Punching the air in pure joy was popular rider, Adrian Speight, when he realised he’d just won the Coutts Royal Highland Grand Prix for the second year in succession.

Twenty-two starters lined up on a sunny Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd to take on one of the biggest jumping challenges of the show. The atmosphere is always electric in this huge, grass, main arena where the skill and accuracy required to tackle some imposing fences is obvious to the spectators who vocally get behind every combination.

The Scottish Farmer: Charley Hamilton on MFS Loretta Blue winning the Novice championshipCharley Hamilton on MFS Loretta Blue winning the Novice championship

The course cleverly used the whole of the arena and kept horse and rider thinking throughout. The triple combination proved the penultimate challenge and became the source of the oohs and aahs and plenty of clapping when it was negotiated successfully, although this gave riders extra work trying to keep their mounts focussed for the last fence.

Faults were spread evenly with some favourites knocked out early on. Just four came home clear with one of these carrying a time fault being joined by one four faulter for the jump-off.

The Scottish Farmer: Michael McColm winning the 138cm on AG DynamoMichael McColm winning the 138cm on AG Dynamo

Annabelle Shields, a previous winner of this class was first to go with Creevagh Carisma, but collected another eight faults to add to her original four. Her time was quick, though, stopping the clock in 47.62.

Helen Tredwell was next in on Wayne Cox’s Independence TN. Standing at the side of the ring, Wayne was jumping as high as his horse throughout the jump-off and could hardly contain his excitement when ‘Indy’ went clear to finish on just one time fault from the first round. Bought out of Holland by Wayne as a ‘difficult’ youngster, he gave the ride to Helen and credits her with the massive transformation which led him to celebrate this placing.

The Scottish Farmer: Amy Morris in the Young Masters with Up To Date ShowgirlAmy Morris in the Young Masters with Up To Date Showgirl

Carmen Edwards followed with Happy Valerie to set the biggest challenge when they jumped clear again to set the target of 50.16s.

Adrian entered on Judith Whitham’s Millfield Baloney and proceeded to smash this time down to 43.72s whilst leaving the ring on a zero score. So delighted was Adrian, that he punched the air a few times much to the delight of the crowd who loved to see this emotion.

Mark Edwards was last to go and should never be discounted. Already a winner at this point in the show and hungry for more, he steered Flying Tinker round tight from the first to the second but then needed an extra push coming to a big oxer in front of the grand stand. Not quite on a stride he’d have preferred, Flying Tinker landed short taking the back bar, which dropped them to fourth.

A fraction of a second after this pole fell, a ripple of laughter erupted round the collecting ring where Adrian had just realised he’d become the winner and was showing his pure delight by once again punching the air and doing a happy dance.

Adrian was given the ride on the 17-year-old Balou De Rouet son ‘Louie’ in 2018 and described him as quirky but an out and out winner. This combination won in excess of £100,000 last year, despite only jumping nationally.

The Scottish Farmer: Sandy McLean on Captain Sharkey heading the B CSandy McLean on Captain Sharkey heading the B C

The plan this year was to jump fewer classes but for more money, leading them to go abroad three times with wins in Vilamoura and Vidauban. Their £8000 to the winner purse here now brings their total winnings this year in excess of £50,000, with half a year to go and now head to the Royal Norfolk to do it all again.

Last year, Adrian had completed the double when he and Millfield Balioney had also headed the International Stairway, but a couple of poles on the floor – albeit in the quickest time – saw them drop out the money awards into 10th place.

Another rider to be scooping up at county shows this year, following on from a successful 2022, was Welshman Mark Edwards. He arrived with a team made up of mostly home-bred horses rarely going home without at least one win.

The 12-year-old Flying Tinker, by Tinkers Tale, may only stand just short of 16hh but has already proven more than capable, having won the equivalent class at Suffolk County the week prior to the Highland.

In the Jubilee Ring, on the surface the fences look particularly big but relatively straightforward when 13 of the 17 starters left the fences intact. Three were cast aside due to time faults, leaving 10 chasing the clock in an exciting jump-off.

Mark was in the strong position of having three through, but collected four faults each with Royale Tale and Dillinger Me, before scorching round to secure the win on Flying Tinker.

The Scottish Farmer: Mark Edwards on Flying Tinker who won a speed class and went on to be leading riderMark Edwards on Flying Tinker who won a speed class and went on to be leading rider

Ben Waler impressed with the flashy chestnut stallion, Creevy Pacino Cruise, to slot into second, leaving Nicole Pavitt on Matt Pike’s lovely Tangelo stallion SES Goldstar for third.

This win catapults Mark to the top of the Stairway series, through which he hopes to get invited to jump at HOYS, in October.

The Andrew Black Haulage and Storage championship is a real crowd pleaser where the top three riders from the first round go again over the same course with the winner of these doubling the prize money they earned from their first round.

