Billy Twomey delivered another masterful display to retain his crown as Equestrian.com grand prix champion at the Liverpool International Horse Show.
The Irish star once again thrived under pressure at the Echo Arena, guiding 14-year-old bay gelding Diaghilev home – as he had done 12 months ago – to land a top prize of £17,500.
Britain’s William Whitaker had set the challenge on his new ride Utamaro d’Ecaussines, clocking 38.79 seconds, but Billy was in no mood to relinquish his grip on the trophy, as he finished in 37.32 seconds.
And there was further Irish representation on the podium, with Michael Duffy and Belcanto Z completing the podium places.
“I am really delighted with the win,” Billy said. “My horse went really well over the two rounds.
“Michael put down a good marker, but luckily, the jump-off round worked out pretty good for me. My horse is really competitive, and when you are turning he is always looking to find the fence.
“He can be fast in the jump-offs, and luckily he was a bit quicker than the others today. To the third fence, he was pretty sharp and maybe gained some time there.
“He brought some decent form into this event – he won at La Coruna a few weeks ago. I gave him a day off on Sunday, and he repaid me with a really good performance.”
And William added: “I am delighted with the horse. He has jumped five rounds in three days and not had a fence down.
“I have only been riding him for three or four months, and this was my first big show with him, so I am really pleased.
“You could definitely feel his experience in the jump-off. He knew what he was doing.
“Nina (Liverpool show president Nina Barbour) and her team have done a brilliant job. We’ve always had top shows in England, and we have got another one now in Liverpool.”
Britain’s Chloe Aston, meanwhile, successfully defended her title in the knockout competition, sponsored by Redrow Homes.
Sixteen riders faced off in round one, before moving on to quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, and it proved a thrilling showdown between Chloe and her fellow renowned speed merchant Guy Williams.
Chloe, riding Amigo T, said: “To be fair, I didn’t think I was going to beat him, so I was extremely pleased with the outcome.
“The first round is always the hardest in this competition for me, because my horse has a little bit of his own mind. When he does the first round and he knows where he is going, he kind of just does the rest from there, and I have to follow him!
“I try to take strides because he is not the best horse at turning, but he has an incredibly big stride for a small horse. He wins so many classes for me.
“I’ve had him since he was five-years-old, and he is now 11, so I know him inside out. To win a class like that, you have to know your horse.”