The fences were huge, the course was long, the competition was tough. It can only be the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead.
This year’s competition saw Billy Twomey take the title for the first time in his career – on a horse that had never been in the international arena before. But the gamble paid off and the mare produced a winning performance.
“I’m delighted with how she performed,” said Billy. “She’s been knocking on the door, but not quite delivering, so I’m a very proud man that we managed to win the most prestigious class in the world.”
The first round saw a total of 12 riders make it through to the jump-off, although just two were waving the flag for the UK.
Some of the biggest names in British Showjumping fell by the wayside in the first round, with Scott Brash (Hello Guv’nor) and Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) both having one down, while Ben Maher’s feisty mare Diva II knocked up a total of 16 faults.
Harriet Nuttall had an uncharacteristic stop with A Touch Imperious, and William Funnell retired after Billy Congo had the first down.
It was a fast jump-off with a long gallop to the last, which made for a thrilling competition. Anna Power had a good crack at the title with her lovely horse Blazer B. The pair weren’t quite quick enough but that didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits who cheered her over the finishing line.
She was equally thrilled with her horse’s performance, giving him big pats and leaving the international area with an even bigger smile.
Spectators were also delighted with Tim Stockdale who pulled off one of his best performances in years, riding his Nations Cup horse Fleur de L’Aube. They went into the lead with a time of 41.91sec and left the arena to rapturous applause.
However, with seven yet to jump anything could happen and the rounds kept getting faster. Ireland’s Bertram Allen knocked Tim off the top spot with his speedy grey mare Molly Malone (40.25 sec), only to be beaten by the Netherlands Wout-Jan Van der Schans (39.92 sec).
Last in was Billy Twomey, who’s been having an incredible week at the All England Jumping Course. With three wins already under his belt, his confidence was at an all time high – even though Lizziemary had never competed in the international arena before.
Lack of experience didn’t prove a problem and the pair shaved less than half a second off the leader’s time to win the title.
“She’s really brave and has a big rangy gallop that covers the ground well, so it really suited her,” said Billy. “She’s a real chestnut mare, which is maybe why it took longer to get something done with her.”
To make things even tougher on him, Billy got his rein caught around his foot between the triple bar and the gate.
“I gave a few tugs in the mouth with my foot before it came free,” said the 39-year-old Irish rider. “More credit to her for putting up with my bad riding,”
Billy had been watching Lizziemary since she was a youngster, as she’s out of the same mare as his best horse Tinkers Serenade, who retired earlier this year. According to Billy, she was “brilliantly” produced by Emma-Jo Slater before he took the ride on her last year.
It’s been an amazing few months for Billy, who was named Leading Rider at Dublin show last month. He also won the Hamburg Derby and came second in the Hickstead Derby.
“My horses are on good form and when you’ve got your tail up, you’ve got a bit of confidence,” said Billy. “I’m also lucky to have good owners and support from my family, who I sometimes have to introduce myself to, as I’m always away.”