October 12, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Speed_Horse_of_the_Year.JPGIrish star Billy Twomey won a thrilling Vinopolis Speed Horse of the Year title with Ardcolum Duke at Birmingham's LG Arena to be crowned Champion for a second time in nine years.

It has been a good week at Horse of the Year Show for Nottinghamshire-based Billy, who also landed the Suregrow Five Fence Challenge aboard Royale Du Rouet on Friday.

But the speed title and its £3,300 prize was only collected following a thrilling battle with in-form British star John Whitaker, whose time on Lord of Arabia was just 89 hundredths of a second slower than Billy's time of 44.70 seconds.

Britain's Chloe Aston was third with Amigo T, with Julie Andrews (Wilando B) finished fourth and Nicole Pavitt (Victor Blue) fifth.

"He has had results at grand prix level, and he is dead competitive and really careful. He was super today," said Billy, whose previous speed horse of the year win had been with Intermission in 2005.

"It is always a bit nerve-wracking. You hope you can hang on to the lead to the end, and luckily I did today. He deserved it the way he performed.

"He was smooth everywhere, it didn't take a whole lot out of him. There is a bit left in the tank for another day.

"But there was no room for error.

"There wasn't much difference between our times - maybe one less stride from fences six to seven, which maybe shaved a few hundredths off - but at this level against riders like that you never win by two-second margins, it would always be by hundredths.

"If I am honest, he (Ardcolum Duke) lost his way a little bit for a couple of months - I don't know if he lost his confidence a fraction - but he seems to have got it back now and he is back to winning ways." 

Emma Jo Slater produced a dominant performance with Lizziemary to claim her debut Horse of the Year Show win in the Speedi-Beet HOYS Grade C Championship.

Emma Jo, from Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, delivered a blistering jump-off display aboard the eight-year-old chestnut mare, clocking 35.82 seconds to take a prestigious class that lists riders like Billy Twomey, Tim Stockdale, Tina Fletcher and Will Funnell among its previous winners.

Gloucestershire rider Jay Halim, who reached the final round of Saturday night's pulsating Tagg Puissance, was second on Abrisco, while Emma Slater and Art D'Usance took third.

"She is quite fast, but also careful, which makes it easier. She helps me out a lot," said Emma Jo, in tribute to Lizziemary.

"It means a lot. I have always wanted to win here, and never quite managed it, but now I have and I am really proud."

And the Charles family had more cause to celebrate as 15-year-old Harry Charles was crowned Leading Pony Showjumper of the Year with Scoubidou IV.

A jump-off of spectacular proportions saw the top six riders separated by just 1.52 seconds, but it was Hampshire-based Harry who was quickest, clocking 33.35 seconds.

It was enough to nudge Jodie Hall-McAteer and the former Jessica Mendoza-ridden Tixylix into second, with Charlotte Ash (Aughnashammer) third, Faye Adams (Some Like It Hot) fourth, Alex Gill (Amman Valley Santino) fifth and Harry sixth on his other ride Aroldo.

Harry's victory came just 24 hours after his 12-year-old sister Sienna won the 128cms Championship - and 24 hours before he sits a mock GCSE physics exam!

And like on Saturday, father Peter, who jumped the round that clinched team show jumping gold for Great Britain at London 2012, watched proudly from the sidelines.

"It was great," said Harry, who lives in the village of Bentworth, near Alton.

"I didn't know the pony could go that fast, but dad encouraged me that the pony could do it, and we managed to go quickly enough.

"The lap of honour here is always so special. You just enjoy the moment, and it has been a really good few days."

Such is the quality of the Charles equine string - Harry's younger sister Scarlett finished eighth on Razorlite II, while Harry also finished sixth with another ride, Aroldo - that of seven ponies they had competing at HOYS this week, not one had a fence down.

"It couldn't have gone better," Peter said.

"We've had seven ponies here this week and we've not had a fence down, so everyone has done their job, and Harry will be the first to tell you that he has a great team behind him.

"That, today, was one of the most competitive jump-offs I have ever seen."

Audio link to Emma Jo Slater - Winner of the Speedi-Beet HOYS Grade C Show Jumping Championship

Audio link to Harry Charles - Winner of the Leading Pony Show Jumper of the Year



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