Equestrianism: Suntory gives Coupe sweet victory: Genevieve Murphy reports from Wembley Arena

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NIGEL COUPE gained a split-second victory over Marie Edgar on Everest Surething when he rode TWT Suntory to win the Middlewood Under-21 Championship at the Horse of the Year Show here yesterday.

Coupe's victory was made even sweeter because his right leg, broken by a kick from a rider's horse in March, is coming back to full strength. When he rode for Britain's winning Young Riders European Championship team in June, Coupe was more aware of the muscle weakness that came from seven weeks confined to his bed.

Andrew Davies, the 18-year-old Cardingan rider who was the individual silver medallist at this year's Junior European Championships, won the earlier Chaigley Young Riders Championship on Miniature Quickstep.

Last of three to jump-off in this contest for riders aged 18 and under, Davies knew a slow, clear round would be enough to win. He took his time and his partner, a six-year-old mare who is marginally over 15 hands, duly obliged.

Gillian Davies, Andrew's mother and trainer, came to see their son defeat his regular rival (and another likely star of the future), Guy Goosen on Electrik II. The stylish Goosen, who was also on the Junior European squad, had four faults in the fastest time.

Davies has become a regular competitor at Wembley (he won two junior classes here in 1990) whereas Avie Irwin was fulfilling a long-cherished dream to compete here when she rode Bitteswell Factlight to win the BEIB British Novice Championship.

The longevity of that particular dream was highlighted by her family supporters, in particular her six-month-old grandson who was in the stands with his mother. Jim Irwin, Avie's husband was also here; so was their daughter, Amanda, who had hoped to qualify for this contest.

First to go in a six-horse jump-off, Irwin had a swift clear round on the mare who was found in Ireland by her husband and given to her last Christmas. 'I watched five of the others, first sitting then standing, but when the last one went in I cupped my face in my hands unable to watch any more.'

HORSE OF THE YEAR SHOW (Wembley Arena): Chaigley Horseboxes Young Riders Championship: 1 Miniature Quickstep (A Davies) clear, 39.44sec; 2 Electrik II (G Goosen) 4 faults, 34.58; 3 Silver Cinder (R Ockendon-Day) 4 faults, 35.03. BEIB British Novice Championship: 1 Bitteswell Factlight (A Irwin) clear, 28.32; 2 In With a Chance (K Harrison) clear, 29.39; 3 Fulshaw Carbon Copy (G Hudson) clear, 31.12. BEIB British Junior Novice Championship: 1 Just Rambler (H Saffell) clear, 31.33; 2 Silver Bubbles (T Henderson) 8 faults, 30.14. Middlewood Horseboxes Under-21 Championship: 1 TWT Suntory (N Coupe) clear, 26.46; 2 Everest Surething (M Edgar) clear, 27.35; 3 Sarco (V Douglas) clear, 33.66. National Grade A Championship (first leg): 1 Party Time (D Inglis) clear, 33.04; 2 Don Shang Digby (R Barton) clear, 33.73; 3 Slipstream (K Brown) 4 faults, 30.32. Children's Riding Pony Championship: Drayton Penny Royal (J Woods); Reserve: Cusop Dalton (A Alexander). Cob Championship: Superted (R Oliver); Reserve: Kilkenny Marble (S Rawding).

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