World class eventers and show jumpers came head-to-head in the coveted Ford Ranger Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead yesterday. The competition, which gives spectators the chance to see top show jumpers negotiating cross-country obstacles and eventers testing their show jumping technique to the limit, was perhaps the most exciting to date. For the second year Ireland demonstrated her equestrian prowess; the final moments saw two Irishmen racing against the clock show jumper Shane Breen and eventer Mark Kyle.
First in the international arena this afternoon eventer Cressida Clague-Reading (Huszar II) held pole position until ten to five when, with just six left to jump, Irish show jumper Shane Breen (Mullaghdrin Gold) stole the lead with a spectacular 211.01 sec score. Lucinda Fredericks (Headley Britannia) gave Breen a run for his money but her 214.44 sec time was only good enough for third place. By the time the final competitor entered the arena – last years winner Mark Kyle – the victory was evidently Irelands. But the audience remained glued to their seats as Kyle strove to retain the title for the eventing contingent.
Ireland scored their first victory in the Eventing Grand Prix last year with Mark Kyle and the aptly named Drunken Disorderly. But this year Kyle failed to trump Breens time, passing victory to the show jumpers. Kyle was presented with the £3000 top prize as well as a Ford ranger for a year. To date, Michael Whitaker was the only show jumper to hold the Eventing grand prix title he won in 2003. Cressida Clague-Reading took second place with Lucinda Fredericks in third and Mark Kyle in fourth, thus ensuring eventers dominated the leader board, despite Breens win.
A hybrid showjumping/ cross-country grand prix was the brainchild of Douglas Bunn, Paul Schockemohle and Robert Lemieux and was contested for the first time in 1998. The competition is a speed contest and five time penalties are added for each knocked rail.
Riders first negotiated a course of eight show jumps built by Hicksteads international course designer Kelvin Bywater. The double caught out a number of the eventers and top show jumper Ben Maher proved it was not an easy course when he sent the second fence flying. Pippa Funnell and Ensign took out the gate and Cressida Clague-Reading knocked the double. Afterwards riders left the main arena over the Osborne hedge and ditch, and tackled a series of taxing cross-country fences including the Horse & Hound bounce and the tricky Equine Gold corner complex.
Back in the arena riders had to step up the pace over a further course of jumps including a large bull finch (pictured) and the legendary Devils Dyke.
1. Shane Breen Mullaghdrin Gold
2. Cressida Clague-Reading Huszar II
3. Lucinda Fredericks Headley Fredericks
4. Mark Kyle Drunken Disorderly
5. Gary Parsonage Peter Street
6. Jo Chipperfield Ferndale Ballyheen
7. Michael Whitaker Sir Dino
8. Pippa Funnell Ensign
9. Eddy Stibbe Dusky Moon
10. Piggy French Boherdeel Champion