Olympia, The London International Horse Show
Olympia is the only UK Show to host all three FEI World CupTM Qualifiers in Dressage, Show Jumping and Driving. Each performance includes an equestrian competition along with a variety of displays from around the World.
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Timetable of Events
- FEI World CupTM Dressage Grand Prix supported by Horse & Hound
- International Displays
- FEI World CupTM Dressage Freestyle to Music supported by Horse & Hound
- International Displays
- FEI World CupTM Driving Leg
- Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund
- Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping presented by H&M
- The H&M Mistletoe Mini Stakes
- The BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship
- Six Bar
- The Olympia Grand Prix
The final day of Olympia, The London International Horse Show, saw Daniel Deusser, an Olympic bronze medallist in Rio, win The Olympia Grand Prix in a nail-biting final against some of the world's best Show Jumpers.
Earlier in the afternoon, the sell-out crowd watched over as Darragh Kenny cruised to the top of the leader board in the Holly Speed Stakes, supported by Olympia. Jodie Hall McAteer took control in a lightning round in the Mince Pie Stakes, and Britain's Leading lady rider Laura Renwick shared the Six Bar title with Geir Gulliksen.
FINAL DAY SAW ACTION PACKED WORLD-CLASS SHOW JUMPING
Daniel Deusser (GER) capitalised on a late draw to win the Olympia Grand Prix in splendid style, Longines FEI World Cup™ hero Scott Brash (GBR) finished third and Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE) hung onto the top spot in the H&M Leading Rider of the Show rankings at the culmination of a week’s thrilling equestrian sport at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
The Grand Prix, the final class of the show, attracted a high-class field but only six riders managed to go clear over another brilliantly executed Kelvin Bywater track.
Olympic gold medallist Laura Kraut (USA), first to go in the jump-off, was nearly jumped off Cavalia at the last fence, having hit three rails; German maestro Marcus Ehning had an unexpected two rails down on Gin Chin van het Lindenhof; and both Steve Guerdat, eventual fourth on Corbinian, and Scott Brash, third on Hello Guv’nor incurred four faults.
Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) was masterful with a clear round on the inexperienced bay mare California but her time of 52.33 seconds looked infinitely beatable, and so it proved when last to go Daniel Deusser executed a beautifully accurate round on the 12-year-old Equita van T Zorgvliet.
“I had plenty of time to think and I knew exactly what I had to do,” said a visibly elated Daniel, who also won the opening jumping class of the show on Thursday. “I thought it was a difficult class – the fences came up quickly and the jump-off course was tricky, just as in the World Cup yesterday.”
Edwina Tops-Alexander who has a punishing Christmas schedule ahead, with a flight to a show in Doha tomorrow said, “my mare is only nine and this is only her fourth or fifth indoor show, and there’s a lot to contend with, what with the tight arena and snowflakes falling, etc. It was a really technical course, not massive, but tricky.”
Earlier in the day, Laura Renwick and perennial Norwegian visitor Geir Gulliksen made it through to the fifth and final round of the Six Bar, at which point they opted to share the spoils rather than jump again.
The temperature in London might be colder than Irishman Darragh Kenny is used to – he’s mainly based in Florida – but he found a warm welcome on his first visit to Olympia and notched up a second victory here, in the Holly Speed Stakes on the 11-year-old mare Fixdesign Funke van’t Heike with a clear in 46.78 seconds.
William Funnell, riding Billy Angelo, was the first to break the 50-second barrier with a smooth round in 47.92 seconds, and managed to hold on to second place with none of the 11 riders after Darragh managing to trouble the two leaders.
“This show is amazing,” said Darragh, who is flying back to the States tomorrow. “The mare has gone really well for me this week. She has a big stride so there were a couple of places where I could do one less stride than William, such as coming down to the last where he did seven strides and I did six.”
Jodie Hall McAteer took no prisoners in the Mince Pie Stakes by setting a tough target from first draw in the competition for 148cm ponies with Tixylix. The 16-year-old, who was riding in her penultimate pony competition, encouraged all of those who followed her to chase her time, and all paid the price for their risks with poles on the floor.
