Darcy and Douglas Breen win a major title each at the British Showjumping Winter Pony Finals

Tuesday 07 May 2024

Darcy and Douglas Breen win a major title each at the British Showjumping Winter Pony Finals

Siblings Darcy and Douglas Breen made the journey from Sussex worthwhile as they claimed a major championship apiece at the British Showjumping Winter Pony Finals at South View Arena in Cheshire.

Darcy, 14, landed the feature Winter JA Classic Final on the scopey One Saharah, remaining cool under pressure to win with flowing yet tight lines.

Course-designer Mark McGowan set a strong 12-fence 1.30m track with square oxers and technical distances, but four competitors found the key – Maisie Allsop in great form to claim two of them.  Maisie set the stage with the opening round on the big-jumping Vaughann De Vuzit, posting a clear round for the others to chase.

Darcy took up the challenge on the Daniel x Quiton nine-year-old mare, negotiating all the tight lines at a controlled gallop to wipe an impressive 4.68 seconds from the time after taking advice from former Olympic eventer Mark Kyle.

“When [Darcy’s father] Shane is away, Mark steps in – he teaches you to ride like a professional,” said Darcy’s mum Chloe.

Reigning NAF 3* Style and Performance champion Darcy, 14, has produced One Saharah beautifully through 2023, stepping up the grades in the New Year to qualify for this final on the Winter Pony Premier series.

“We kept her at a low level last year as I got to know her; she’s very friendly when she knows you but hesitant at first. When I first rode her, we’d have three fences down in a round,” said Darcy, who truly found the key on a trip to Italy.

“We spent three weeks at the international tour in San Giovanni and she learned and progressed so much,” added Darcy, who has recently returned from competing in Compiegne, France.

The win here was a major milestone and the big aim for 2024 is the Pony European Championships – “There’s such a history to this Final with some big names on the trophy, including Ben Maher. There’s a long way to go before the European Championships, but it’s our mission for this year,” said Chloe.

Maisie finished second on Vaughann De Vuzit and fourth with Attyrory Rebel, sandwiching Katie Bradburne’s Westpoint Foreign Affair into third.

Douglas, 11, lifted the British Showjumping 128/138cm Handicap Special Final with Claughaun Casper.

Nine competitors came forward in the competitive jump-off – five 128cm riders pitted against their four older counterparts on 138cm ponies – with Douglas and the super-quick 128cm coloured 17-year-old gelding beating Anya Dewey Clark on the 138cm Tullibards Silver Mine by 0.17 seconds.

The Irish-bred Casper, previously a winner for Tara Sweetnam and Lexie Lane, joined Douglas 18 months ago following a successful purchase at the English Home Pony at this venue in 2022.

“He loves going as fast as I do, and the course really suited us.  He’s sweet, friendly and loves food, and I love him,” said Douglas, who won a treasured rug to go with another very special memento – “When my dad won the Hickstead Derby, he let me keep the rug.”

“We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed the last few days, Charles [Britton] has done a great job putting this show on at this lovely venue – we’re all very grateful,” said Chloe.

After finishing second several times, Anya Dewey Clark finally claimed her own coveted sash and rug in the South View 128cm Spring Final with Kilcreene Snapdragon.

The battle between Anya, Georgia Hogan and Amy Capper – all claiming two rides apiece in the eight-strong decider – was fierce.  Anya touted an early lead on Jim but was immediately beaten by Georgia on Darth Moll.  But a determined Anya returned and wowed the spectators with a breath-taking pace and flying tight turns, taking advantage of Snappy’s ground-eating stride to win by an incredible four seconds.

“My trainer Paul Kelly told me to take one less stride from one to two; I took two strides out, going on five instead of seven,” said Anya.  “I missed the inside turn from the double on my first pony; that wasn’t going to happen again and I’m so happy to win a rug – I love Snappy, he’s very fast and loves to eat Rich Tea biscuits.”

Amy Capper got her turn for glory in the South View 138cm Spring Final.  Claiming two of the rides in the four-pony jump-off, Amy, 12, won from the front on Playboy Van De Zoetewei with almost seven seconds in hand over Lacie Williams, second on Jessie Mae Harmony with the only other double clear.

“I knew what I was doing as I’d jumped the 128cm and did all the turns; he’s very good at turning,” said Amy, who went further than trainer Douglas Duffin’s advice – “He told me not to go inside after the double but go round.  I thought it was on, so turned inside.”

Lucy Simcock impressed judges Liz Jackson and Andrew Walker to be awarded the British Showjumping 10-year-old and Under Style and Performance title with four points in hand on Frigowny Fairqueen.

Twenty competitors jumped an 11-fence track in round one, with 10 of the best returning to negotiate the shortened course in round two, stylish and consistent Lucy winning her very first rug and sash on the 15-year-old Fairqueen.

“She won this Final two years ago with my brother Charlie,” said Lucy, 10, whose parents run David Simcock Racing.  “I thought it was big. but she jumped them easily.  She’s kind and sweet, sassy at home but an angel in the ring and she helps me out a lot.”

