CO TIPPERARY’s Shane Breen, who calls Hickstead home, has won almost every title there is to be won at the venue and, last Saturday, added his third career win in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup to his long list of achievements in the famed arena, located just a stone’s throw from his yard at the world famous All England Jumping Course.

Kelvin Bywater’s challenging 1.50m track caught most competitors out, with just three of the 28 starters producing clears in the opening round. Britain’s Joe Fernyhough went first with Calcourt Particle, completing the shortened jump-off track in 45.39 seconds. Scotland’s Nicole Lockhead went next on Miss Aragona PS, delivering a faster clear in 41.38 seconds.

But Breen, who won last month’s Al Shira’aa Derby for the first time in his career, knows exactly what it takes to win in the Longines International Arena, and he steered Breen Equestrian’s 10-year-old grey mare Haya to shave more than a second off Nicole’s time to take the victory in 40.21.

“She’s incredibly careful, and I was a little apprehensive because she’s never been in the main arena, and she’s only jumped a water in a sand arena. But I was so impressed with her because in the first round, nothing fazed her,” commented Shane.

“In the jump-off, I watched Joe on the big screen, and he did an excellent round – and then when I saw Nicole going, I thought how am I going to beat this? So I tried to do the same as Nicole but just go a smidgeon tighter to the white vertical.”

The Queen Elizabeth II Cup used to be an international class open to lady riders only, before a rule change in 2008 meant it became a national championship for both men and women. Shane was the first man to win the trophy, taking the title on Carmena Z in 2008 then adding another win in 2013 with Zarnita.

King George V

Shane’s younger brother Trevor was best of the Irish when fourth in Sunday’ five-star Grand Prix, the prestigious King George V Gold Cup, where Belgium’s Gilles Thomas landed his first five-star Grand Prix win riding Aretino 13. It was the first time a Belgian rider has lifted the iconic trophy since Jacques Misonne’s win in 1931.

Bywater’s big 1.60m track featured the Hickstead plank and difficult double of ditches and took a lot of jumping. From the 47 that started, 13 retired and two were eliminated, while eight made it through to the jump-off. Galway’s Andrew Bourns was most unlucky to miss out when picking up a time fault with Sea Topblue (ISH).

In the jump-off, Britain’s Robert Whitaker initially led with a fast-four fault round on Evert, before Trevor Breen delivered the first double clear on Gonzalo to move into the top spot. Things then got exciting when Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (Harwich VDL) went nearly 1.5 seconds quicker to go ahead of Trevor.

Next up was Britain’s star Harry Charles, who was hoping for his first victory in the class that his father Peter won in 2009. Riding the experienced 16-year-old Borsato, Harry delivered a brilliant clear round in a time of 51.22. But British hopes of a home win were dashed when Gilles, the last rider to go, shaved an impressive three seconds off the time to take the €49,500 first prize.

“This is only the second time I rode a jump-off with him – but I didn’t know he was so quick, so I just went for it!” said Gilles, 24.

“I thought it was quite slow but I think I have a quick horse here! I had the advantage that I was the last to go. Hickstead is a historical Grand Prix, it’s really special.”

Harry Charles, who heads to Herning next week for the ECCO FEI World Championships, was pragmatic after just missing out on the title.

“I came here with the goal to try to win this Grand Prix with the horse – he’s 16 so he has all the experience now, and he’s just getting better with age. He jumped the first round fantastic, and it was a cool course to jump, actually – we jump in a lot of small sand rings with delicate little poles, and it was nice to have some proper jumps,” he commented.

Irish placed

Wexford’s Patrick Hickey finished fourth in Sunday’s seven- and eight-year-old championship with Breen Equestrian’s seven-year-old stallion Z7 Porsche (Emerald), while Andrew Bourns was sixth with the seven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Tranquillity Bay (Emerald x Lux Z) who, bred by John Mulvey, has been produced in Ireland by Joanne Blair.

Alexander Butler was third in Saturday’s 1.45m speed classic aboard Adolf Giebler’s 13-year-old gelding Eindhoven G.H when clear in 63.44 seconds. Shane Breen slotted into sixth with Z7 Regal Don (66.39) and Trevor Breen was eighth with Germaine W (66.71).

Shae Breen was third in Saturday’s 1.50m jump-off class aboard his own and Quirke Sport Horses’ 10-year-old gelding Cuick Star Kervec when one of six clears against the clock in 39.34 seconds to earn €3,825. Victory went to Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts with H&M Miro in 36.34.

There was an Irish-bred winner of the Ashby Underwriting Eventers Grand Prix when Gemma Stevens (née Tattersall) guided Flash Cooley to victory. Despite picking up four faults, their eventual lightning fast time of 125.26 was good enough to hold off Helen Witchell (My Ernie) in second, while Pippa Funnell finished third with her five-star mount Majas Hope.

Ireland finished fifth in Friday’s Longines FEI Nations Cup at the venue, as reported extensively in last week’s paper.