"He's been jumping like a deckchair for the last three weeks, but that's because the ground's been hard," Billington said. Yesterday the nine-year- old performed like a polished show jumper, defeating Geoff Glazzard on Hello Oscar by a comfortable 3.3sec.
Billington will be riding It's Otto, the best horse in his Cheshire yard, in today's King George V Gold Cup. Also a nine-year-old (who arrived at the same time as Mancuso some three and a half years ago) he must represent Billington's best ever chance of winning this annual classic for men. "He's definitely one of the best horses in it," Billington said.
It will be the first competition for It's Otto since jumping three clear rounds to finish runner-up in the Geesteren Grand Prix last Sunday. He and Billington are lively contenders for a place on the British team in September's European Championships and a good performance here would strengthen their claims.
Shane Breen had earlier gained the third Irish victory of the meeting (and his own first ever international win) when he won the West Sands Speed Challenge on Diamond Heather. The 20-year-old rider from Cashel, Co Tipperary had ridden the mare two years ago but was only reunited with her at the beginning of this month.
"She's very kind, she does whatever you ask her," Breen said of Diamond Heather, after defeating Britain's Geoff Luckett on Everest Vantage by the tiny margin of .03sec. Robert Splaine, one of the two Irish victors here on Thursday, again achieved the fastest time but had to settle for fourth place after incurring the five-second penalty for one mistake with Blue Grass.
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