“We know each other so well, I completely trust her,” said Jodie. “Even if I miss, Tixylix will still try and jump the fence. If I am able to find a horse like her, I’ll be away.”
Clare Whitaker presented the Ryan’s Son Trophy in the main arena to Gary and Beverley Widdowson. It was collected on their behalf by Justin and Kathleen Widdowson who were joined by Nick Skelton, the perfect climax to five days of sell-out show jumping sport.
WELSH SECTION A FOXES THE COMPETITION
Having only been competed under saddle since last year, Uphill James Fox took the Blue Chip Native British Show Pony Society Supreme Championships, the first Welsh section A to do so.
The eight-year-old stallion scored a total of 181 marks out of a possible 200, given by four judges – two marking out of 50 for conformation (Mr Price Jones and Mr Stephen Howard), and two marking out of 50 for performance (Mrs Sharon Thomas and Mr Kevin Walker).
His rider and producer, Katie Marriott-Payne, was also victorious in this championship in 2003 with Stowbrook Jenny Wren – the first Exmoor Pony to take the title – so this competition was a particular aim.
“I set myself a goal of winning this with him,” said Katie, who is based in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. “It’s been a dream come true because you can only see how they react to the atmosphere when they get here, it’s not something you can recreate.”
The Reserve Supreme Champion, the home-produced Highland stallion Benbreac of Croilla, owned by Mrs Mel Stanford and ridden by Matthew Cooper, caused some pre-show stress for his owner as his coat took a bit of preparation.
“We’ve had thermometers under his rug connected to an app on my phone and all sorts,” said Mel, who has been hacking him out to keep him fit after the end of the outdoor show season. “It wasn’t quite looking right, but all came good about 48 hours ago.”
Further highlights of the day include The Kennel Club Medium Dog Agility Finals, Sian Illingworth and her partner AG CH Arnpriors Made of Honour, were cheered on by the crowd as they took home the victory.
H&M day at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, will be memorable as a great day for British Show Jumping, but the very last class fell to a Dutch rider, Harrie Smolders, who proved that the patient approach can win the day when capturing the H&M Ivy Stakes.
Earlier, Scott Brash and Ben Maher scored a British one-two in the Longines FEI World Cup™ qualifier presented by H&M, 12-year-old Madison Heath won the H&M Mistletoe Stakes and Anna Power partnered Annie Gibson from Northern Ireland to take the H&M Pony Club Mini-Major. To top things off, Olympic champion Nick Skelton scored a great result when finishing third in BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Madison Heath made the most of her last ride on Red Alert III by taking the H&M Mistletoe Stakes for 128cm ponies with a superbly fast and thrilling round.
“I just thought ‘go for it’,” said Madison, 12, who just missed out on clinching this title in both 2014 and 2015. “I was a bit wary of the double of uprights, as I had had them down in the past, but I trusted her to do it.”
The seasoned mare has already been sold to international show jumper Geoff Luckett for his children. “We have had her for five years, with my sister Bobbie riding her before me,” said Cheshire-based Madison. “She has never let us down.”
International rider Laura Renwick was watching and praised the youngster. “I have ridden with Madison in relays before and she’s very competitive,” said Laura. “Today she rode with maturity, used her head, and was absolutely spot on.”
Ponies took to the stage earlier in the day, too, in the H&M Pony Club Mini-Major, a relay class in which international riders are paired up with their under-12 counterparts.
Britain’s Anna Power (Chesterfield Z) and 11-year-old Annie Gibson (Lisbox Black Magic), a member of the Iveagh branch of the Pony Club, bettered seven rival pairings to take the top spot.
“It’s the first time I have been to Olympia and it’s absolutely amazing,” said Annie, who lives near Belfast. “Anna told me to go in and just have fun, which is what I wanted to do, and, once I was in there, I just went for it.”
Harrie Smolders was a member of the Netherlands team at the Rio Olympic Games, but this was his first Olympia win. When his four rivals in the jump-off all faulted, a steady clear was all that was required to lift first prize. “My horse is not so fast, so it was the only way to win!” he joked.
