Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr made a winning return to the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show as Saturday’s action produced a thrilling speed class in the International Arena.
The 1.45-metre competition, sponsored by Voltaire Design, saw the top four combinations separated by just 44 hundredths of a second with Francois claiming a top prize of £7,100.
Great Britain Nations Cup rider Robert Smith set a scorching early pace, clocking 54.86 seconds aboard his consistent campaigner Ilton, and it proved beyond all other combinations until Francois arrived on Casanova de L’Herse.
And an impressive display of pace and precision saw them post a time of 54.69 to take a lead they never lost despite Irish star Billy Twomey and Ardcolum Duke threatening it on 54.89, while Graham Gillespie and Calvaro’s Up To Date finished fourth.
“I am very happy,” Francois said. “The horse jumped great and I was lucky enough to be quicker than the others.
“The horse has been winning a lot, and is very competitive. I was quite tight in the beginning of the course, and you know you can always be quicker.
“It was not a course where you would really open up your horse. You could make time in the turns, not so much in the long gallops, and a very nice course.
“I love this show. It is the third year in a row I’ve been here. The horse today was fourth in the grand prix last year, so he likes it here too.
“There is a special atmosphere here. It is such a special place.”