Ireland’s Shane Breen and Acoustik Solo du Baloubet hit top gear to be crowned Zinc Management Speed Horse of the Year in Birmingham.
Sussex-based Breen and the 10-year-old gelding thrilled their audience on the Horse of the Year Show’s final day at the NEC, winning in a time of 44.69 seconds to land the £3,300 top prize.
Breen’s Ireland Nations Cup colleague, Billy Twomey, was second aboard Ardcolum Duke, while Britain’s Guy Williams finished third with Casper de Muze.
Williams, chasing his third 2016 Horse of the Year Show victory, was quicker than the eventual winners, but one fence down meant two penalties added, dropping him to third just in front of Nicole Pavitt and Areeb O.L.
“I watched Billy go, which I thought was the marker, and yesterday in the accumulator I was a fraction slower than Billy, so I knew our horses are about the same speed,” Breen said.
“He had one extra stride to the double, so I thought if I could go one less stride there I could get a smidgen up. I just did enough to put some pressure on Guy, and it worked.
“My first show with the horse was at Bolesworth last year. He has kind of been the bridesmaid all the time, finishing second a number of times, but he won a grand-prix qualifier at Sopot in Poland, so is very consistent.
“The good thing about him is you don’t have to ride fast to be fast. You can turn him on a sixpence, and he can jump out of anywhere. I think one stride is enough for him!”
Louise Saywell produced a dominant display to win the Horse of the Year Show Challenge Cup in emphatic fashion.
It was Saywell’s second international triumph at this year’s show, as she landed the two-phase class by more than four seconds on 11-year-old gelding Feigtling from James Smith and Balibu, with Breen, riding Tango d’Ecry, finishing third.
Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, who was drawn last to go on Farfelu de la Pomme, shaved 69 hundredths of a second off Saywell’s time, but the combination had a late fence down which destroyed victory hopes.
“He got all the turns, but being first in, I didn’t think we would stay in the lead and win,” Saywell said. “He jumped great in the first phase, and then it was about going as fast as we could. He managed to get all the turns, but when I came out of the arena I thought there would be faster rounds, but luckily for me, there wasn’t.”
Louise Simpson showcased all her experience to win the Speedi-Beet Grade C Championship for a second time at the Horse of the Year Show. Simpson launched the final day of action at the NEC in Birmingham with a stylish display on seven-year-old gelding Hello Vivendi, which is owned by Breen and his brother, Trevor.
Sussex-based Simpson (formerly Louise Pavitt) claimed the Grade C title five years ago on Don VHP Z, and this latest victory cemented her place on the long-established class’s roll of honour alongside rider like current Olympic individual champion Nick Skelton.
Simpson’s jump-off time of 39.88 seconds took her inside the time of Robert Bevis and Etude, who had to be content with second place, while Richard Barton and Donata completed the top three.
“I am so happy,” she said. “Although he’s seven, he is actually very inexperienced. I got the ride on him about six months ago, purely because he was quite green and Shane and Trevor didn’t have time with all the foreign shows they do and didn’t think he was ready.
“We’ve done a few local shows, and I thought here he would be a bit shell-shocked with the atmosphere, but he was like an old horse, which really surprised me. He was really good.”
Image: Shane Breen and Acoustik Solo du Baloubet win Zinc Management Speed Horse of the Year, by E.S. Photography, courtesy of HOYS