Former World champion Philippe Le Jeune celebrated 30 years of competing at Horse of the Year Show by winning the Thistledown Stakes after a thrilling battle with Great Britain star John Whitaker. Philippe, who is based near Brussels, struck exactly the right note on his 12-year-old stallion Loro Piana Once De Kreisker (Papillon Rouge) to claim victory 30 years on from his first HOYS appearance, when the show was staged at Wembley.
And a bumper crowd at Birmingham's LG Arena gave the 2010 World Champion a rousing reception after his big-striding challenger conquered the jump-off track in just under 40 seconds. John, though, continued his outstanding run of form this week by finishing second on Uni Stop (Non Stop x Zamiro), while Sweden's Angelie von Essen was third aboard Catinka (Contendro x Argentan).
"Winning an international class is always a good feeling," said the 54-year-old Belgian rider, who won World individual gold in Kentucky four years ago. "I always love to come to England. There is a fantastic public and the crowd here is unbelievable every day and every night. The horse came to me three years ago from a French rider, and he was difficult to ride at the start. He was very honest with a lot of scope, but the rideability was quite terrible, so I spent nearly a year to settle him down."
Nicole Pavitt continued to make hay at Horse of the Year Show by claiming her second victory in four days at Birmingham's LG Arena. The 26-year-old West Sussex rider won The Naylors Equestrian Accumulator and its £7,100 top prize - a class where combinations collect escalating points for each fence jumped, with a double-point joker fence to finish. Nicole and Victor Blue (My Bjorn W x Rebel II Z) posted a maximum score of 65 points, but they did it in the quickest time, clocking 49.50 seconds to nudge the equally in-form John Whitaker and Lord of Arabia (Cassini II x Carry) into second spot, while Kerry Brennan and Wellington M (Quidam De Revel x Cash) finished third.
Source: Press release from HOYS
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