Billy Twomey continued from where he left off by making a winning start to the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead.
The Irishman showcased rich promise of the nine-year-old Thomas by winning last month’s Hickstead Tom Hudson Derby Trophy, and just a few weeks later, they were at it again, landing the Bunn Leisure Vase speed class from 73 starters.
Twomey’s time of 58.54 seconds meant he finished more than two seconds clear of the field, with Nicole Pavitt and Victor Blue in second, Guy Williams (Depardieu van t’Kiezelhof) third and Pavitt again (this time on Areeb) fourth.
“He (Thomas) went well at the Derby meeting,” Twomey said. “He’s improving all the time, so he’s looking good, and I hope he will keep improving.
“He takes quite a hold in front of the fence, so with a big ring like this, it gives me more time to organise him. He likes having more space, so I can try to keep him settled.
“His mother is a grand prix horse, and he’s by Quidam De Revel. He was pretty neat everywhere out there. He’s always looking out for the next fence and he just seemed to be on it today.”
The two-phase Bunn Leisure Trophy went to Italian Juan Carlos Garcia, riding Gitano v Berkenbroeck, in a time of 33.31 seconds, beating Holland’s Doron Kuipers and Zinius into second place, with Great Britain’s Ben Maher continuing his Rio Olympics preparations by claiming third on Aristo Z.
Meanwhile, Maher’s Rio team-mate Michael Whitaker missed the early Hickstead action after cracking a rib in a fall at his Nottinghamshire yard earlier this week.
Whitaker, who is part of the Rio-bound quartet alongside Maher, Nick Skelton and his brother John Whitaker, could return to action at Hickstead this weekend, though, and his Olympics participation is not thought to be in any doubt.
Hickstead’s popular Amlin Plus Eventers’ Challenge — a competition where eventers tackle a combination of cross-country and showjumping obstacles inside and outside the main arena — went to Ireland’s Elizabeth Power, riding Doonaveeragh O One.
Power, sister of Grand National-winning jockey Robbie Power, delivered the only clear round, clocking 122.12 seconds, to edge out New Zealander Tim Price (The Precious One), while Britain’s Laura Collett (Mr Bass) was third and New Zealand’s double Olympic individual champion Mark Todd (NZB Campino) fourth.
“He is an amazing horse,” Power said. “He came here and did a 1.60metre Derby, and then came back and did this. He hasn’t jumped a cross-country fence since he was here last year.
“I don’t know why I got this idea over the winter about jumping the Derby — I made sure I told enough people so that I couldn’t back out! He can jump big fences for fun. He’s the bravest thing I’ve ever sat on.
“Tim made it so that you had no choice but to go fast. There were no other tactics involved, and I knew I had time to find from last year, even. I know he’s not going to look at anything — he’s seen it all before, and he’s not going to surprise me.”
Runner-up Price, who travels to Rio as New Zealand eventing team reserve, added: “We didn’t leave much out there. He’s a fast little horse, and so I tried to use that to his advantage — I knew you had to be fast.
“I haven’t had him very long, but he’s just class and I love sitting on him. I got him from Jane Docherty, an Irish eventer, about two or three months ago.”