Irish rider, Alex Finney, made her first trip across the water to the Highland riding the Kannan-sired MHS Style into third, then returning a lovely clear in the jump-off but not quick enough to change the order – though her Scots-born mother, Jean, was delighted.

Paul Barker seems to be having a run of second placings with Strides Maureen, who recorded a fast enough time in her second attempt but had to concede defeat to Mark on Montruex Tale who just cut every corner just that little bit tighter, coping well with the slightly slippy ground conditions to not only win the jump-off but double his £1300 winner’s prize.

Montreux Tale then went on to score another victory in the Accumulator, where his daughter, Royale Tale – winner of the opening Highland Challenge – slotted into second, split only by Balloon Cruise and Ben Walker.

The HOYS Grade C had an exciting jump-off when a run down in front of the grandstand to a double of uprights caught out those with less control. Eleven went against the clock, with Charley Hamilton recording the first double clear with MFS Loretta Blue.

Their time wasn’t too quick but they watched a few following add some faults before Emma Crawford took up the challenge on her latest ride, Cliftons Adelaide. No stranger to this arena, having competed here as a worker and in the jumping finals with Douglas Duffin, last year, this classy mare skipped round to knock a second from Charley’s time.

From then on, the times just kept getting quicker with Laura Stephenson on CVS Jive Talking taking over the lead some 4s quicker. Then came the boys, starting with James Smith on the attractive grey, Jazmin, who hardly took a pull to shave another 2s off the time.

Alex Barr hasn’t been to a show all winter, staying at home to concentrate on novices and building a new arena. But he took a trip to Carlisle last weekend which seemed to be enough to knock any rust off and riding Laura Garden’s Talkabout Me, he let this little horse run to the double of uprights, trusting him to be careful, then pushed on to the last to edge 0.5s clear of James.

Jonathan Dixon was last in with the big grey Jack JL. Taking a strong hold down to the double he managed to leave everything intact to slot into third place and collect the final ticket on offer.

Sandy McLean may have missed out in the Grand Prix but made up for it with three other wins which saw him earn the leading Scottish rider title. Captain Sharkey had to fly to hold off James Smith on Jim Wilmer’s Wickeds Vancouver and Douglas Duffin on Katie McArdle’s Millfield Chacolatte to win the much coveted B and C championship final after a winter of very busy qualifiers.

Linda Billington’s Non Such Z headed a speedy 1.4m, then Jacqueline Lammerts and QC Sporthorses Dominator/Caretino stallion, Da’vicci JL, impressed to win the five-year-old Sports horse class.

Twenty-one-year old Charley Hamilton warmed up for her Highland with a few wins on home turf at her Tillyoch base, before another few victories at The Cabin. Having travelled north and south of the Border this year with her team, it must have been an easy trip to Edinburgh, where she was crowned Classic final champion on her own Horatio Van Ter Hulst.

The jump-off was as expected, fast and furious with last year’s champion Lucy Stewart on Cancun having to settle for runner-up this time.

A big chestnut mare, by Zirocco Blue out of a Goodtimes mare and bred in Scotland by Moray Firth Sporthorses, Loretta Blue MFS from mid-way through the 14-strong jump-off in the Novice championship final looked easy and proved to have been deceptively quick when only two beat their time but didn’t leave the fences up.

Emma Crawford came the closest with the lovely mare, Cliftons Adelaide, which is no stranger to this arena having competed here as a worker and last year with Douglas Duffin on board.

She also had her two favourites through to the jump-off of the Young Masters in the main arena on Sunday. Both Dukes of Hazzard and Ferragamo coped well in the now wet and slippy copnditions to join four others in the jump-off.

Kailee Benson was delighted with her first round clear on Karantjes Flandria, so wouldn’t be too disappointed when they only rubbed one out in the jump-off. William Walker also hit one with Ustino before it came down to two girls going to battle.

Emma was next to go with her two rides, jumping clear on both with Dukes of Hazzard one second ahead of Ferragamo.

Amy Morris then had two rides one after another. Her first, Let’s Hope, was unlucky to slip on a turn back to the third fence resulting in them taking the back bar, leaving it all up to her second and final ride, Up To Date Showgirl.

Praising HorseScotland for all the extra training she has received, Amy has an enormous amount of natural talent which showed when she rode so well on the slippy grass with a horse that never looks easy. Keeping her cool, she rode a copybook round to deservedly take the Young Masters title for 2023.

The mini-major is always a crowd pleaser with its thrills and spills throughout. The winning pair this year made no mistakes to earn a massive cheer from the crowds. My Little Sweetheart, ridden by Jessica Brown, and ESI Baltimore, with Madelaine Archibald, were the fifth quickest partnership but with no time to add for poles down got to enjoy a winner’s lap of honour in front of the crowds.

Four-year-old champion came in the shape of the bay Obos Quality mare, Renaissance RD, owned by Graham Gillespie and ridden by Declan Irvine.

