Breen finishes with a flourish to claim Grand Prix
Tipperary's Shane Breen realised a dream yesterday when winning the €350,000 Longines Grand Prix on the final day of the Stena Line Dublin Horse Show at the RDS.
The 44-year-old, who hails from Thurles and lives at the world-famous Hickstead showgrounds in Sussex, saw off three Olympic gold medallists along with some of Ireland's most promising younger stars in a seven-way jump-off to become the 28th Irish winner of the Government of Ireland Trophy that dates back to 1927.
Kilkenny's Susan Fitzpatrick (20) and Fellow Castlefield, Enniscrone's Richard Howley (27) with Chinook and London 2012 team gold medallist Ben Maher, who helped Britain to victory in Friday's Aga Khan Cup, all had a single fence down before Italy's Luca de Lorenzo, Dublin Grand Prix winner in 2016, took command when clear with Dinky Toy in 38.17 seconds.
And when World No 1 and London individual Olympic champion, Switzerland's Steve Guerdat, hit the last with Venard de Cerisy in 33.33 seconds, then it was still all to play for as Breen set off, second-last to go.
The crowd gasped when his chestnut gelding, Ipswich van de Wolfsakker, rattled the vertical three from home, but the pole stayed up for a clear in 34.91 that put him out in front.
And when last man in, his friend and neighbour Scott Brash, who was also on Friday's winning British side, was clear but fractionally slower with Hello Jefferson, it was Breen's big day.
"The one Grand Prix I've ever wanted to win is this one - it's a good as winning a medal, it means everything! My mum passed away about six years ago and it's her birthday every year during the RDS, and I think she was looking down on me today. When I jumped the third-last I had a decent rub off it but it stayed up, so I thought, 'She's looking after me, keep going, just keep going!'" said the popular showjumper considered one of Ireland's great horsemen of modern times who collected the winner's purse of €115,500.
Irish riders won eight of the 10 major international classes including Saturday's Theraplate Stakes in which Meath's Elizabeth Power (34) came out on top.
And Swiss-based Ardee man Mark McAuley (32), who added Saturday's Longines Dublin Stakes to his list of top placings throughout the week, was awarded both the National and International Leading Rider titles.