Photo credit: Adam Fanthorpe
It was a very emotional Jonty Evans who lifted the 2018 Lycetts Grantham Cup this afternoon. The Irishman hit the headlines last year when he successfully crowd-funded £500,000 to buy his Rio 2016 Olympic partner Cooley Rorkes Drift (aka 'Art') when the previous owner decided to sell – this is a horse who has, literally, thousands of owners.
With very red, damp eyes Jonty confessed: “I've never even won an Advanced class, let alone an international. This is amazing. Art is the horse who has given me the most pleasure and the most grief in one go over the years. What people did for me in securing our partnership is unprecedented in our sport.
“This win is the fairydust; a good performance was what we needed [with Badminton looming]. Everyone wants this horse to go well, my phone hasn't stopped pinging.”
Runner up behind Jonty was Piggy French, also riding a Badminton bound horse, Vanir Kamira, on whom she took the runner up spot at Burghley last year. “Given the results were so close, of course I wish I'd gone a bit quicker – she can easily go faster, but this was a prep run and with the spring we've had today wasn't the day to push.
“Jonty's win is great for the sport. So many people supported him last year, this is a great result for all of them too.”
Gemma Tattersall completed the top three, but not on her top horse Arctic Soul who was very strong out on course, picking up an uncharacteristic run out in his exuberance. Instead it was Pamero 4 who put Gemma on the podium.
Due to the huge number of entries, a second three star section also ran, for less experienced horses. Tom Jackson and Billy Cuckoo won this with Austin O'Connor again in the ribbons, on Lucky Contender.
The 2018 Belton International wrapped up with two advanced sections. Kiwi riders dominated the first of these, taking the top three places. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet topped the leaderboard, ahead of Andrew Nicholson on Swallow Springs and Dan Jocelyn riding Grovine de Reve. The final win of the weekend went to Izzy Taylor and Direct Cassino.