TIPPERARY’s Shane Breen completed a memorable 2022 Horse of the Year Show for Irish riders when he was crowned JCB Leading Showjumper of the Year.
Sussex-based Shane claimed his first win in HOYS’ headline three-star Grand Prix, steering 10-year-old Cuick Star Kervec to a thrilling victory. He pipped John Whitaker, who almost marked 50 years of competing at the show with a third leading showjumper triumph, by 19 hundredths of a second.
John, riding Equine America Unick du Francport, clocked 34.80 seconds, while his nephew Jack Whitaker and Equine America Valmy de la Lande finished third (0/0 35.66).
Shane, though, was not to be denied, following fellow Irish winners Jessica Burke, Richard Howley and Commandant Geoff Curran in topping the HOYS podium this year. In the end, he was the fastest of four clears in the eight-horse jump-off, posting the winning round in 34.61 seconds to earn £15,700.
“Tonight was very special,” Breen said afterwards. Cuick Star is a very special horse. It was only the third Grand Prix of his life, and to win here at Horse of the Year Show is a great achievement. It is a great occasion, the crowd is amazing, the atmosphere is fantastic.
“I watched John go and my brother Trevor said I had to do five from one to two to win. That is the beauty of Cuick Star Kervec, he has got an amazing stride and his scope is incredible. I have never ridden a horse with that much scope in my life.”
While he was gelded in recent years, Breen still has semen for the 10-year-old who is well related. He commented: “His breeding is interesting, he is by Quick Star and his mother is a half-sister to Golden Hawk; she is by Diamant de Semilly. I bought him when he was a yearling, I’ve always thought he was going to be a superstar and this is the first step of many big steps.
“The Irish have had a great show – Jessica Burke was incredible. We all love coming here, the atmosphere is second to none.
Shane also paid tribute to his friend and rival, 67-year-old John, adding: “He is a legend of the sport, he is one of the best riders in the world and I knew he was in it to win it tonight. He is an inspiration. He is certainly not thinking of retiring, and he is such an incredible rider and sportsman – a real ambassador for the sport.”
Burke hat trick
Galway’s Jessica Burke completed a brilliant hat-trick of international titles on her first visit to the NEC arena in Birmingham.
The 30-year-old, who is based at Arion Stud in Hampshire, won Sunday’s Speed Horse of the Year showcase class aboard nine-year-old mare Inpulss. It followed victories with the same horse in Friday’s NAEC Stoneleigh Stakes and The Accumulator on Saturday.
Not since Ellen Whitaker won three international classes on the same day in 2010, has any rider achieved such a feat at HOYS.
Britain’s Mark Edwards set an early lead on Flying Tinker II after clocking 49.34 seconds. It meant a huge test for Jessica to try and overhaul it, but she achieved it in blistering fashion, combining tight turns with precision jumping to clip 80 hundredths of a second off Mark’s time, when clear in 48.54. Tipperary’s Trevor Breen finished third on Jicarla T (0/ 52.01).
“I don’t have the words, to be honest,” said Jessica, when asked to sum up her achievement. “I didn’t really think about the hat-trick too much, although obviously I knew it would be nice to do it. I tried to take each day as it came, and I believe in the horse so much.
“She fought so hard everywhere. Once we got the first half of the course out of the way, she flew. It all feels surreal, and it won’t sink in probably until we go home. It is such a cool show. Today is emotional, my mum and my uncle are over today.
“This year has been an amazing one. I jumped my first Nations Cup, we won a Nations Cup, I jumped in the Dublin five-star, and now to do a hat-trick of speed classes at Horse of the Year Show. Incredible.”
Commandant Geoff Curran continued an outstanding week for Irish riders at the Horse of the Year Show when winning Saturday night’s Ripon Select Foods Puissance in front of a packed-out enthusiastic crowd at the NEC.
Riding Bishops Quarter, he cleared 2.19m to take a top prize of just over £5,000 and become the first outright puissance winner at HOYS since 2017. Mark Edwards and Montreuxs Tale finised second, while William Whitaker (Flamboyant III) and Guy Williams (Mr Blue Sky) shared third spot.
“The crowd was amazing, the atmosphere was brilliant. I had never been to the show before, but I am delighted to be here and to win it is very special,” Curran said afterwards.
“He finds jumping big very easy, and the first few rounds are all about trying to keep him as relaxed as possible. He gets better when it gets bigger because he backs up a little bit. He is very brave, and for me, with this horse, it is about gymnastics and getting him nice and nimble.
“He has all the ingredients – very brave, very scopey, very talented – and he is so honest. He will never ever say no, hopefully it won’t be the last one he will win. I evented him up to the old three-star format, and he’s always been an amazing jumper, but if you allow him to boil over, he gets very strong, and then you are in trouble. Tonight, he was very relaxed.”
Ireland’s other international win came in the opening class, the Grandstand Welcome Stakes, when Sligo’s Richard Howley raced to victory aboard the 12-year-old bay gelding Fame. The pair broke the beams in 27.84 seconds to finish ahead of Britain’s Annabel Shields with Wet Wet Wet (0/0 28.39) (see Picture Desk, pages 104-105).
Howley commented: “He is a lovely horse, he is very competitive. You can go into the ring with a good plan, and today we executed the plan and it worked out for us. Competing indoors, it is always about your control, your turns, how tight you can go. Luckily, he allowed me to ride him very well.
“He won two classes at the five-star in Dublin this year, and he normally wins at least one class at every show I take him to. I don’t jump him that much, but it seems like I jump him a lot because he is always in the ribbons. His strike-rate is very high.”