American Beezie Madden made history at Hickstead after a thrilling climax to the Longines King George V Gold Cup.
Madden, who underwent surgery to her collarbone less than three months ago following a competition fall, became the first female winner of British showjumping’s most prestigious class that was first staged in 1911.
Women riders were not allowed to enter the Gold Cup until six years ago, and Madden now follows an illustrious list of King George champions alongside household names like David Broome, Harvey Smith, Nick Skelton and Paul Schockemohle.
Last to go in a 14 horse jump-off, former world No 1 Madden – she was a star performer during America’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup triumph at Hickstead three days ago – guided Cortes C home to a thrilling victory that secured the first prize of more than £50,000.
Their time of 46.01 seconds denied gifted Irish teenager Bertram Allen a famous win after the 19-year-old set a scorching pace on Romanov, clocking 47.09.
Wexford-born Allen, who is only three years older than a horse that used to be ridden by his fellow Irish international showjumper Billy Twomey, looked to have done enough after he tamed a testing jump-off track.
But 50-year-old Madden had other ideas as Cortes C backed up his Nations Cup display with another world-class performance.
Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Pot Blue took third on 47.91, with Australian James Paterson-Robinson (Boris III) fourth and Ireland’s Shane Breen (Golden Hawk) fifth.
Yorkshire’s Michael Whitaker, a four-time King George winner, was the highest placed British rider in seventh spot with Amai, while Robert Whitaker finished 13th aboard Catwalk IV.
“It has been a fantastic week,” Madden said. “We love coming here, and it has gone really well for us.
“We were all kind of jealous that we couldn’t get to do this class (until 2008), so it is great to win it. I can’t believe the horse has done what he has done this week. He really pulled through. He rose to the occasion.
“I have been watching Bertram win classes, and I know how fast he can go, but my horse has a huge stride and he covers the ground so quickly.”
Allen, who celebrated his 19th birthday only two days ago, served further emphatic notice of a remarkable talent by threatening to take the Longines Royal International Show’s headline class.
He appeared totally unfazed by the riding company around him, and he ended the day with a cheque for £32,000.
“I don’t get so nervous,” said Allen, who is based in Germany. “It is great to be able to go into these big arenas. It’s really special.”
More than quarter of a 49-strong field jumped clear in round one, but only six combinations repeated that feat during a jump-off that was led by Paterson-Robinson until the last three riders all beat his time.
Allen had success earlier in the day when he won the Royal International Accumulator, a class where riders collect points for each fence jumped.
Seven combinations finished on the maximum score of 65 points, but Allen’s time of 59.93 seconds with Wrangler II edged out John Whitaker (Lord of Arabia) and Holland’s Jan van der Schans (Labors Wonderboy).