Show Jumping: Irishman Richard Howley keeps Cock O'The North Championship in Yorkshire

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IRISHMAN Richard Howley toasted an emotional victory at a “home away from home” after thrilling the crowds to keep the Cock O’The North Championship in Yorkshire.

Sligo-born Howley moved to England when he was 17 to be based with Olympian Yorkshireman Michael Whitaker in Nottingham before setting up his own yard in Wetherby with fiancee Morgan Kent three years later.

SCENES: As Wetherby-based Irishman Richard Howley takes the Cock O'The North Championship on Chinook. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

SCENES: As Wetherby-based Irishman Richard Howley takes the Cock O'The North Championship on Chinook. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Seven years on, 27-year-old Howley landed one of his biggest victories yet at the 2019 Great Yorkshire Show, strongly advertising his claims for selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by winning the week’s show jumping feature the Cock O’The North Championship in thrilling circumstances on Chinook.

Howley was the last rider to go as part of a second jump off that featured nine that appeared to have set 63-year-old Yorkshireman John Whitaker up for a seventh title in the Cock O’The North.

Chasing James Wilson’s time of 53.31 seconds Imagine de Muze, Whitaker stormed around on Unick du Francport to massive cheers from a huge crowd, only to see the clock stop fractionally too slow at 53.4 seconds.

Whitaker was facing the prospect of being denied by less than a tenth of a second yet Howley saved the best for last by racing clear in just 49.22 seconds on Chinook.

The round was greeted by wild celebrations - with John Whitaker’s nephews James and Joe Whitaker among those showing their jubilation as one of the most prestigious show jumping classes in the country and £8,000 first prize ultimately stayed in Yorkshire.

“It was an absolute solid buzz,” said Howley. “It’s why we do it. I moved here seven years ago and it’s a home away from home now. It’s an absolute pleasure to win in front of the home crowd.”
Better still, Howley and his fiance Kent were then facing only a 20-minute drive home to Wetherby with drinks then expected to be flowing into the night.

"It's 20 minutes home depending on the traffic!" laughed Howley.

"My mum and dad are here and Morgan's family.

"Everyone is very supportive of us so I am sure we will go for a nice meal somewhere and have maybe a bottle of champagne to celebrate!"