with brother Will Edwards picking up third place aboard Geneasys DK. Fourteen combinations contested the jump-off with just 0.99 seconds separating the brothers, Joe Trunkfield slotting into second with Mimosa Van Overis.

 

Sophie Stockdale outpaced all her rivals to take the Blue Chip Karma Performance qualifier on her own Greenlough Mag. Fifteen from a field of 22 battled it out in the jump off with Sophie and the 10-year-old mare sneaking into top spot by the tiny margin of 0.14 seconds over Graham Babes and Nanieta P. Dafydd Watkin Jones slotted Touche De Muze into third.

Image: Chris Smith and Harthill Mexico. Credit; Phil Hillier / Ladscape and Horses Photography

 
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