He has only been riding his winning mount, the nine-year-old mare Corrada, for two months. “This was a nice competition to win with a new horse – I’ve only had her for two months,” he explained. “She is quite green but a horse can learn a lot here and she is very calm.”
Kevin Staut finished second for France on Unna de Kerglenn with Michael Whitaker third on JB’s Hot Stuff.
Swedish rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson continues to head the H&M leading Rider of the Show table by 17 points from the crowd-pleasing Italian rider Lorenzo De Luca. Ben Maher and Laura Renwick are third and fourth for Britain.
Other highlights of the day included The Kennel Club Large Novice Dog Jumping Grand Prix, which was won by Bonny Busby and Nedlo Moon Lighting and The Kennel Club Large Novice Dog Agility Finals, in which Lee Windeatt and Mendipstar Coy Oaty Snuggly sped to victory by over two seconds from their rivals.
Scott Brash thrilled the packed house at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, with a virtuoso performance aboard the fleet-hoofed mare Hello M’Lady to snatch the Longines FEI World Cup™ qualifier presented by H&M by the tiniest of margins.
There were double celebrations when Ben Maher, the last British rider to win this prestigious class, back in 2011, finished second on another mare, Diva ll, by just 0.12 of a second.
On H&M Sunday at Olympia, it was appropriate that Belgian rider Nicola Philippaerts, whose father, Ludo, won this class back in 1988, was third on H&M Harley vd Bisschop.
Thirteen riders from eight nations went through to Kelvin Bywater’s ingenious jump-off track which hinged on getting the sharp angle back to a double on a blind turn and then clearing the upright fence on a curving galloping line.
“Kelvin [Bywater, course-designer] did a great job,” commented Scott. “It was big and technical but, nowadays, the standard is so high that there are horses that will just skip round.”
Only five of the 13 riders achieved a double clear and German maestro Marcus Ehning, who could have spoilt the British party when last to go on Comme Il Faut, racked up a surprising 20 penalties.
US rider Laura Kraut, whose partner Nick Skelton was already en route to Birmingham for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, was fourth on Zeremonie and 61-year-old John Whitaker rode superbly to finish fifth on Ornellaia while crowd favourite Lorenzo De Luca finished sixth for Italy with one rail down on Limestone Gray.
Olympia represents the eighth of 13 legs in the Longines FEI World Cup™ and Scott’s win elevates him 26 places to sixth in the standings and within sight of a place at the final in Omaha, USA, in April.
“I think I will target the FEI World Cup™ Final this year,” revealed Scott. “I don’t very often, because there’s such a full calendar, but I’m very fortunate to have a strong team of horses, some of which are back from injury now – including Hello Sanctos [his Olympic gold medallist] and Hello M’Lady.”
Of Lady Kirkham’s agile nine-year-old mare, Scott commented: “She’s sharp, an exceptional jumper and very much one for the future. It was very special to win in front of a home crowd.”
Ben Maher, the first rider to go clear in the jump-off, could perhaps consider himself hard done by, having set such an exacting standard, but his mare was returning to form and he said simply: “I would have been happy with sixth, quite honestly. Diva loved this show and jumped brilliantly; it’s just great to have her back. Congratulations to Scott – I couldn’t have done any more.”
Horrell took to the arena with Boyd Exell demonstrating an unbeatable performance and taking home the title.
Lorenzo De Luca, the Italian rider who is proving such a hit, won the Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree Stakes and is now second in the H&M Leading Rider of Show rankings behind Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson ahead of tomorrow’s H&M Sunday.
Jessica Mendoza was masterful when taking the under-23 title; Laura Renwick notched up Britain’s first senior win and the talented young Irishman Bertram Allen triumphed in the Christmas Masters.
Six times champion Boyd Exell triumphs again at Olympia
The world's leading driver Boyd Exell (AUS) showed the enthusiastic full house at Olympia just why he deserves that title. The six times World Cup™ Driving Champion and four times individual gold medallist, drove two peerless rounds in the final leg of the FEI World Cup™ Driving to take the win.
