Vintage Christmas Showjumping at Olympia

Following the success of the dressage at the London International Horse Show on Monday and Tuesday of last week, the rest of the week was given over to the showjumping and driving and we focus on the show jumping element.  The main class, as always at this show is the qualifier for the World Cup Finals. In 2020 the finals both for dressage and showjumping will be held in April in Las Vegas.

Porche Cayenne Puissance

Audience captivated at Olympia

The first major class of the week for the showjumpers was the Porche Cayenne Puissance. This is always a crowd pleaser, and it takes a particular type of horse to be able to handle the wall, which can go up wards of 2.4 meters or in old money 7 feet. This year there were eleven riders who came forward which for this class was quite a decent number.  There are five rounds allowed and with no time limit, any jump knocked down in the first round means elimination from the competition. In the following rounds, only the wall counts and the wall is raised by increments of about 10 centimetres (4 inches) for each extra round completed. There can be no more than five rounds in the whole class. As the wall is so big and imposing both to horse and rider, the trick for the rider is to be able to set up the jump and aim to take off in exactly the right spot to achieve a successful negotiation of the obstacle. Most riders take a serious pull and slow to a very slow canter as they turn towards the jump and then speed up to get the propulsion necessary, some even come to a complete standstill before making their approach. However, this is a competition which is adrenaline driven for the horses as well as the riders, and sometimes the horse ‘looses’ it and does its own thing which usually ends in failure. The calmer the horse, the better which is why so many horses are so unsuited to the puissance. Of the eleven riders, in the first round three had poles down, although sadly for them they all cleared the wall!  In the second round, we lost Robert Whitaker, normally such a force in any puissance and in the third we lost another two riders, Emanuele Gaudiano from Italy (retired) and Katrina Hovland from Norway. In round four, where the wall was at a height of 7 foot, two more succumbed, Alfie Bradstock from Great Britain, another officianardo of puissance and Nano Healey from Ireland. This left three for the final round when the wall was put up to 7 feet 4 inches. The first was Guy Williams riding Mr Blue Sky UK who didn’t manage the wall.

William Whitaker Joint Winner

The other two managed a final clear round giving them the shared top spot earning 13,000 euros each. The first winner was Michael Pender from Ireland riding his Hickstead Derby winner Hearton Du Bois Halleux, the first time that anyone has ever taken the Hickstead Derby/ Olympia Puissance double; and the second winner was William Whitaker from GB riding each round in absolute text book style on RMF Charly.

Christmas Cracker Stakes

Darragh Kenny. (IRE) Winner

The second of the big international classes we look at is the Longines Christmas Cracker Stakes, a two round competition with the highest fence almost up to the top level allowed of 1.55 meters. This was a 12 fence contest with 16 jumping efforts required with an original time allowed of 60 seconds. However, the judges decided before the first one went, that the time allowed would be increased to 62 seconds. After only three runners, the judges then decided that they had been too generous with the time and cut the time to 61  seconds. This had a huge impact on the final outcome of the class as four riders ended jumping clear in the first round, but with 1 time penalty. There were 26 starters to take on the Irishman’s Alan Wade’s designed course. Of those, eight cleared the first round and went onto the jump off.

Bart Bless (NED)

Perhaps, Michael Jung, now show jumping as efficiently as he does eventing, William Funnell, and two riders from Belgium, Wilm Vermier and Olivier Philippaerts could all feel slightly aggrieved as they all collected one time fault following the final time change decision from the judges. Of the eight first clear rounds, four of them went clear in the jump off. The winner was the Geneva based Darragh Kenny riding Classic Dream for Ireland. In an un-beatable time of 30.82 seconds he took strides out and cut corners better than anyone leaving Holland’s Bart Bles in second with 31.99 seconds riding Gin D. In third was Great Britain’s William Whitaker riding RMF Echo in 33.13 seconds. The other double clear was Max Kuhner from Austria.

