Shane Breen ensured Irish eyes smiled once again as he claimed a brilliant victory in the Theraplate UK Liverpool International grand prix on Golden Hawk.
It was a Britain versus Ireland jump-off and seven of the 30 starters produced initial clears over course-designer Alan Wade’s challenging track where the red Post Box vertical to a vertical to oxer double caused the most problems. They were joined by 2015 and 2016 grand prix winner Billy Twomey and Kimba Flamenco to make eight going forward to round two under the 25% rule and, jumping in reverse order of merit, Billy got the ball rolling with a great clear second time out.
Harriet Nuttall, already a winner in this arena, claimed an early lead with Galway Bay Jed, but fifth-drawn Shane piled on the pressure with the 13-year-old Vigo D’Arsouilles stallion Golden Hawk to wipe away 1.66 sec away from the time. And they could not be caught.
"I jumped him at Olympia the other day and won a class there, and I wanted to leave him fresh for today," Shane said. "I was the first clear round, it was a big course and the distances took a bit of thought.
"But my guy is in really good form, he has loads of scope and it was well within his capabilities and he has a lot of experience. There were no excuses. It was our first four or five-star grand prix win - many times we have been second - so I am absolutely delighted. I am looking forward to the future with him.”
Harriet had to settle for second with the Romanov/Lux 10-year-old Jed – “He jumped unreal, I cannot wait for next year with him,” she said.
William Funnell jumped an easy double clear on the talented eight-year-old Billy Diamo (Cevin Z/Andiamo) to finish in third two sec behind Harriet – and it is obvious there is a lot more to come from this home-bred chestnut.
“It was his first 4* grand prix and he hasn’t had a pole down all week, I’m very pleased the way he’s stepping up as he is,” said William.
Ireland’s Conor Swail produced the fastest time of the class in the final draw with Flower but a ail down at the tall midway Liverpool International vertical put paid to victory and they finished fourth. Holly Smith also fell victim to this fence on the Heart Throb nine-year-old Hearts Destiny – bred in Staffordshire by Barbara Scott and Steph Callwood – to take fifth with Billy Twomey on Kim Barzilay’s home-bred Kimba Flamenco (Je T’Aime Flamenco/Heartbreaker) in sixth. The pair were the fastest four-faulters in round one to join the jump-off and jumped clear in round two.
The USA’s Andrew Kocher claimed the concluding knockout competition in a thrilling finale against Paul Barker.
Sixteen originally started with the final two speed merchants going head-to-head at flat-out, metal to the boards pace. Paul and Sovereign Equestrian’s 11-year-old Happy Boy proved quicker but had to concede to Andrew's clear on Fashion V.
Photo courtesy TSM/LIHS