Hard as the home contingent tried, Ireland again ruled the roost on the penultimate day of the Unex Masters.
The spectators who packed Towerlands were already in festive mood after the Shetland Grand National and a demonstration by Geoff Billington. And when four of the seven starters reached the fifth round of the Masters and jumped off for £3,900, the atmosphere in this winner-takes-all class was superb.
Cian O’Connor jumped a great round on Complete, but his fellow Irishman Billy Twomey was quicker at the start and sneaked ahead with the British-bred mare, Tinka’s Serenade. This proved enough when Tim Gredley (Toklund) and crowd favourite Vicky Tulloch (Soliegette) both hit the second part of an enormous double.
Billy may have been on numerous Irish teams, but this was his first senior Masters victory. He was delighted with Tinka’s Serenade, who was bought from Kim Barzilay just before the Horse of the Year Show.
“This is a seriously good horse. She never touched a fence,” he said.
The home contingent had better luck earlier in the day. Nicole Pavitt started the ball rolling with her second win of the show, this time in a speed class on Amaryllis Van De Heffinck.
“She’s the best horse I’ve ever sat on,” said the Sussex-based teenager.
Then Ben Maher repeated his 2006 topscore win with a fabulous round on a relatively new ride, Pablo V. This grey never looked like faulting en route to a score that put him well clear of his rivals.
The riders who travelled to the show from continental Europe had performed well but without success until today’s jump-off class. Only eight could go clear over a tough first-round course and Dutch visitor Joost Martens then produced an untouchable round — he and his mare Presly won by a cool 5sec.
“She is quite quick,” said Joost, with masterly understatement.
The day’s other two classes were both open to amateur riders. Tony Pearson and Tender Moment were much too quick for their rivals in the speed class and it was only the final fence in the grand prix that spoiled the Buckinghamshire-based rider’s chance of a double.
The honours went to Kent after Charlotte Foreman flew round on her new ride, Kor II, to take the £600 prize. Charlotte, who makes her living through selling horses, intends to keep this 14-year-old.
“I haven’t had him long, so these classes were ideal for getting to know him, but I’m hoping to try bigger things next year,” she said.