Eighth Leg of World Cup

This is the big one – the 5 star World Cup qualifier, also sponsored by Longines. As usual for Olympia, the class was packed with the world’s top riders and horses. This class attracts the biggest field of international riders of any which take place in the UK in the year, so could be considered the most prestigious show jumping class to win in the UK. The series in London was first run in 1979 and he been won by the very best showjumpers in the world since that time. The most prolific winner was Robert Smith who won three times on three different horses in 1996, 2002 and 2005. This year saw 15 riders from different nations taking part including the world numbers one and two from Switzerland, Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs.

Holly Smith (GBR)
Marcus Ehning (GER)

In fact the start list read rather like the 2019 whose who of the world of showjumping. The course was designed by Alan Wade from Ireland with Great Britain’s Bob Ellis. There were 12 jumps set in the small arena making a twisty course with 18 big jumping efforts required. The time allowed was 64 seconds over the 360 meter course. Thirty seven set off in the first round and four retired with their horses not performing as they might, particularly Laura Renwick’s Top Dollar VI who decided not to play today. This horse must be so frustrating, either he jumps like a stag or simply does nothing and Laura has no way of knowing before entering the arena which mood Top Dollar is in!! The first round saw only six clears. Holly Smith from GB, in her first ever World Cup class was the first, riding Heart’s Destiny, a horse on which she has achieved so much this year. Scott Brash was the only other from GB to get a clear with Hello Jefferson. The other clears came from Martin Fuchs, now clearly biting at the heels of fellow Swiss Steve Guerdat.

Max Kuhner (Austria)
Neils Burynseels (BEL)

The other three clears came from Max Kuhner, Niels Bruynseels and Marcus Ehning from  Austria, Belgium and Germany respectively. World leader Steve Guerdat had one fence down as did favourite Darragh Kenny and Ben Maher. Laura Kraut from the USA was just out of the jump off with only one time fault. She was the only rider to have a clear but fall foul of the time allowed. In the jump off, Holly Smith was first to go over the shortened course and in trying to set a quick time for the others to follow had two fences down. Both Scott Brash and Marcus Ehning has a fence down a piece, but the top three all had clear rounds.

Martin Fuchs
Winning Circuit at Olympia

Martin Fuchs was the first of the trio of clears to go and he set a blistering time of 31.99 riding The Sinner. This time was never looking likely to be bettered, so he ended as the winner. This was the second World Cup qualifier Martin has won this season, the first at Lyon in France in October. He could easily take the world number one spot after the new year as he is now only a few points behind Steve Guerdat. Second in the final line up was

Winner Martin Fuchs

Max Kuhner from Austria riding the 8 year old gelding Elektric Blue P in 33.83 seconds and third was the Belgian rider Neils Bruynseels riding the 10 year old gelding Delux van T & L in 34.64 seconds. The win put Martin Fuchs in 4th position with 44 points in the qualifying series. Still in the lead after eight rounds is Peiter Devos from Belgium on 55 points. This year, another record was achieved in that it was the first time that both a father and then a son won. Martin Fuchs’ father, Markus, won this event in 1990.

Grand Prix – The Final Class at Olympia

James Wilson (GBR) His first Olympia

Finally, like all major shows, one of the final classes of the show is the Grand Prix, this one sponsored by Turkish Airlines. In this class, again designed by Alan Wade and Bob Ellis there were 13 jumps with 16 jumping efforts. There were 31 starters for this 125,000 euro prize pot. The fences were a similar height to the world cup course but was not so twisty and flowed far better, making it kinder to both horse and rider. Of the 31 starters, seven went clear and went onto the jump off. Laura Kraut had the agony of once again (like the world cup), getting one fault for time. Such a shame. In the jump off, both Holly Smith riding Heart’s Destiny and James Wilson on Imagine de Muze appearing in their first Olympia, both had double clears. They ended up standing in third and fourth places respectively.

Scott Brash (GBR)

Other double clears were from William Whitaker GB and Markus Brinkmann from Germany. Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander riding Identity Vitseroel was unlucky not to win with a superb jump off round in 35.05 seconds – normally good enough to win, but Scott Brash riding the beautiful horse Hello Vincent took the honours in a very fast time of 34.23 seconds.

Just a final point. The London International Show at Olympia would not be anything like the same without the special finale sponsored by the London Hilton Hotel where dancers serenade Father Christmas who turns up in horse driven sleigh. Happy Christmas.

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