Breen remains king of the Queen’s: Shane lifts Hickstead trophy for fourth time

  • Shane Breen not only extended his record as the most prolific winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup since it was opened to both genders, he also secured back-to-back wins with the same horse, cruising to victory on Old Lodge’s wonderful grey mare Haya at the Royal International Horse Show.

    Shane was the first male rider to win the Queen’s Cup, following the rule change in 2008, and now, with his fourth win, is almost rivalling the record of the great Liz Edgar, who won it on five occasions when it was a women’s-only competition.

    This year, Hickstead-based Breen Equestrian, which he runs with wife Chloe (nee Bunn), was also the historic class’s title sponsor.

    “Next year, I’ll have to sponsor the King George as well!” Shane quipped.

    Clears were slow to come round Kelvin Bywater’s 1.50m track for this prestigious national showdown — only second out Jessica Burke (Express Trend) left the fences intact out of the first 10 rounds. A further six jumped clear before the end of the class, ensuring a decent face-off against the clock.

    Jessica gave an indication of the target time with her opening round, posting 38.99sec, but it cost her the first part of the double. Three clears followed, from Adrian Whiteway (Chacco Volo); Sammie-Jo Coffin (Chaccomo Blue) and Philip Miller (Don Royale), but all were in excess of 42sec, leaving the door wide open.

    Hickstead maestros battle it out

    Serious money would always have been riding on the last three riders to jump, who were all previous winners of this class, with a litany of Hickstead credentials: reigning Derby champion David Simpson, riding 13-year-old Flashback VL, 2022 Derby champion Shane and Harriet Biddick, who has won or come second in most of the major classes here, riding Night Of Glory OL, who like Haya is owned by Old Lodge.

    David’s 13-year-old ride, who is owned by Melanie Davies, was the less experienced of the three, but put in a solid bid in 40.18sec, cutting more than 2sec from the lead.

    “I said to his owner on the phone outside that he was feeling like he was getting better and better and today he put it all together, so I am very happy with him,” David said.

    “I could have been a lot tighter from one to two, as Shane informed me! He’s the first one to tell me when I’ve let something slip!

    “I wanted to post a double clear,” he added. “He’s not the quickest especially compared with the two behind me. I thought I might be able to put pressure on and hopefully they’d make a slip up but they both delivered.”

    Shane and the lovely 11-year-old grey mare lived up to every promise with their effortlessly smooth round, axing 2.76sec to set a formidable lead.

    There was still Harriet and Night Of Glory OL to come and they had arrived at Hickstead on the back of a wave of form, having headed both the area trial and the international stairway at the New Forest Show earlier in the week.

    Harriet had the mare’s natural speed and the partnership’s experience to rely on, and looked like she may be able to rival Shane’s target on the final line, but they crossed the finish just over a second behind to take the runner-up spot.

    “I know Shane is so fast and when I watched the others go round in excess of 40sec and Shane went round in 37.42sec I knew he’d be hard to beat,” Harriet said.

    “I think there was a difference in the size of the horses — mine is smaller and quick across the ground and I added one to the second last which is maybe where I lost it.”

    ‘I have great respect for her’

    Shane was full of praise for Haya, who has mostly been on 5* duties on the Global Champions Tour this year, but who he chose to place in the Queen’s rather than jump the day’s 5* classes.

    “I thought it would be nice if she could do the double, so I thought I’d keep her for it,” Shane said. “I’m delighted she did it and delighted for Old Lodge that they have a one-two.

    “It felt better winning it this year than last as it was Haya’s second time and I have great respect for her, she’s such a nice mare in every way.

    “If you go in the ring and have a fence down, it’s basically you that’s knocked the fence, as she is so incredibly careful.

    “She’s an incredible horse, she has such a lovely nature and is like your best friend. She’s lovely with the grooms and everyone. I’m very lucky to have her.”

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