Finishing in third place last night in the qualifying round, behind Hungary's Jozsef Dobrovitz snr and Koos de Ronde (NED), meant Exell took on the course before them. Up until then only one of the four previous drivers - Georg von Stein from Germany - had posted a clear round. Exell showed his intent by driving clear and clipped ten seconds off von Stein's time. Following him, Dobrovitz and de Ronde both drove clear but Exell took the lead by some three seconds.
The top three competed again over a shortened course, starting from a zero score. Dobrovitz lost time at obstacle one attempting a tight turn and then had a knockdown at obstacle two. De Ronde pulled out all the stops and secured a very fast time but in doing so picked up five penalties.
Exell only had to drive clear but that was no barrier to him putting his foot flat to the floor. He galloped home clear two seconds faster than de Ronde to notch up his third win in FEI World Cup™ Driving qualifiers this season, keeping him in the top of the rankings.
All three top drivers paid tribute to the highly-charged atmosphere at Olympia where the crowd are so enthusiastically engaged with the competition.
"I feel on home ground here," remarked Exell who moved from the UK to Holland two years ago.
"That does increase the pressure for me but equally we are all lifted by the crowd. The Show is the one we want to be at." A sentiment endorsed by Dobrovitz competing here for the second year running.
Daniel Naprous (GBR) who finished fourth yesterday, remarked, "Olympia gives British drivers the most wonderful platform to compete against the best in the world. They are so welcoming to us and we are getting better as a result. It's a thank-you to Olympia."
Lorenzo Performs an Italian Job
Italian rider Lorenzo De Luca brought the crowd to their feet with a stunning performance in the jump-off of the Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree Stakes.
The Olympia crowd have taken the young Italian to their hearts this week and he did not disappoint, pulling off an audacious round on the white-faced chestnut by Heartbreaker, Halifax van het Kluizebos, to clinch victory from his Stephex Stables team mate Daniel Deusser on Hidalgo VG.
The competition involved a timed first round from which 14 went through to the jump-off. Ben Maher put up a spirited challenge to finish third and best British on the eight-year-old Don Vito.
Lorenzo, a member of the Italian Air Force, is trained by Dutchman Henk Nooren and is based in Brussels with the Stephex Stables. This is his first appearance at Olympia. He will ride Limestone Grey in tomorrow’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Qualifier presented by H&M and Halifax in Monday’s Grand Prix.
“Halifax is very fast and careful and he wants to do his best,” said Lorenzo, 29, who is 17th in the Longines FEI World Rankings. “This is a super show. Everyone told me it was great, but now I know. It’s a proper horse show.”
The Italian star is now second in the H&M Leading Rider of the Show rankings, 18 points behind the runaway leader, Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson, ahead of tomorrow’s H&M Sunday.
Laura Renwick Delights British Fans
Laura Renwick secured Britain’s first outright show jumping win of the week in The Shelly Ashman International
Ltd, E M Rogers (Transport) Ltd Father Christmas Stakes. This was an accumulator competition in which a clear jump over a fence accrues points, with a final optional joker fence offering a tempting double, its easier counterpart.
Remarkably, Laura has only ridden her winning partner, Con Chilli, for just two months. “She’s usually ridden by Yazmin Pinchen, but I have the ride on her as Yazmin is pregnant,” Laura explained. “The other two horses I have here are also Yazmin’s, but this will only be my second show with those. They are all going really well here and I am very fortunate to have them.”
Laura was also in the final shake up of The Christmas Masters, in which the top seven leading riders of the show so far were eligible to compete.
In this class, riders nominate a fence to go up before they jump. If they jump it clear, the prize pot increases by £500; if not, the prize fund stays the same and the fence is dropped back to its previous height. After each round, all those still clear jump again until the fifth and final round, in which the jump-off is against the clock.
Laura (Dominant H), Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Indiana) and Irishman Bertram Allen (High Valley) remained after four rounds, and went head-to-head for the winner-takes-all purse of £14,000.
Unfortunately, first-drawn Laura finished on four faults, but Bertram posted a fast clear, with a time that Malin could not match.
“It wasn’t an easy class to win. Often, if you get to the fifth round, you’ve won,” said Bertram. “It was difficult to know how fast to go as I was mid-drawn, so I didn’t want to risk going too fast and having a fence down.”
