Just when everyone thought world show jumping icon John Whitaker had the 2016 Longines Speed Challenge all sewn up Irish young gun Betram Allen came along and stole the show right in the dying minutes of the competition.
The seventh rider out in the field of 21, Whitaker was faultless in a very fast time of 58.64 sec and remained seated in the number one chair on the winner’s podium for a long time until Allen, the last rider in the arena, bumped him out of the prized seat.
Aboard Quiet Easy 4, his winning mount in the HKJC Trophy last night, Allen showed his customary speed and agility to record a time of 58.03 sec and just pip his hero Whitaker.
It was Allen’s second consecutive Longines Speed Challenge win. He also won the class at the 2015 Longines Masters of Los Angeles in September. His time on that occasion was 58.91sec which until tonight was the fastest recorded for this class during the 2015/2016 Longines Masters Series.
Allen said the winning move that ensured him victory over his childhood hero was early in the round.
“I was able to go very fast between the first and second fences and I think that is where I managed to win it,” Allen said.
Tonight’s win makes Allen the most dominant rider of the Longines Masters of Hong Kong so far after two days of competition.
“My luck recently has not been very good but I knew that it had to change soon and it has thankfully.”
“It is a dream come true to win this event and to have been able to beat John who is such a legend,” he said.
Earlier today Allen and Whitaker finished one three in the Airbus Trophy but on that occasion it was Whitaker who came out on top.
Of his young rival Whitaker joked;
“He seems to be winning everything at the moment, I wish he would go away.”
Pius Schwizer (60.33sec) finished third in tonight’s Longines Speed Challenge. Patrice Delaveau from France was fourth (60.46 sec) and Maikel van der Vleuten was fifth (60.73).
Whilst she might not have finished in the final placings, local rider Jacqueline Lai created her own history tonight by riding clear in the Longines Speed Challenge. Competing at her first CSI 5 * event Lai rode a perfect round. It’s the first time a Hong Kong rider has ever gone clear in a major class at this world class event since its inception four years ago.
Her encouraging effort did not go unnoticed by the local crowd that let out proud cheers as she left the arena.