Thursday at HOYS was Horse & Hound Foxhunter day – “the one all the riders want to win”. And what a quality final it turned out to be.
With some of the best young horses in the country lining up for the coveted title, the competition was always going to be fierce, but course-designer Kelvin Bywater set a suitably tough test for the 23 hopefuls.
Eight made it through to the jump-off – two of whom were British-bred. From third draw, Laura Renwick looked to have stamped her name on the Foxhunter trophy with a jet-propelled round on seven-year-old Oz De Breve. But, last to go, Sussex-based Bruce Menzies on the Old Lodge’s big, ground-covering Sultan V kept motoring to slice 0.15sec off Laura’s time.
“All year, this has been the aim with him,” said 35-year-old Bruce who has been riding this British-bred seven-year-old by Irco Mena for three years. “Even last year I thought he’d be the one to do it.”
The LG Arena played host to three international classes on Thursday. First blood went to Shane Breen on Dorada who took advantage of the chestnut gelding’s long stride and flowing rhythm to win the Grandstand Welcome Stakes.
Fellow Irishman Billy Twomey lifted the Sky Sports trophy with 14-year-old Caesar, holding off a Whitaker challenge from John (Utah Van Eperkom) in second and Ellen (CS Online) in third.
Speed was the name of the game in the one-round Tagg Cup but clear rounds were few and far between. With only three left to go, William Funnell held the lead with the quickest of the four clears on Kepi D’Elle.
However, with Guy Williams (Torinto Van De Middelstede) and Ellen Whitaker (Ocolado) waiting in the wings, his lead looked shaky and it was the former who snatched the £5,000 first prize. Never one to hang about, Canterbury-based Guy took one or two wider routes and yet still managed to knock 6sec off William’s round.
“It was an odd competition – the first few tried to go too fast but the course was too twisty to do that,” said Guy, who has his sights firmly fixed on winning Sunday’s grand prix. “I had a good draw and I knew that, worst case, I’d be second because I thought Ellen would beat me.”
Can it get any more exciting than this? With tension building towards Sunday’s finales, there is sure to be plenty more to come from another vintage HOYS.
Stay in touch with all the action from HOYS on Horseandhound.co.uk, plus don’t miss H&H’s special 17-page report, on sale Thursday 15 October