However, the young Irishman rode his round to perfection to take the spoils.
Jessica Ticks the Box at Last
Team GBR Olympic reserve, Jessica Mendoza, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in show jumping, but until today there was one gap in her CV: The Dodson & Horrell and The World Class Programme U23 British Championships at Olympia, the London International Horse Show.
She put that right with a masterful victory on Wan Architect, despite 15-year-old Jack Whitaker, the European Pony Champion, running her close to the wire with a mature performance on the grey stallion Grade A Valentin R, one of three horses he qualified for Olympia.
Yazmin Davis finished third on Zilverster ll, having incurred a time penalty in the jump-off.
Jessica, Jack and Yazmin all jumped clear in the first round and were joined in the jump-off by the fastest of the four-faulters, who knew they had nothing to lose by going for speed and pressurising the top three.
Graham Gillespie set a blistering target with a clear round in 35.86 seconds on Celine, which was good enough to take fourth place, and Millie Allen, a star of the Pony and Junior circuits, was fifth on the stallion Balou Star.
Despite all her experience, Jessica, 21, commented that she felt Kelvin Bywater’s track was “stiff enough” and said: “I watched everyone’s rounds very carefully. Jack did a very smooth round which was hard to gauge so I knew I had to go for it. I’ve been second and third in this class so winning it at last really means a lot.”
Jessica, who has been competing Wan Architect in other classes at Olympia, was 4.54 seconds faster than Jack but his calm, classical approach was impressive and father Michael, who was in the audience for once, was visibly as proud as punch.
“I’m very, very pleased,” Jack said afterwards, “though I should have gone quicker! This is a prestigious class and I’ve been trying to get here for ages.”
Other highlights include Lee Windeatt and Ag Ch Darleyfalls Pipistrelle taking the victory in The Kennel Club Large Senior Dog Agility Finals.
Speed was the aim of the game on Friday at Olympia, the London International Horse Show. Swapping the racecourse for the show jumping arena, the jockeys in the Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys' Fund had their feet flat to the boards in the battle of the flat versus National Hunt jockeys, with Frankie Dettori's flat team taking the spoils.
Earlier in the day, The FEI World Cup™ Driving presented by Dodson & Horrell thrilled the crowd with their break-neck turns and the show jumpers also kept up the pace in each of the three international classes to take place today.
It was an action packed day, which also saw the Equestrian Team GBR Olympic medal winners parade in front of a delighted audience. The parade included both BBC Sports Personality of the Year contenders Nick Skelton OBE and Sophie Christiansen OBE, ahead of their big night on Sunday.
FRANKIE'S FLYING FINISH CLINCHES IT FOR THE FLAT JOCKEYS
A typically flamboyant display of riding from Frankie Dettori clinched victory for his team of flat jockeys in the Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys' Fund at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
The quintet of flat jockeys (Frankie, Bridget Andrews, Adam Kirby, Jim Crowley and Jamie Spencer) had a point to prove as, two years ago, they were trounced by the National Hunt jockeys at Olympia.
This time though, under stern instruction from 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash, they flew around the track, performing neat handovers of the baton, and managed to set an unbeatable target.
The jump jockeys, under reigning Olympic champion Nick Skelton’s guidance, suffered a few shaky moments and even a last-ditch headlong gallop from Nick’s son Harry Skelton failed to save the day.
“My lads were fantastic,” said winning trainer Scott Brash afterwards. “They were really tight in their turns. Frankie in particular did a great round.”
“There’s a lot of cameraderie between both codes of racing but this is the icing on the cake,” confirmed Frankie, “and we’ll be dining out on it for a long time! Scott told us to keep it tight, keep it smooth and not cut any corners, and it worked. And it’s all for a good cause. The Injured Jockeys Fund is really important for our sport.”
Champion National Hunt jockey Richard Johnson, Tom Scudamore and Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, with Sam and Harry, put up a spirited challenge.
For Victoria Pendleton, who was first to go for the jump jockeys, this was the latest sporting challenge in a memorable year that saw her finish a brilliant fifth in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March only 12 months after she first sat on a horse.
