Breen seals third Irish win at Horse of the Year show

Ireland's Billy Twomey, pictured on his Olympic Tinka's Serenade.
Ireland’s Billy Twomey, pictured on his Olympic Tinka’s Serenade. Kit Houghton/FEI

Showjumper Shane Breen made it a hat trick for Ireland on Saturday night when he won the Accumulator competition with his own stallion Balloon at Britain’s Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham.

Breen saw off competition from British challenger Guy Williams and Larino, who trailed the Irish rider by almost 1.5 seconds at the finish.

In the same competition Anthony Condon kept Irish presence to the fore with a fifth place on Sue Davies’s Irish Sport Horse Special Lux.

Breen’s win came immediately after Cork rider Billy Twomey claimed victory in the jump-off competition at the British event this evening with Sally Lane’s Dutch-bred mare Wings Sublieme.

The Cork native, one of eight through to the jump-off at the indoor arena, finished with well over two seconds in hand in the final round, leaving French rider Eugenie Angot and the bay mare Atlete van’t Heike in the runner-up spot.

Co. Down’s Dermott Lennon took Ireland’s first win at this year’s British event on Friday, steering the Irish Sport Horse Loughview Lou Lou to victory in the morning’s speed competition, while Shane Breen and Ominerale Courcelle claimed third place.

Lennon is using his visit to Horse of the Year Show to return Loughview Lou-Lou to competition following a break after the Dublin Horse Show in August. Taking it steady on day one, he upped the pace significantly to claim victory on Friday.

Dermott Lennon, pictured on Hallmark Elite.
Dermott Lennon, pictured on Hallmark Elite. © Kit Houghton/FEI

“Yesterday was her first class back, but today I needed to be competitive so I could gain points towards qualification for Sunday’s Leading Show Jumper of the Year Grand Prix,” said Lennon. “Because riders are trying to do the same, it’s now making the classes very interesting.”

Twomey had also finished second in Thursday’s Welcome Stakes at Birmingham with the grey mare Molly Malone V.

• Two British riders shared the spoils after the thrilling Harry Jo & Co Five Fence Challenge on a sell-out Friday. It could have gone to one round more, but as the only two remaining to contest the top prize after four corking rounds of jumping and with some fences standing a whopping 1.80m, Tim Stockdale and John Whitaker decided to share the honours.

In the challenge, each of the five fences are raised in each round over a maximum of five rounds. A fence down, a run out or a refusal means instant elimination. After round four and to rapturous applause, only Stockdale (Fresh Direct K2) and  Whitaker (Maximillian) remained.

“Because it was going to be a win for two Brits in front of a home crowd, we decided to share it,” said Tim “My horse jumped really well, so it was nice to be able to reward him for doing so.”

Whitaker agreed, and joked: “We are both a bit old, so it’s a relief! It might have been a different matter if there was a foreign rider in the class, though!”

Whitaker went on to claim individual victory in the Zinc Management Trophy on Argento. The class included a take-your-own line jump-off. Riders who were clear in the first round had to choose a six-fence route in the second, testing both their riding and navigational skills. But John had the benefit of a little family help from his son, Robert.

“I had one route and Robert told me his was better,” said John. “Although we both helped each other, him going before me helped me to work out what strides I had to get where.”

It was also a successful day for one of Tim Stockdale’s students Jess Dimmock, whose determination and dedication resulted in her moment of glory in the Young Riders Championship of Great Britain with Capello II. To pay for lessons with Tim, she baked and sold cakes in her home county of Northamptonshire.

Inspired by fellow Scotsman and Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash’s win in Thursday night’s Sky Sports Trophy, Jodie Crawford from Falkirk snatched a win in the Blue Chip Pony Newcomers Championship with the piebald pony Birchgrove Tiger Woods.

“I saw Scott go last night and thought, this I what I want to do,” said Jodie, who is in her final year if pony competitions. “The atmosphere is amazing and this is my biggest win so far. Hopefully there will be more to come.”

Scott Brash on his Olympic horse, Hello Sanctos.
Scott Brash on his Olympic horse, Hello Sanctos. © Kit Houghton/FEI

• Scott Brash was delighted to claim his first international victory since winning show jumping Team Gold at the London Olympics in front of a home crowd on Thursday. Spurred on by rapturous applause as he entered the ring to jump in the Sky Sports Trophy on Liz MacTaggart’s Bon Ami, he sped round the course to snatch victory from The Netherlands’ Albert Zoer, riding Sam.

“It’s a privilege to jump in front of this home crowd,” Brash said. “It’s a fantastic show for us British riders, the atmosphere here is incredible and the spectators always give you such a warm welcome. It’s great to be able to repay their support.”

Bon Ami, who was Brash’s winning partner in last year’s Zinc Management Trophy, gave such a good performance that his rider has a few options for Sunday Gala evening’s Leading Show Jumper of the Year contest.

“I was planning on riding Intertoy Z on Sunday, but Bon Ami is on form, so we’ll have to see,” Brash said.

Earlier in the day, William Funnell rode Billy Balou into the history books when claiming an emotional win in the Horse & Hound Senior Foxhunter Championship. Cheered on by a roof-raising crowd, Funnell won a record-breaking third time in style, punching the air as crossed the finish line. With a victory in last year’s Senior Newcomers Championship already recorded, Billy Balou became the first horse ever to have claimed these two prestigious titles.

“It’s important to realise how much of a team effort it has been to win this,” said Funnell, who bred the eight-year-old Billy Balou under his and Donal Barnwell’s Billy Stud banner. “Right from breeding the horses through to producing and competing them, there are a lot of people involved and all of them play their part.”

Carol Toliver’s eight-year-old Billy Balou has many special connections to Funnell and the Billy Stud team. His sire, Cevin Z, is a former ride of Funnell’s; his dam was also bred by the Billy Stud; Funnell’s wife, eventer Pippa Funnell, rode him to victory in the Andrews Bowen International Arena in 2011, and stable jockey Daniel  Moseley was heavily involved in producing him, after taking over from Alex Hempleman.

The piece of history adds to Funnell’s already unbeaten record of being the youngest rider to win a Foxhunter title; he was 17 years old when he won in 1984 with once more, and the fact that he was the last rider to win at Horse of the Year Show’s former venue of Wembley in 2001 with Mondriaan.

But the winning didn’t stop there for Funnell; he beat off a strong field in the Xerox Special Event Services Cup, this time with Billy Angelo, a horse who is already making his mark on the global circuit.

“It’s a great position to be in having good international horses as well as nice ones coming up,” he said.

Guy Williams “dusted off the cobwebs” after having a few weeks’ break from competition in the best possible way by winning the opening international class, the Grandstand Welcome Stakes, with Larino.

“It’s great to be here to get going again,” said Guy. “This show is an important show for Britain and important for our sponsors.”

Birmingham’s Grand Prix takes place on Sunday night.


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