Kate Willis topped a fierce jump-off with Buachaill Baire to claim the 11-years and Under Final to record her biggest championship win to date.

The jump-off promised to be very competitive as 21 from an original field of 41 returned to battle it out against the clock, but Kate’s late draw two from the end secured the title by 0.96 seconds. 

Peterborough-based Kate joined forces with the 18-year-old ‘Benji’ last October.

“He loves jumping and is such a funny character, he sticks his tongue out and shakes his head in the stable, he’s quite a busy pony and is very experienced, he won in Dublin with the Derwin family,” said Kate, who relies on the training and advice of elder sister Annabel. 

“We spotted Benji because he looked so like an old pony of ours.  He wasn’t for sale, but we asked about him and he was actually bought for my younger sister Scarlett, but when I rode him, I didn’t want to give him back and begged to have him – Scarlett will ride him later on.” 

Sienna Skipworth commanded victory in the Springboard 138cm Final with the sole clear in the first round with Hazelrock Nova.

There were a few hard-luck stories, especially the final three who left every fence intact until falling victim to the final, tall vertical.

“It was very unexpected, but I was relieved not to have to jump off,” said Sienna.

The 11-year-old ‘Pebbles’ joined Sienna, 13, four years ago.

“She was a former in-hand show pony and we’ve grown together.  She didn’t really know how to jump at first, but we concentrated on our flatwork and she improved, although it’s daunting sometimes competing in classes with those ponies who have already done it all,” said Sienna.  “Now, if I trust her, she’ll help me out if I mess it up a little bit.  She such a well-behaved, happy pony – my pony of a lifetime.”

Felicity Ashcroft secured another title with her Pony of the Year Show 11-year-old and Under champion Trefriw Eros, the pair taking Springboard 128cm crown.  Only four competitors accessed the jump-off with the top two found in the first half with the only double clears, Felicity beating Charlie Blackburn-Jones’ opener on Butleigh Flashman by more than eight seconds.

“We were eighth in this class last year and I was determined to win this year.  I had a plan; I had to be fast but not take too many risks,” said Buckinghamshire-based Felicity, 9, who has HOYS ambitions for the future.  “I was nervous, there were some big uprights, but I can trust ‘Ernie’, we’re best friends and love to do cross-country and lots of hacking and galloping.”

Emily Gulliver maxed on her final draw to take the British Showjumping Children-on-Horses 16-year-old and Under Final by the tiniest of margins with Glamor De Vie in a three-way decider.

Rosie Smith lowered a rail in her opening round on Special X but Darcy Breen countered with a quick, smooth round on Lea Popely’s 11-year-old Luidam daughter Kunis to set a blistering target.  Emily meant business and was determined from the off with Ben Gulliver’s eight-year-old Glamor De Vie, edging ahead by only 0.02 seconds to take the title.

“I lost a little time turning to the vertical at fence four but moved on from the double to the oxer and trusted her to the final vertical,” said Emily, who will target HOYS Newcomers and Foxhunter Second Rounds this summer.

“She can be quite sharp and takes me into the fences, but she’s level-headed and simple to ride, not at all mareish or opinionated,” added Emily, who acquired the Mylord Carthago x Quouglof Rouge mare in November.   “She’s like a puppy and the friendliest on the yard.”

Evie Evans secured victory in the Winter 1.10m Pony Championship riding Trevor H – the second occasion this German-bred pony has won this title, the first back in 2019 with Glain Watkin Jones in the saddle.

Ten of the 28 starters made their way into the jump-off with initial clears and, although only three again provided a clean sheet, the second round proved tense competition. 

Lotti Bullock set the standard on Brooklyn IV in the opening round and stayed ahead as rails fell for the following competitors.  But Evie used her mid-draw to smoothly scythe 2.40 seconds from the time with a deceptively fast round on Cathy Evans’ Timesquare x Corrado II 13-year-old.

Evie has competed Trevor for the past 18 months and they are the current British Showjumping National 1m Restricted Rider champions.

Lotti had to settle for second place with Bella Wild claiming third on Wots Up Dot.

“He such a great pony, he’ll go on any stride, a long one or deep, he doesn’t mind.  He never looks like he’s going fast but he covers so much ground, a jump-off is his forte and he loves a big atmosphere,” said Evie, 14. 

Saskia Ilott planned and executed the shortest route to land the Winter 1m Pony Championship with J Harper 001.

Fifteen from the field of 25 returned to battle it out in the jump-off with Saskia using her late draw to command victory.  Quick and confident, Saskia trusted Jane Eyes’ 19-year-old J Harper with tight turns and a good pace.  They were the sole combination to take an ultra-tight inside turn to the oxer two from home, pulling it off with aplomb before galloping down the final line and win with a handsome three seconds in hand.

Ruby Birchenough claimed two chances in the jump-off and eased her final ride Roll On Wave into second place while Jessica Owen slipped Valentino Supreme into third.

Main Image: Darcy Breen and One Sahara. Credit: Suzanne Jones

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