Switzerland’s Daniel Etter stormed to victory in the £81,000 Grand Prix on the final day of the Belfast International Horse Show yesterday. Etter had the best of the draw in the 10-horse Grand Prix jump-off and was chasing the 35.79sec target set by fellow Swiss competitor Markus Fuchs.
Capt Shane Carey was pathfinder against the clock with Lismakin but, as one of the three first-round four-faulters who qualified for the top-10 finale, his clear round was only good enough to secure seventh spot in the final analysis. Ireland’s Harry Marshall (All Shook Up) and Austria’s Gerfriend Puck (S&L Bleeker) both had one fence down to complete with a two-round total of eight.
Frenchman Michel Hecart had been foot-perfect with Itot de Chateau in the first round but the second part of the influential double hit the floor this time. Richard Davenport suffered the same fate two fences earlier with Laguina, but crossed the line a fraction quicker.
Fresh Direct Cloudy Night caught both the second part of the bogey double and the final vertical to put Tim Stockdale on a total of eight faults, leaving Carey’s early clear looking all the more impressive with just four left to jump.
Fuchs and Royal Charmer managed a second clear round, although in turning from the double to attack the pink oxer, which caused quite a few interesting moments throughout the class, the Swiss rider found himself having to stretch to the limit. After clearing the final fence and racing through the finish with the reins almost on the buckle, Fuchs was left scrambling for control as Royal Charmer eyed up the first oxer from the landing side.
Their time of 35.79sec gave the remaining riders a stiff task and Belgium’s Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe was almost three seconds slower when following with the handsome Osta Rugs Andiamo Z, who also left the course intact.
Billy Twomey had a bit of an altercation with an arena steward, who didn’t want to let him view the action from the tunnel before he took his turn, but it didn’t put the Corkman off his stride. He was having a real crack at it until Anastasia clipped the last and his time of 36.51 was still not fast enough.
Etter was last into the ring and he took full advantage, scorching round with the nine-year-old mare Hermine D’Auzay, whose ground-eating stride brought him home over a second quicker than his fellow-countryman Fuchs.
Hermine D’Auzay was bought from a friend as a six-year-old and then sold and bought back. “She competed in her first Grand Prix here in Belfast last year and although I could hardly expect to win this time I knew for sure I would fight for it and I’m very happy,” said the 30-year-old Swiss rider.
“I told myself not to think about it and just to go for it. She’s a very fast horse, the faster she goes the better she jumps but what a nice thing it is to get a standing ovation when you win!” he said. The crowd certainly appreciated the exciting conclusion to a great weekend of competition, jumping to their feet with a roar of appreciation.
Etter joined Fuchs and Ireland’s Dermott Lennon to win the Triple X Relay earlier in the day, when Robert Whitaker and his father John teamed up with Norway’s Geir Gulliksen to slot into second ahead of Billy Twomey, Andrew Davies and Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe.
Ellen Whitaker proved a real winner with the crowds who thoroughly enjoyed her dare-devil style all week. She kept them happy again yesterday when beating Billy Twomey at the post in the exciting Knock-Out where, once more, she threw caution to the wind to come home ahead with Henri de Here.
It was another win, this time with Marius Claudius, that sealed the Leading Rider award for Robert Smith who topped the Show Jumping Stakes with an authoritative performance that could not be bettered.
Ireland’s Harry Marshall had set the target with Ado Annie in 50.85sec but Marius Claudius stopped the clock on 49.88 and was never truly challenged despite the best efforts of the 22 remaining runners.