The juniors had the worst of the weather on the Sunday but in the all weather arena, with massive crowds watching and supporting the atmosphere is incomparable to any other venue.

Aimee Paxton started as the favourite in the 148cm final, so it was no surprise to see her stand at the top for the second year running with the superstar stallion, Las Vegas. Their first round was easy and the jump-off just showed their class when they could turn tight to the double and let run to the last to add another title to their growing list of accolades.

Lucy Capper was runner-up with Capabilty Brown and also filled second and third in the 138cm final this time on Rathnacoona James and Playboy Van Te Zoetewei, respectively.

In this class it was the turn of 13-year-old Lanark Grammar pupil, Michael McColm, riding Will and Claire Stewart’s AG Dynamo. This little coloured gelding, known as ‘Tommy’, was previously jumped as a 148cm but now measured down, he's proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the 138 sections having formed a strong partnership with the Michael and already qualifying for HOYS this year.

Travelling from York and having qualified at a local venue, Stainsby Grange, young Ella Kay scored a one-two in the 128cm final. Having been to HOYS last year, heading to Hickstead this year and a member of the English 128cm team, it is little wonder Ella is current BS 128cm National Champion.

Looking classy jumping two double clears she won on board Red Alert whilst filling second with Toplines Royal Wonder.

The busiest junior class of the day was the Liz Fox JC in which 20 came forward. It took a good few ponies to start before Gabriel Colhoun recorded the first clear on Snow IV, then a few more clears came thick and fast until seven went against the clock.

Gabriel rode another cracking round to slot Snow into eventual third place. Ava McCulloch was tackling her biggest test to date and looked over the moon with her first round then couldn’t believe she jumped as well again to take the lead at that point with the generous little grey Gallus Kerfuffle.

Jessica Lawson has only had the ride on the evergreen Hoofprint Caleb since the turn of the year but they have really come on as a partnership returning a positive and competitive clear to be crowned champion.

Leading Awards:

Highland Challenge – 1, Royale Tale, M Edwards; 2, Fireball, J Dixon; 3, Captain Sharkey, A McLean. A+B Stakes – 1, Dukes Of Hazzard, E Crawford; 2, Don Royale, P Miller; 3, Just Special, G Billington. HOYS Grade C – 1, Talkabout Me, A Barr; 2, Jazmin, J Smith; 3, Jack JL, J Dixon. B+C handicap final – 1, Captain Sharkey; 2, Wickeds Vancouver, J Smith; 3, Millfield Chacolatte, D Duffin.

International Stairway – 1, Flying Tinker, M Edwards; 2, Creevy Pacino Cruise, B Walker; 3, SES Goldstar, N Pavitt. Andrew Black Championship – 1, Montreuxs Tale, M Edwards; 2, Strides Maureen, P Barker; 3, MHS Style, A Finney. Mini-major – 1, My Little Sweetheart, J Brown and ESI Baltimore, M Archibald; 2, Glenford Starlight, I Smith and JJs Sure To Fly, D Harland; 3, Dooneens Electric, A Capper and Up To Date Showgirl, A Morris. Breakfast Stakes – 1, Non Such Z, A Mclean; 2, Ede Peasy, M Edwards; 3, Old Selui De Semily, A McLean.

Novice championship final – 1, Loretta Blue MFS, C Hamilton; 2, Cliftons Adelaide, E Crawford; 3, Honolulu 6, C Drysdale. The Coutts RHS 200 Grand Prix – 1, Millfield Baloney, A Speight; 2, Happy Valerie, C Edwards; 3, Independence TN, H Tredwell. Classic final –1, Horatio Van Ter Hulst, C Hamilton; 2, Cancun, L Stewart; 3, Uptons Kordia, S Wiseman. Accumulator – 1, Montreux Tale; 2, Balloon Cruise, B Walker; 3, Royale Tale.

Liz Fox JC final – 1, Hoofprint Caleb, J Lawson; 2, Gallus Kerfuffle, A McCulloch; 3, Snow IV, G Colhoun. 128cm final – 1, Red Alert, E Kay; 2, Toplines Royal Wonder, E Kay; 3, Hampton Lady Louise, L Anderson. 138cm final – 1, AG Dynamo, M McColm; 2, Rathcoona James, L Capper; 3, Playboy Van De Zoetewei, L Capper. 148cm final – 1, Las Vegas VI, A Paxton; 2, Capability Brown, L Capper; 3, Kilnacappagh Harry, E Coxon. Young Masters – 1, Up To Date Showgirl; 2, Dukes Of Hazzard; 3, Ferragamo L, E Crawford.

Four-year-olds ­– 1, D’Avicii JL, A McLean; 2, Now Shes Mine, C Hamilton; 3, Najib, D Duffin. Five-year-olds – 1, Renaissance RD, D Irvine; 2, Touareg T, L Lorimer; 3, Theo, C McGowan.