Irish showjumper wins prestigious Hickstead title

Irish showjumper Keith Doyle today became only the third male rider to win Hickstead's prestigious Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

Irish showjumper Keith Doyle today became only the third male rider to win Hickstead's prestigious Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

Doyle, riding Walk Tall II, prevailed after a five-horse jump off that included two members of the famous Whitaker family, cousins Robert and William.

His time of 50.14 seconds nudged 2000 Sydney Olympian Geoff Billington and Uppercut II into second spot, with Phillip Miller and Caritiar Z third.

Miller recorded comfortably the quickest jump off time, more than two seconds in front of Doyle, but one fence down cost him the €3,846 top prize.

The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was an exclusive domain of female riders until 2008, and lists showjumping greats like Pat Smythe, Ann Moore and Marion Mould among its previous winners.

But since it went 'open' five years ago, three male riders have now triumphed - Hampshire-based Doyle, Daniel Moseley and Shane Breen.

"The horse has done well on the county circuit this year," Doyle, 41, said.

"We bred him at our yard, and he was always the pick of the bunch, to be honest. He's 10 now, and he makes my job quite easy.

"I was thinking about having a go in the jump off, for sure. A jump off situation kind of suits him, and I was very pleased with the two clear rounds. The win was a bonus, really."

London 2012 showjumping course designer Bob Ellis' track posed plenty of problems for a 26-strong field, especially the water jump.

Eleven combinations either refused it or had a foot in the water, with the list of victims including British Nations Cup regulars Will Funnell and Guy Williams.

Doyle added: "My horse had never done the water here before, but he jumped it well.

"It is just the whole dimension of how it is set up. It's so wide to jump and so wide for the horse."

It was a painful afternoon for John Whitaker and Tina Fletcher, who competed in yesterday's Hickstead Nations Cup.

Whitaker went clear on Maximillian, but collected one time fault, while Fletcher had the last fence down aboard Ursula XII.

But there were also some cricket scores, notably the 26 faults of Tracy Priest on Calle, 23 for Jo McGlory aboard Camielo and 20 collected by 2010 Queen Elizabeth Cup winner Anna Edwards, riding Diaghilev.

Today's opening class, the Bunn Leisure Salver, went to Belgian Rik Hemeryk, who triumphed on Papillon Z.

Hemeryk clocked 47.75 seconds to edge out his countryman Maurice van Roosbroeck and Calumet, who were just 13 hundredths of a second behind.

Sussex-based Louise Pavitt was the highest-placed British rider, taking third spot with her recent Royal Windsor Grand Prix winner Don VHP Z.

British star John Whitaker, meanwhile, has adopted a philosophical approach after missing out on the "once in a lifetime" chance of competing at London 2012.

The 56-year-old Yorkshireman has enjoyed a glittering showjumping career, highlighted by five Olympic appearances between 1984 and 2008.

He has won 19 major championship medals - including team silver at the Los Angeles Games 28 years ago - landed Hickstead's prestigious King George V Gold Cup three times and is approaching a staggering 200 Nations Cup appearances for his country.

But Whitaker, together with his brother Michael, will not be part of the British team at Greenwich Park.

Team boss Rob Hoekstra has chosen Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Peter Charles and Scott Brash as his Olympic quartet, with Fletcher as travelling reserve.

"I realised after the Rotterdam Nations Cup last month that selection wasn't going to be a possibility," Whitaker said.

"Up until then, I felt that I had a chance.

"I am very disappointed. I've done five Olympics, but to do one in your own country is a once in a lifetime chance.

"I think we are quite lucky as showjumpers. We get more than one chance at an Olympics, whereas many sportsmen and sportswomen only get the one chance.

"I've had my share of Olympics. I am disappointed not to be at this one, but that's how it is."

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Ireland, winners of the Nations Cup yesterday, had further success in the Sky Sports Speed Classic.

Richie Moloney, who jumped two Nations Cup clear rounds, looked to have done enough for victory, but he was denied by his fellow Irishman Shane Breen.

Four seconds are added in the Classic for each fence knocked down, but Moloney and Alsvid left everything standing in a time of 75.96 seconds.

Breen, though, had other ideas and he denied Moloney at the death, steering Ominerale Courcelle to victory in a time of 73.95 as the 24th and final combination to jump.

Steven Whitaker took third place with Royal Rose, half a second behind Moloney, with France's Aymeric de Ponnat fourth.

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