Ireland dominated the Britain’s Show Jumper of the Year competition at the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham at the weekend, with Cork’s Billy Twomey taking first place and Meath’s Cian O’Connor claiming second.
On a challenging course that saw the Irish riders posting two of only three zero scores in the Grand Prix’s opening round, a largely British field failed to ignite, leaving O’Connor and Twomey to battle it out with France’s Julien Epaillard and Quarat de la Loge for the top honours.
Under this Grand Prix’s rules, six riders are required for the jump-off. Five of the 24 starters had gone clear, with two of those carrying time faults. Therefore, Daniel Neilson, who had four faults with Varo M in the first round, joined those.
As the final showdown was run according to faults and time in round one, he was first to go. A clean round this time was good enough for eventual fourth after first-round faults were taken into account. Britain’s final hopes for a home win followed in the form of Ellen Whitaker (Lando) and Chloe Aston (Quiet Easy), both carrying a single time fault from round one. However, both toppled fences leaving the door ajar.
Julien Epaillard had one rail down in the jump-off, and O’Connor with Cooper then briefly held the lead with a second clear round.
Twomey, however, riding Sue Davies’s mare Tinka’s Serenade, produced a blazingly fast zero penalty round and collected the €16,000 first prize with almost six seconds in hand over his fellow-countryman, who took home €10,000 for his runner-up place.
“She’s very talented and helped secure European team bronze a few weeks ago,” said Twomey, who last won the Leading Show Jumper of the Year title in 2008 with Je T’Aime Flamenco.
“It’s very special to win here and this class has a lot of history.”
The Irish riders were the only competitors from a starting field of 23 to record double clear rounds in the prestigious three-star British competition.
Germany’s Daniel Deusser proved to be an exceptionally popular rider at this year’s show with his super speedy rounds on his fabulous horse Domingo. Having won The Accumulator on Saturday, the pairing again beat Guy Williams (Bijou Van’t Vijfheide) in to second place, pipping the Brit by 0.02 seconds in the Speed Horse of the Year on Sunday
“It’s hard not to go for it when the crowd is so behind you,” Deusser said. “The atmosphere here is something special. There are lots of indoor shows like in Europe, but here it is different.”
Irish rider Richard Howley enjoyed three top three placings in national finals at this year’s show and one of them was a win in the Grade C Championship with Benedictus.
“It’s great to win this and I am hoping to compete here in international classes in the future,” said Richard, 21, who has recovered from breaking his back earlier this year.
Emily Ward claimed the intensely competitive Leading Pony Show Jumper of the Year Championship with her father Nick Ward’s King Mac, a pony with whom she has enjoyed much success.
The six teams competing in the Pony Club Mounted Games had entertained and wowed the crowds all week in their quest to be crowned Prince Philip Cup Champions.
It was Strathearn who finally took the sought-after title, having previously been the bridesmaid for two years running. The team is trained by Alistair Brewster and consisted of Sophie O’Neil, Sam Ryder, Iona Wilson, Hamish d’Ath, Sophie Targell-Worth and Heather Halley. Earlier in the week, the Warwickshire took the Virbac 3D Worming Cup after three consecutive wins.
Before the evening came to an end, the fabulous gala evening finale consisted of a spine-tingling performance from Military Wives Choirs and an appearance by three very special equine guests: Arko III, Beckside Little Toff and Holme Grove Prokofiev, as well as the day’s Champions. Actor and equestrian enthusiast Martin Clunes took in the atmosphere from Hospitality and every visitor received a very special HOYS 65th Anniversary memento rosette to mark the occasion.