Piergiorgio Bucci impressive in Liverpool
Italian Piergiorgio Bucci resisted a strong British and Irish challenge to claim an impressive victory at the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show on Saturday.
Bucci, riding his Nations Cup campaigner Casallo Z, won a thrilling 1.45-metre against the clock class.
And in doing so, he thwarted the likes of Essex-based Laura Renwick and Ireland's Billy Twomey in the race for a £6,000 top prize.
A capacity 6,000 Liverpool Echo Arena crowd saw Bucci cut more than a second off Renwick's time after she led for much of the action aboard Heliodor Hybris, while Twomey also went close with Tin Tin.
But Renwick and Twomey ultimately had to settle for second and third places, respectively, as Bucci clocked 46.44 seconds.
Three other combinations - Nicole Pavitt (Victor Blue), John Whitaker (Lord of Arabia) and Johnny Pals (Urjul van Generhese) - each posted a quicker time than Bucci, but not without knocking a fence down.
And the class, which was as much a test of jumping strength as speed across the ground, saw highly-fancied British hope Guy Williams part company with Golddigger and Italy's recent London Olympia World Cup winner Emanuele Gaudiano fall from Cocoshynsky.
"It was a tough class," Bucci said.
"Normally, he is my grand prix horse. He has jumped many clear rounds, but it was good for my horse to have the turns to do today. I am very pleased.
"He has been a bit stiff to turn sometimes, which is why I am wanted to try him a little bit in this class, and once again he showed how careful he is."
There was British success in the day's final event - a 1.50 metre jump-off class - as 2013 European team gold medal-winning combination William Funnell and Billy Congo triumphed in convincing fashion.
The 15-year-old stallion helped Great Britain to European glory in Denmark, and the partnership with Surrey-based Funnell again flourished.
Twelve combinations made the jump-off, but it was Funnell who prevailed in a time of 35.28 seconds, with London 2012 British team gold medallist Peter Charles second aboard Dauphin and Ireland's Dermott Lennon third on Fleur IV.
The hard luck story of the night, though, belonged to Lennon's Irish colleague Billy Twomey, who was almost a second quicker than Funnell with Diaghilev, only to knock the last fence down.