“That was pretty good!” she said breathlessly afterwards. “I can only go as fast as I can – I’ve never show jumped before. It was fantastic to have the chance to compete at Olympia, but when I was asked, I did say that I couldn’t guarantee I would help the team.”
GUERDAT SAVES THE BEST TILL LAST
Steve Guerdat was always going to be dangerous when drawn last to go in the Longines Christmas Cracker at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, and so it proved.
Last to go in a five-horse jump-off, the 2012 Olympic champion, a perennial visitor to Olympia, shaved 1.37 seconds off the time achieved by Ireland’s Anthony Condon and Balzac, who took second place.
It was an international line-up with Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro third on U Watch, Malin Baryard-Johnsson fourth for Sweden on H&M Cue Channa, and Bertram Allen fifth for Ireland on the eight-year-old Izzy by Picobello
Steve was aboard his dual FEI World Cup™ finalist Corbinian. “I was quite lucky to be last in the class and therefore last in the jump-off, and so I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I was confident that if I rode well, he would be on my side.”
The Swiss rider will compete Corbinian, a 10-year-old by Cornet Obolensky, in Monday’s Grand Prix class; he rides Bianca in Sunday’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Leg presented by H&M.
Earlier in the day, Olympia regular Laura Kraut got the better of Italy’s Lorenzo De Luca in the Snowman Stakes, snatching the lead with an extraordinarily fast start to the jump-off. “I can’t believe I finally beat him,” said the delighted American rider. “He’s just so fast.”
Lorenzo had romped into the lead on Halifax van het Kluizebos, his winning partner from the previous day’s Longines World Rankings class, the Christmas Pudding Stakes, with just two left to go. But the last rider in the ring, Laura set out to win with the nine-year-old Cavalia and gained time back straight away between the first two fences.
Continuing to claim back time around the track, she came home cleanly with over a second in hand. “I only watched the others go on the screen in the collecting ring,” said Laura, “When I saw Lorenzo go, I decided then it had to be all-or-nothing to win.”
From final draw in the opening class of the day, The Snowflake Stakes, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny denied long-time leader Malin Baryard-Johnsson a win. Riding Fixdesign Funke van’t Heike, the Olympia first-timer pinched half a second back from the Swedish rider’s posted time on H&M Second Chance.
“Malin has a very nice horse, but my horse is a little bit more experienced, which enabled me to push and beat the time,” said Darragh, who spilts his time between the USA and Europe. “I have usually already left to go to America for the winter,” said Darragh. “But my owners, sponsors and National Federation very kindly agreed to let me to come here.
“It’s a show I have always wanted to complete at and it is just amazing. It certainly is the best indoor show.”
KOOS DE RONDE SECURES VICTORY IN FEI WORLD CUP™ DRIVING AHEAD OF TOMORROW'S FINAL
The warm-up round of the FEI World Cup™ Driving Leg presented by Dodson & Horrell produced a tight and tense competition that had its share of drama. In the final result, it was last to go, Koos de Ronde, from the Netherlands who went over the line first to claim victory by less than 0.3 seconds.
First to go in today's competition, GB's representative and the least experienced driver in this event, Daniel Naprous, head of the riding and driving stunt team, The Devil's Horsemen, posted a competitive round with just one five-penalty knockdown. Next to go, driving on a wild card, was Australia's Boyd Exell (pictured) - six-time FEI World Cup™ Driving Champion - who drove with his usual skill and dash. However, taking a short line through the second obstacle to get to the finish, he clipped a couple of elements to pick up ten penalties. So fast was his round that he remained in contention.
Hungarian driver, Jozsef Dobrovitz Snr, who was second to Exell in last night's Extreme Driving competition, drove surely and fast again to take the lead. His son, Jozsef Dobrovitz Jnr, followed by Theo Timmerman from The Netherlands and Germany's Georg von Stein, all collected knockdown penalties that dropped them down the order.
Knowing that if he drove clear he would win, de Ronde still put up a fast pace through both obstacles and the elements between them. It proved a good policy - a late five-point penalty still allowed him to cross the line by just 0.22 penalties ahead of Dobrovitz Snr. Exell was third.
