Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny – one of the most exciting partnerships in British showjumping – took centre-stage on day three at the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show.
The Leicestershire-based Nations Cup rider is a major contender for Great Britain selection in the European Championships later this summer.
Holly and Hearts Destiny were part of the British team at the World Equestrian Games in America nine months ago, which proved an important experience in their development as a combination.
And they underlined that quality by powering to victory in the Lord & Lady Equestrian four-star jump-off class, landing a £7,300 top prize.
Sixteen combinations progressed to a race against the clock, and Holly delivered a perfectly-judged round in 35.61 seconds, clipping 43 hundredths of a second off eventual runner-up Richard Howley’s time on Chinook.
Another richly-talented British rider Harriet Nuttall finished third aboard Galway Bay Jed, and fourth place went to Holland’s Patrick Lemmen on Ideaal.
Reflecting on her victory, Holly said: “I changed his bit from the first round, which was something I had been wanting to do for a while. I didn’t want to try it for the first time in the grand prix on Sunday.
“I saw Richard’s round, and he looked mega-slick and quick. But everything just seemed to go very well and tight – the horse felt like he was on tracks.
“I kept pointing him – he has got a massive stride – although I didn’t think I would be as quick as Richard.
“He is a star. He is a funny horse, a very needy horse, but his athletic ability is just something else. I always suspected he would get quicker, but not quite that quick.
“Tokyo 2020 (Olympics) is the aim with him. We want it really badly. It’s not the end of the world, we know he is a wonderful horse, we’ve had a lot of fun with him and we will have a lot more fun, but that is ultimately our aim.”