Billy Raymont and Anton: the end of an era for the dream team
Above: Billy Raymont and Anton at the World Cup Warm up Class at DJWTS yesterday.
Last weekend we saw the rising 19-year-old gelding Anton carry Billy Raymont to victory in a fantastic double clear performance to take out the first round of the 2022 Australian FEI World Cup Qualifying Season at Shepparton. While the large crowd enjoyed the spectacle of Anton and Billy flying high over the huge World Cup fences, little did they know that this would be one of the very last opportunities to see this combination in action.
It has been decided that today’s World Cup at Werribee will be the last time Raymont and Anton perform together on the big stage. Raymont said “It’s important to us not to run him into the ground and it has been decided that he will end his time with me in the big classes this weekend”.
It has been almost eight years since the pair first competed at World Cup Level. August 2014 saw then first compete at Gatton and it was only 14 days later, at their third start, that they won their first World Cup Qualifier at Brisbane. We caught up with Billy to find out a little more about this long term and highly successful partnership.
Raymont first met Anton while conducting a clinic at the Mallala Equestrian Centre. Billy says, “Anton was based there as Tim and Michelle Clarke and Michelle’s mum Mrs Brice own the centre. At the end of the clinic Michelle asked if I would have a ride on him, following this they asked if I would campaign him”.
From the beginning, Billy knew he was something special “he has always been a very talented horse, and when we first met I felt that it was hopefully just a matter of time and patience”. However, he hasn’t always been the easiest of horses. Initially “he was very spooky, so getting his trust was a big challenge and he’s still a little suspect to this day”.
The record that this pair have put together over the years is phenomenal, with 12 wins from 52 FEI starts, giving a winning percentage of 23% which is achieved by only the best. While that record is amazing Billy says “I think the most amazing part is how long he has been competitive at that level”. When asked about their most memorable performances, Billy said, “the most memorable is his contribution to my points in 2017 to qualify me for the World Cup Final which I competed on Oaks Redwood”.
In 2019, Billy and Anton also led Team Willinga Park to victory in the thrilling inaugural season of the Australian Jumping Teams League (AJTL).
However, there is more to Anton than just being a jumping superstar. According to Billy, “he’s a real pet around the stables”. He also has a sweet tooth. “any rustling of packages gets his interest because he thinks it’s lollies. He loves his lollies!”
Earlier in his life, while a stallion, Anton spent a little bit of time in the breeding barn, siring just a few horses. One of them, the Adam Metcalfe campaigned MEC Aston, was good enough to compete at World Cup Qualifier level and just a couple of years ago in an Adelaide World Cup Qualifier, there was the unusual situation where Anton was competing against his son. However, Billy tells us that “one in particular is a mare that has been retained by Michelle (Clarke) for breeding, she’s really special.”
On Anton’s retirement from top level competition this weekend, Billy said that this was a “really sad time for me as I have enjoyed a very long successful time with him but as they say all good things must come to an end, I’m just really pleased we were able to keep him going so well for so long”.
We wish Billy and Anton all the best for their finale this Saturday and we will certainly miss seeing them together on the jumping circuit.