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Belgium’s Karel Cox was crowned leading showjumper at the 2018 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) after a blistering grand prix performance.

Karel and the nine-year-old gelding Evert (pictured, top) finished more than two seconds ahead of defending champion and best Brit Nigel Couple, who finished second with Golbers Hill.

Irish rider Trevor Breen finished third with the 13-year-old chestnut stallion Golden Hawk.

Karel’s victory was made even more special as it came just hours after the Belgian team became Nations Cup champions at the final in Barcelona.

“It was a lovely jump-off round,” said Karel, who posted a time of 38.23 seconds.

It sounds strange, but for my horse I went slow and tried to clear the fences because he turns very fast and he wants to go fast over the fences, so I really had to take my time a bit to jump the fences. By nature, he is a fast horse.”

The 36-year-old added the sport and the competitive atmosphere between the riders are among the reasons he loves competing at HOYS.

“I came here for the first time 15 years ago when I was 20, and I really loved it,” he said.

“I loved the atmosphere, and I have been coming back for the last three years. I was always clear in the grand prix, and this year I was really motivated to try to win it. This show is amazing; the people are so nice and the riders are so competitive.

“My horse will do the World Cup in Oslo next week, then he will have a few weeks off, and then to Doha for the Global Champions Tour and then hopefully Prague.”

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Nine out of the 26 starters, including six British riders, jumped clear over Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater’s course to progress to the jump off.

Michael Whitaker produced the only other double clear of the class with his own eight-year-old gelding Valmy De La Lande, finishing in fourth place.

Matt Sampson riding Ebolensky and Robert Smith with Cimano E were the only two combinations to finish within a second of Karel, but four faults each dropped them down the placings to finish fifth and sixth respectively.

For all the action from the 2018 Horse of the Year Show, plus the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday