Teenager steals the show at the All England Jumping Championships

Teenager Michael Duffy enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon at the All England Jumping Championships at Hickstead, winning the Grand Prix as well as finishing third and sixth in the same class. 


Clear rounds were incredibly hard to come by in the £9,000 All England Grand Prix. Bob Ellis's clever track caught out plenty of experienced riders, and the 18ft water jump in particular caused a number of problems. In the end, only nine horses jumped clear - and remarkably three of those clears came from 18-year-old Michael Duffy.

Nicole Pavitt was first to go in the jump-off, posting a typically speedy clear on Victor Blue in 45.94sec. Michael's first ride Widny also went clear, but finished more than 1.4sec in arrears of Nicole. A couple of slower clears followed by David McPherson (Eckham van het Steent Je) and David Simpson (Hermoine IV), until Michael returned on his second ride, Westland Ruby, and finished almost a second faster than Nicole to take the lead.

With four-faults costing Ronnie Healy (Carlow Cruiser) and David McPherson (with second ride Undicci) their chances, Michael Duffy returned for a third time with Zarnita, clocking up a steady clear to add sixth place to his impressive tally.

"She's only 15.3hh and like a overgrown pony, but she has the heart of a lion," said Michael, who hails from Galway. "This is the second year I've had her and she's not new to jumping at this level. I know her inside out, whereas the other two I've not been riding for long," he added.

The young Irishman is from true showjumping stock - his father Paul jumped at Hickstead on the Irish Nations Cup team 27 years ago. Michael was a European Silver medallist on ponies, and was the Irish National Champion in 2012, before spending the winter working for Olympic bronze medallist Cian O'Connor.

Michael has recently moved to West Sussex to be based with Shane Breen at Hickstead. "I've been here a month, as I came home with Shane in the horsebox after Dublin," he explained.

Another talented young rider and a compact mare won today's opening class, the Selwood Equine All England Novice Championship. Felix McCartney partnered Clare Inglis' Renkum Dorenda to finish just a few fractions of a second ahead of Renkum Aristocat and Amy Luke.

"I've had the ride on Renkum Dorenda for a couple of months, as I'm producing her for Amy Inglis to ride in future," said Felix, who is based at the Kington Langley Stud in Wiltshire. "She's only 15hh but she has so much scope. She really tries and is so careful."

Hickstead regular Leesa Long, who is based in Brighton, won the All England 1.20m Open Championship for the second year in a row with Saber.

"Last year I was riding him for someone else, but I bought him after winning here last year," said Leesa. "He's not my usual type of horse, as he's big and long-striding and I prefer the little bouncy ones, but he won me over. He really loves this arena as I can really open him up in here."

Nicole Pavitt and Amaryllis van de Heffink crowned off their Hickstead season in style, with a win in the final class of the show, the All England 1.30m Open Championships. This was Nicole's eighth win this season but her first at the All England Jumping Championships, after a bout of 'seconditis' all week.

Amaryllis van de Heffink was also a winner at the Derby meeting, taking the spoils in the Camardo Coffee 1.35m Open Championship back in June.

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