October 11, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Thistledown_E.S.Photography.JPGFormer World champion Philippe Le Jeune celebrated 30 years of competing at Horse of the Year Show by winning the Thistledown Stakes after a thrilling battle with Great Britain star John Whitaker.

Philippe, who is based near Brussels, struck exactly the right note on his 12-year-old stallion Loro Piana Once De Kreisker to claim victory 30 years on from his first HOYS appearance, when the show was staged at Wembley.

And a bumper crowd at Birmingham's LG Arena gave the 2010 World Champion a rousing reception after his big-striding challenger conquered the jump-off track in just under 40 seconds.

John, though, continued his outstanding run of form this week by finishing second on Uni Stop, while Sweden's Angelie von Essen was third aboard Catinka.

"Winning an internatonal class is always a good feeling," said the 54-year-old Belgian rider, who won World individual gold in Kentucky four years ago.

"I always love to come to England. There is a fantastic public and the crowd here is unbelievable every day and every night.

"The horse came to me three years ago from a French rider, and he was difficult to ride at the start. He was very honest with a lot of scope, but the rideability was quite terrible, so I spent nearly a year to settle him down."

In the day's national classes, Faye Adams produced the winning finale she desired after taking the Squibb Group Pony Foxhunter Championship on Rainbows Mocha.

It is 16-year-old Faye's last year on ponies before switching to horses, and the West Midlands-based Great Britain pony international rider triumphed following an incident packed jump-off that saw two refusals, a fall and the top two riders separated by just 56 hundredths of a second.

Faye, who lives in Halesowen, did just enough to beat Shropshire challenger Olivia Poole on Nelly Kid, while third place went to Lincolnshire's Leonie Aitkenhead aboard Gregory 55, and it followed her runners-up finish in the Blue Chip Pony Newcomers Championship on Wednesday.

"It is an amazing experience to win here," Faye said.

"Coming second on Wednesday gave me a lot of confidence. We had been around in the arena, and I know she jumps her heart out every time. She is so brave, and has got everything that you need as a show jumper."

The Charles family show jumping dynasty, meanwhile, enjoyed a golden glow as 12-year-old Sienna Charles retained her 128cm Championship title, becoming the first rider to do so.

Sienna's father and London 2012 Great Britain team gold medallist Peter proudly looked on as Sienna shone with an outstanding performance on the 22-year-old chestnut mare pony Murka's Flinor Songbird.

Leading from the front, Sienna became the first rider to win the 128cm Championship twice, following her victory last year on Murka’s Mathew’s Girl and those of brother Harry in 2011 (Murka’s Headmore Little Lightning) and sister Scarlett (MUrka’s Mathew’s Girl) 12 months later.

A jump-off time of 37.10 seconds proved more than two seconds quicker than runner-up Katie Clarke, riding Show Me Heaven, while Flo Norris finished third aboard Snap Water Jack.

"I am overwhelmed," said Sienna, who lives in the Hampshire village of Bentworth, near Alton, and had two other ponies in the competition - Murka's Mathew's Girl (the 2012 and 2013 winner) and 2011 champion Murka's Headmore Little Lightning.

Peter, meanwhile, has no doubt where the feat of all three children winning the same HOYS crown ranks.

"She is only a little girl, and to go in and deliver the goods and win for a fourth time is phenomenal," he said.

"That feat will never be achieved here again in this division. What she has done is incredible. To me, that is the best achievement I have ever seen at this show."

And Preston rider Drew Walton set a pace no-one could match as she landed the 138cm Championship with My Bugsy Malone.

Drew, 13, was first to go of eight combinations in the jump-off, and a time of 34.71 seconds proved enough for the title as she improved on her third-place finish in the same class last year. It was her fifth HOYS appearance.

Audio link to interview with Philippe Le Jeaune, winner of the Thistledown Stakes International Show Jumping title



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