Britain’s number one female rider Laura Renwick raced to victory today in the Sky Sports Speed Classic, finishing more than 2sec clear of her nearest rival.
Her mare Beluga swept round Kelvin Bywater’s 1.45m course, and though last-drawn Guy Williams looked to be fast, he wasn’t quick enough and had to settle for second place with Bijou van de Vijfheide. Rather aptly for Ladies’ Day, all of the top four horses in this class were mares.
Laura had been confident of her chances today with Beluga. “She loves the International Arena and she’s won a few times here over the years, plus I thought she should win as she’s an out-and-out speed horse,” she said. “She’s quick through the air and is fast away from a fence, and she can keep up the pace all the way around. She makes my job quite easy.”
Ireland’s Shane Breen scored his second victory in the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup, taking the historic trophy on board the nine-year-old mare Zarnita. Shane was the first-ever male winner of this class, finishing top in 2008 with Carmena Z when the class was first opened up to men as well as women.
The class is open to the highest-ranked British based riders, and 27 starters came forward in hope of picking up their share of the £9,000 prize fund. Five riders went into the jump-off, with all of them going clear in the second round. Joe Clayton (Aiyetoro) set the bar with 53.62sec, a time that was soon bettered by Louise Saywell and Hello Winner IV. Robert Whitaker (Asterix E Z) then knocked another second off the time to take the lead, before William Funnell steered Billy Balou to finish just a fraction quicker than Joe but didn’t trouble the leaders.
But last to go Shane Breen is always one to fear against the clock, and he knocked 0.6sec off Robert Whitaker’s time to take the top spot.
“It’s great to win any class at Hickstead, but I’m delighted to win with Zarnita as the owner, Sarah Jane Knight, lives locally,” said Shane, who is based at the showground. “Last year, when the mare won the Old Lodge Breeding Championships, I said it would be great if she could come back next year and win the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.”
Shane believes the mare could go to the very top of the sport. “She only started jumping when she was six, so she’s relatively inexperienced, but she’s got loads of scope and is very careful. She’s a peculiar kind of mare as she jumps better the bigger the course, so don’t be surprised if you see her in a Nations Cup or Grand Prix next year,” added Shane.
Shane is riding in tomorrow’s Longines King George V Gold Cup, the oldest Grand Prix held on British soil, with a €200,000 prize fund. “Winning that class and the Hickstead Derby are my two main goals,” said Shane.
In the showing classes, Pearly King and Simon Charlesworth won the The Alexanders Horseboxes Supreme Hack Championship, while the Jackson Fine Homes (Cornwall) Ltd RIHS Supreme Intermediate Championship went to Royal Angel and Michaela Wood. Today’s winners will join the other champions tomorrow for the judging of the British Horse Society Supreme Horse and the Underwood Supreme Pony Championships, two of the most important and coveted titles in showing.
Today marked the fifth annual Hickstead Ladies’ Day, which is held in support of Variety, the Children’s Charity. Celebrity judge Christopher Biggins selected showing producer Lisha Leeman as the ‘Best Dressed Filly’, with Lisha winning a two-day stay at the Alexander House Hotel & Utopia Spa with dinner, afternoon tea and spa treatments, plus a magnum of Champagne Moutard.
“I’m a great fan of Karen Millen, she never lets me down,” said Lisha on her floral dress, which she teamed with a stunning hat that she made herself.
First runner-up Jean Sibson, who has recently recovered from a heart attack, was delighted to win an overnight stay at Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, while second runner-up Sophie Elliott will get to enjoy an eight course dinner at the Michelin-starred Pass Restaurant at South Lodge Hotel.
This year a prize was also given to the ‘Most Stylish Stallion’, with winner Richard Leeman (the husband of Lisha) being presented with a bottle of champagne.
The Longines Royal International Horse Show, the official show of the British Horse Society, reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
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