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[West Berkshire, United Kingdom] – An exceptional field of starters, including three Olympic gold medalists, set out to claim this year’s Alltech Grand Prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show to the delight of spectators in the packed grandstands. And, after a thrilling jump-off with plenty of nail-biting moments, Ireland’s Shane Breen snatched victory from Britain’s Peter Charles in the final shake up.
The course designed by Bob Ellis, who had been responsible for the tracks at the London 2012 Games, generated 17 clears from the field of 39 starters. “I think Bob had been quiet lenient with the height of the fences on the first half of the course,” said Breen. “I think he perhaps he thought his last line of fences might catch a few more out than it did.”
The first real attack at taking the title came from British gold medalist Peter Charles riding Murka’s Odie de Frevent. He galloped the length of the arena in front of the stunning backdrop of Windsor Castle and the crowd gasped and roared with delight as he cleared the final fence to take pole position.
Ten more riders followed him, but as the final fence fell again and again when rivals tried to better his time, it looked as though he may have done enough. That was until it was Breen’s turn with Breen Equestrian’s stallion Balloon. As the penultimate rider, the Hickstead-based Irish team rider opted for a different tactic; gaining more time on the first half of the course rather than the second, as others had. It paid off and he went into the lead by 0.53 seconds to more rapturous praise from the crowd. Only the United State’s Lauren Hough remained to tackle the course, but despite a determined effort she was just adrift, settling for third place with Tackeray.
“It was a tough jump off; as big as any four- or five-star international grand prix,” said Breen, who last won the Alltech Grand Prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2010 with Carmena Z. “But with the field of riders, what else could you expect? It wasn’t just top riders either; it was top riders with their top horses. It was a really good class and that it is sponsored by Alltech, who are such great supporters of equestrian sport.”