The inaugural Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show kicked off on the 1st of January, with four-star wins for John Whitaker (GBR), Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) and Johnny Pals (NED).
Very sadly, the first day of the event came with dreadful news as the organizers following the 1.45 class announced that Cameron Hanley's 13-year-old top horse Antello Z had been put to sleep following an accident in the ring. Antello Z received expert on-site veterinary assessment and care, but in the end he had to be euthanized. Nina Barbour, president of the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show, said: "We offer our heartfelt and sincere condolences to Cameron, his support team, the Hanley family and all connections of a truly wonderful horse."
The 1.45 class sponsored by Harthill Stud resumed though, and it was Italy's Emanuele Gaudiano that took the win riding Cocoshynsky (Cornet Obolensky x Popcorn). Gaudiano landed the 1.45 metre two-phase class, in a brilliant jump-off time of 29.25 seconds, which proved just enough to edge out 60-year-old multiple British Olympian John Whitaker.
Yorkshireman Whitaker, who has his sights on a possible sixth Olympic Games appearance in Rio later this year, clocked 29.42 seconds for the runners-up sport aboard Lord of Arabia (Cassini II x Carry), with Britain's Nicole Pavitt taking third place on Victor Blue (My Bjorn W x Rebel II Z).
Gaudiano has enjoyed an outstanding few weeks on the European circuit, highlighted by him staving off a powerful British challenge to win the Longines FEI World Cup qualifier at London Olympia just 12 days ago. "I have done a number of shows with the horse, and it is great to win here at Liverpool on the opening day," Gaudiano said. "It is a super new show. It is the first show of the year, and it is an unbelievable event - one that will get bigger and bigger."
Master craftsman Whitaker then delivered a first British four-star victory of the show by producing a brilliant performance on Echo of Light (Come On x Contender).
The accumulator class, sponsored by Equiline/Fearns Farm Partnership - where riders score points for fences jumped - has a maximum 65 points available, including the invaluable joker fence, and Whitaker showed his rivals a clean pair of heels.
Drawn late in the 27-starter field, the 60-year-old Yorkshireman showcased all his experience to claim a maximum score in a blistering time of 43.82 seconds. Belgium's Wilm Vermeir was second - almost two seconds behind - on Hacienda d'Eversem (Contact vd Heffinck x Sheyenne de Baugy), while William Whitaker finished third aboard his established campaigner Fandango ( Last Liberty 988 x Krocket 651).
Assessing his performance, John Whitaker said: "I was second-last to go, so I knew what I had to do. He has been a tricky horse to produce, but he has got loads of scope and he is careful. If you go really fast in a class like that, you are going to knock the planks down. It's a fine line between going quickly enough and keeping your control to jump the last plank. Once I jumped one or two, he felt quite relaxed and I knew I was away, so I went for it."
The biggest win of the day went to Netherland's Johnny Pals, who stole the show in the 1.50 competition sponsored by Crabbic Alcoholic Ginger Beer.
Riding Fernando (For Pleasure x Corrado I), the Dutch rider had 0.51 seconds down to the first of the two British riders that were next on the list as Robert Bevis ended as runner-up on Courtney Z (Chellano Z x Major de la Cour) and Robert Smith was third on Bavi (Balou du Rouet x Caretino).
Source: Press releases from Liverpool International Horse // Picture (c) Herve Bonnaud
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