Brits Dominate The Longines FEI World Cup at Olympia
Written by Amy Bennett
In a tense and thrilling Longines FEI World Cup Leg presented by H&M at the London International Horse Show, it was a 1st and 2nd for Great Britain’s two leading riders trailing a field of top class international riders behind them.
Kelvin Bywater’s influential track was superbly designed with questions asked all around, aptly designed to punish rider error rather than encourage equine mistakes. With fences falling and faults littered throughout, not one horse had the same fence down until the twelfth rider entered the arena.
The most influential combination, a line of four fences representing jumps 7, 8a & b and 9, consisted of an upright followed by three forward strides to another vertical, one stride to an oxer and then four short strides to another airy upright. The imposing duo of fences contributed to the vast majority of those that fell by the wayside in round one. Eventually, out of a field of 35-strong riders, only 13 jumped clear earning themselves a well deserved spot in the second round; for a chance of the rather staggering €155,000 prize pot.
Notable omissions from the second round were not only well respected, but world class riders!. British Stalwart William Funnell suffered from being the first in the arena with three fences down and compatriot Michael Whitaker on board his championship mount Viking had two simple verticals down to score 8 faults. Kevin Staut, part of the French gold medal winning show jumping team in Rio, struggled with the distances between the final combination of Longines fences at 13 which witnessed a turn away at the B element which cost him greatly in time penalties, he finished on 17 faults in total.
Also included in the list of those to falter was 2012 Olympic champion Steve Geurdat riding the occasionally temperamental Bianca. The mare left a back leg over the vertical World Cup fence, striking them from the second round, equally Britain’s speed queen, Laura Renwick, was just as unfortunate riding a strong looking Van de Vivaldi, meaning they had fences 6 and 7 down, which were set as a non related distance.
The 13 riders through to the jump off represented an array of nations – Sweden, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Great Britain, USA and Belgium. Of those to make it to the second round, only five were to post double clears and 12 received placings. John Whitaker gave the slowest clear on the talented and scopey Ornellaia, who isn’t the most naturally fast mare, but nonetheless he was one of three riders to stop the clock on 39 seconds in fifth place. Laura Kraut took fourth spot, with a mere 0.07 second separating her and John.
Nicola Philippaerts, galloped H&M Harley vd Bisschop through the final sensor to stop the clock at 39.07 seconds. Nicola was still thrilled to be sat in third at the end of the class, “It’s fantastic to be third here after these two big riders, my horse jumped very well and it was a good result for me.”
Ben Maher lead for most of the jump off with a scorching round on Diva II, cutting the tightest of lines and galloping at the final oxer to stop the clock on a score of 38.85 that looked unbeatable, until the former world number one Scott Brash entered the arena. “Scot did and incredible job today, I just don’t think I could have done any more to beat him, I was pleased with her performance when I came out whether I finished second or sixth, she gave me everything and it’s just nice to have that horse back in form again,” Ben said of the 11 year old chestnut mare, who clearly has even more to give.
Riding Hello M’lady, who has just recently returned from injury, Brash didn’t take the shortest of lines but kept up his blistering pace over the remaining 9 fences in the jump off and stopped the clock just a tenth of a second ahead of Ben, with a time of 38.73 . “She’s quite a sharp mare, very sensitive and she’s really intelligent. She loves going fast but I have contain that a little bit, she’s just an exceptional horse,” he said of the mare who has just recovered from a bone injury to a foreleg. “It wasn’t serious but she just needed the time to heal, and she seems to have come back stronger than ever.”
With the top spot earning €38,750, it wasn’t a bad days’ work for Brash – one could almost calculate it as €1000 for every second of the jump off! But the better educated amongst us know that it takes years of graft and dedication to be this great a sportsman, and to get the best out of a number of incredible horses, rather than being a one trick pony “I’m in a very fortunate position where I have a strong team now, [Hello] Sanctos is also coming back from injury,” he said of his enviable string of rides owned by Lord & Lady Harris and Lord & Lady Kirkham.
So it seems certain for the foreseeable future that Brash, the showjumping machine, will remain a formidable force and the one to beat, for some time to come. Although disappointing for his competitors, it is music to the ears of his scores of fans that cheer the house down every time this simply phenomenal rider enters the arena.