Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hickstead went to Ireland’s Shane Breen and the 11-year-old mare Haya, for the second year in a row.
Eight combinations out of the 28 starters jumped clear in the first round, but it wasn’t until the final three riders – all former winners of the Queen’s Cup – that the jump-off took flight. Two-time winner David Simpson came in on new ride Flashback VL and shaved more than 2sec off Sammie-Jo Coffin’s leading time. But David knew he was going to be followed by two extremely quick riders in Shane Breen and Harriet Biddick, and when Shane duly produced an effortlessly quick round in 37.42sec it looked very hard to beat.
Harriet, who won the class in 2017 on Galway Bay Jed, was last to go with Night of Glory OL, who has been on excellent form of late with wins in both the International Trial and the Stairway at the New Forest show. Here, they produced a relentless pace round the course – but they had to settle for the runner-up spot after crossing the finish in a time of 38.49sec.
Since the class changed from being an international Grand Prix for ladies only to being a national final open to men and women in 2008, Shane has lifted the Queen Elizabeth II Cup four times – 2008, 2013, 2022 and now 2023. He now hopes to equal the late Liz Edgar’s record of five wins.
Shane gave tribute to his winning ride:
This one’s maybe better, because it’s Haya’s second time winning,” said Shane. “I thought it’d be nice if she could do the double, and that’s why I chose to keep her for this class. I have a great respect for her – she’s such a nice mare, in every way. She’s so careful, and just an incredible horse to have.”
Harriet Biddick, always a consistent performer at the All England Jumping Course, gave the Old Lodge Stud a one-two thanks to the 13-year-old mare Night of Glory OL.
I’m very pleased with her. I knew it was going to be a hard target to beat, but she jumped another great clear,” she said.
David has only been riding Flashback VL for a few months.
He’s not naturally the quickest horse, especially when you’ve got these two behind you. I wanted to put the clear up and hope they’d make a slip up, but they both delivered, so I ended up third,” he said.
It was a British clean sweep in this morning’s Royal International Salver, with the host nation taking eight of the top nine placings. The win went to 21-year-old Jack Whitaker on Equine America Valmy de la Lande, giving the rider his first Longines International Arena win for more than a decade.
I knew there was a few fast ones behind me. One of my good mates, Will Edwards, has got a very fast horse, so I thought I had to put the pressure on him – and he just wasn’t fast enough, was he?”
joked Jack, who ended up just 0.6sec faster than Edwards.
Valmy’s been my best horse for a few years now. He’s serious, and we know each other inside and out. He was good for me today – I had a few rogue shots in the jump-off, and he took off for me every time. He was on the ball.”
The day’s action came to a close with the Royal International Speed Classic. A total of 48 starters came forward for the €25,500 world ranking class, but it was the fifth rider to go who held the lead almost from start to finish. Brazil’s Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa and Catch Me Marathon had their second major win of the week, following their victory in Thursday’s Royal International Trophy.
Tickets for the Longines Royal International Horse Show (25-30 July) are available at the gate or can be bought online from Hickstead. The action will be live-streamed throughout on ClipMyHorse.TV and Hickstead.TV, with additional coverage on Sky Sports and FEI.TV on Sunday.
Feature image: Shane Breen won the Breen Equestrian Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Haya (c) Elli Birch / Boots and Hooves Photography