British Olympic team gold medal jumper Big Star made his return to competition at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Friday, following an eighth month injury layoff.
Ridden by Nick Skelton, Big Star finished in ninth place in the opening international jumping class, the Land Rover Speed Stakes, picking up 2 penalties.
The 11-year-old had been out of action since sustaining a suspensory injury last August as he was preparing for the Spruce Meadows Masters.
Big Star was foot perfect in all rounds but was not put against the clock in the jump offs.
Skelton said: “I jumped him Friday, Saturday and Sunday and he jumped clear every day. I didn’t want to do too much with him and he has done everything perfect so that’ll do him for now.”
The first three spots were taken by British riders, headed by Britain’s no.1 female rider Laura Renwick on Beluga, with John Whitaker and Uni Stop and Tim Stockdale in third riding Fresh Direct Kalico Bay.
Beluga, a 13-year-old Heartbreaker daughter, bought and produced by Renwick from a three-year-old, is in her element in this kind of speed class, and the course suited this game, feisty little mare.
“There were a few quick ones behind me but I didn’t go crazy fast,” Renwick said. “She’s phenomenal, naturally quick and doesn’t let me down. In the end, there weren’t so many clears and we won by a mile.”
John Whitaker finished five seconds behind on new ride of one week Uni Stop. It was his first show with the 10-year-old Belgian-bred gelding, by Nonstop and out of a Zamiro mare and owned by Belgium’s Benny Motmans. “He’s unorthodox and has his own way of jumping, but he’s careful and wants to jump,” Whitaker said. “I’m pleased with him and looking forward to jumping bigger classes.”
Whitaker again had to concede to second in the International 1.40m with Old Lodge’s Cassini II son Lord Of Arabia. On this occasion, he was bested by his own son Robert with Lucio BK. This 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Lovis Corinth and out of an Alabaster mare was ridden by Robert two years ago before being sold to Norway. He joined him again recently and picked up regular places in the line-up in Vejer De La Frontera, Spain, in March.
Later on in the day the CSI3* Bahrain Pearl Stakes took place with overseas visitors taking the top spots. Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al Sharbatly took the honours on Andrea, shaving just over two seconds off Shane Breen’s (IRE) time.
Back in third was Laura Kraut, whilst Nick Skelton was the best of the Brits taking 5th on eight-year-old Aristio.
They were six seconds off the pace in fifth, but Skelton gave the scopey, eye-catching stallion a beautiful ride on his first day at Windsor, and he jumped an easy double clear over the imposing track, and promises a bright future. The eight-year-old is owned and bred by John, Pat and Lisa Hales and by their superstar Arko and out of a Voltaire mare.
They were closely followed by William Whitaker and Upperclass in sixth with the fastest time but a costly four faults.
• The dressage phase of Land Rover International Carriage Driving Grand Prix was completed on Thursday, with the USA’s Chester Weber currently leading World Champion Boyd Excel (AUS) by a narrow margin. With Dutch teammates Theo Timmerman and Ysbrand Chardon snapping on their heels in third and fourth, there is everything to play for in the marathon phase of the competition around Home Park.
LAND ROVER SPEED STAKES 1.45m
1 Beluga Laura Renwick GBR 0 60.60
2 Uni Stop John Whitaker GBR 0 65.48
3 Fresh Direct Kalico Bay Tim Stockdale GBR 0 66.66
TWO PHASE 1.40m
1 Lucio BK Robert Whitaker GBR 0/0 26.78
2 Lord Of Arabia John Whitaker GBR 0/0 26.93
3 H&M All In Peder Fredricson SWE 0/0 27.77
BAHRAIN PEARL STAKES
1 Andrea Abdullah Al Sharbatly KSA 0/0 39.88
2 Confident Of Victory Shane Breen IRE 0/0 42.10
3 Wotsamillion Laura Kraut USA 0/0 42.92