Ronnie Jones lands the Winter Grand Prix at Kelsall Hill’s Winter Classic with Kaleche

Thursday 18 January 2024

Ronnie Jones lands the Winter Grand Prix at Kelsall Hill’s Winter Classic with Kaleche

Ronnie Jones didn’t miss a beat in the jump-off in the Winter Grand Prix at Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre’s Winter Classic in Cheshire, to record a handsome victory on Ruth Dowie’s Kaleche.

“She’s been a freak of nature from the start.  I tried her over a cavaletti as a just-broken three-year-old and she hit the sky and knew she had to come home, but I had to convince Ruth to buy her as she was so sharp,” said Ronnie.

Exactly a third of the class qualified for the jump-off over course-designer Sue Barratt’s 12-fence 1.40m track as 11 from the field of 33 returned for round two against the clock, Phillip Miller and Keith Shore claiming two rides apiece.

“It was a tough track with some different fences to the norm; a double of gates and a turnback to the bicycle fence at an angle, it was technical but there was a good standard from horses that had a good 2023 season and were kept ticking over,” assessed Ronnie.

The speedy pairing of Paul Barker and the handsome stallion Green Grass claimed the lead from mid-draw two seconds in front from Phillip’s opener on Don Royale but Ronnie set off with determination.  He trusted Kaleche to run on a light rein, taking in verticals and oxers alike on tight lines without pausing the pace to wipe an incredible 1.47 seconds off the time and claim the win.

Paul had to settle for second place with Phillip, also clear on his second ride, taking third and fourth with Don Royale and Pandito Van’t Merelsnest Z.

“I couldn’t believe I beat Paul, he’s such an accurate and fast rider and one I’ve looked up to for a long time, but she’s deceptively fast, switched on for the next fence, doesn’t waste time and I can trust her to jump the verticals.  The jump-off suited us and I read in an old showjumping book to set off at number one and keep going – it’s a good tip,” said Ronnie.

Winner of the Prestige Italia Big Star Six-year-old Championship in 2021, the nine-year-old F One USA x Nassau mare has compounded her early talent with success at 3 and four-star level and was a HOYS Foxhunter Final contender last year.   

“She won all the age classes at Bolesworth International; four, five and then the Big Star.  She was phenomenal as a six-year-old, winning Royal Windsor’s Walwyn Novice, the Newcomers Second Round at Pyecombe and numerous other classes but she had time off as a seven-year-old when we took embryos off her,” added Ronnie.  “This did affect her and it took time to get her back on form but we hope to do it again this year as we’d like a few fillies from her.”

Kaleche already has several offspring via embryo transfer, including two five-year-olds by Invictus, one by Fantaland and a Conthargos due this year. 

At home, Ronnie describes her as “Good as gold, like a pet labrador and always has simple tack – a snaffle, loose noseband and martingale,” while competition targets are aimed at the top.

“She’s at her happiest at shows and is as excited as me about it all.  I’d really like to do a Nations Cup with her and Key West in 2024 and aim for five-star at the end of the year.  It makes all the difference with Ruth’s backing and she’s keen, as well.”

Locally based Keith Shore lifted the Winter 1.35m qualifier aboard Leila Van Het Lindehof.  Fourteen of the 41 starters qualified for the jump-off with initial clears with Keith setting an early and unbeatable standard from second draw on the Heart Beat VD Bisschop x Bon Ami 13-year-old.  He didn’t waste an inch and, angling the final vertical at optimum pace, flew through the finish to hold onto the top spot despite several close challenges.  Lisa Jones and Diana P were only 0.08 seconds off the pace for second and Jordan Thompson filled third aboard Imperium RJ.

Graham Babes gave an early forecast of his intentions at this show, forging ahead in the Winter six-year-old with Nanieta P.  Twenty-one of the original 31 start list qualified for the jump-off over an 11-fence track which started at a height of 1.10m with Graham adopting smooth lines on a light contact to sweep into victory by 1.13 seconds. The consistent Harley VDL x Diarado gelding went on to win the SEIB Winter Novice qualifier and claim a coveted place in the Hickstead final.  Chris Smith steered Summer Van De Molenhoek into second in the Winter six-year-old ahead of Carmen Edwards’ Malou L Z in third.

Graham had to settle for second in the Winter seven-year-old as Will Edwards secured the top spot on Carrickview Apollo. The 29 starters were reduced to seven for the jump-off over the 11-fence 1.20m track with Graham taking an early lead aboard Hercule De La Villa (Diamant De Semilly x Arko III).  Will used his final draw to maximum effect, negotiating tight lines and moving on between the fences on Carl Edwards’ Apollo (Emerald Van’t Ruytershof x Valent) to edge ahead by 0.14 seconds.  Joanne Whitaker’s opening round on Just Jack XXI claimed third.

Paul Sims claimed victory in the Winter Grade C with Carmen Pierce and Hannah Bate’s Marshmallow II.  Only three of the original 13 posted initial clears over the 11-fence 1.30m course, Paul and the Eldorado Van De Zeshoek x Zento seven-year-old one of only two double clears to win with 2.67 seconds to spare.  Emily Whiteside slipped Zherindo Warrior into second with Seamus Taylor’s Rubalou I in third.

Emma Sargeant came to the fore in the Blue Chip B and C, netting two of the top three places.  Eight of the 22 starters returned for the jump-off, Emma on Mark Holland and Gemma Sargeant’s Mylord Carthago x Air Jordan Z 11-year-old mare Maxima Z flying into the top spot with more than three seconds in hand.  Emma also picked up third with Cancellara Z II, sandwiching Simon Buckley’s Millfield Hickison into second place.

They saved the best until last in a hotly competitive, 52-strong Winter 1.25m single-phase as the final two, Lara Whiteway and Douglas Duffin, battled it out.  Last-to-go Lara snatched victory to take the top Blue Chip qualifying place on Sharon Whiteway’s Swedish-bred 12-year-old Twins Can (Kannan x Everest) by the tiny margin of 0.03 seconds over penultimate drawn Douglas Duffin’s Millfield Chacolatte.

Rhys Jones outpaced all rivals to take the Blue Chip Karma Performance qualifier on Livorno Van De Looise Heidi.  Fifteen from a field of 38 returned for the jump-off with Rhys and the Messenger x Action Breaker seven-year-old finishing 1.48 seconds out in front.  Adam Morgan slotted Rolls Royce into second ahead of Tyler Cassells in third with No Reason.

NB: Results pending official grading.

Image: Ronnie Jones and Kaleche. Credit: KT Equine Photography

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