"It was a tense moment going into the arena," de Ronde - World Cup Champion in 2013 - acknowledged. "I took a slightly longer route through the obstacles to try to go clear but I kept up the pace. It paid off - just!"
The placings today determine the order of competition for the Final tomorrow. All drivers will start from a zero score however, making for a competition that will again thrill the packed crowd at Olympia.
Other highlights included Charlotte Harding claiming the Kennel Club Small Dog Agility Final title, with his four-legged partner AG CH Daimonic Expelliarmus. The Olympia Senior Showing Series Championships, sponsored by Anthony D Evans Insurance Brokers, was a highlight for Kerrilee Wilson Smith and her family whose delightful grey cob Silver Maddigan won the ridden section; the former ridden pony Hampton Scandal, handled by Liam Keetley, won the in-hand classification.
Olympia, the London International Horse Show had crowds sat on the edge of their seats, as the Cayenne Puissance took flight. Holly Smith (GBR) and Christopher Megahey (IRL) both went clear in the 5th round to take home the title in front of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. Olympic Gold Medallist Nick Skelton, was also in attendance as he took part in a Q&A session with some lucky fans.
HOLLY SMITH AND CHRISTOPHER MEGAHEY SHARE THE VICTORY
Holly Smith, who had never ridden in a puissance competition until this year, and the teenager from Ireland, Christopher Megahey, 18, a first-timer at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, shared the spoils in a thrilling finale to the Cayenne Puissance.
With The Duchess of Cornwall, who was paying her annual visit to the show, looking on, the pair both cleared 7ft 1in in the fifth and final round.
Holly (nee Gillott), riding the huge bay Irish sport horse Quality Old Joker, showed all her experience from the hunting field, saw the perfect stride and cleared the massive wall in superb style.
But then the young Irishman matched her for nerve and pinged over on another Irish-bred horse, his brother's former eventer Seapatrick Cruise Cavalier, in a result that will thrill fans of horses from the Emerald Isle.
Norwegian rider Rebekka Lie Andersen finished third, having retired in the third round on Want To Do, and Britain’s Laura Renwick, who withdrew from the third round, was fourth on Top Dollar Vl.
“It’s fantastic,” said Holly, 27. “All my friends are here to watch. I tried to treat it as a normal show, but it’s just got such an amazing atmosphere. The first three rounds didn’t actually go that well, but then I managed to see a forward stride in the fourth and he jumped brilliantly.”
Christopher was equally thrilled. “I loved it – it didn’t faze me at all. It’s just brilliant being here, being around top riders like Marcus Ehning and Scott Brash.”
Earlier on in the day the Stephex Stables enjoyed a fantastic start to the show, with its riders claiming the first two international Show Jumping classes.
The initial victory came from Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who took the Santa Stakes with nine-year-old stallion Hidalgo VG.
“It’s great to start with a win as it gives you confidence for the rest of show,” said Daniel, who beat 11 rivals in the jump off and relegated Britain’s Ben Maher (Don Vito) to second.
Italian rider Lorenzo De Luca took the Christmas Pudding Stakes, a speed class, riding Halifax van het Kluizebos, one of the Belgium operation's nine-year-old stallions.
“He’s a very good horse now, having continued to improve and become more competitive in bigger classes,” said Lorenzo, who is an Olympia first-timer. “Getting the invitation to compete here was a dream come true,” he said. “To win on the first day is just fantastic.”
EXELL TRIUMPHS AGAIN IN EXTREME DRIVING AT OLYMPIA
Preceding the first round of the FEI World Cup™ competition tomorrow, the Dodson & Horrell Extreme Driving at Olympia saw all seven competitors representing five countries. But it was the world's leading driver, current reigning World Champion both indoors and out, Boyd Exell (AUS), who snatched victory.
Over a challenging course set by course designer, Johan Jacobs from the Netherlands, Exell was the last to go in the first round and was fastest at the midway point. However the brakes locked on his carriage as he drove over the bridge in the centre of the arena, making for a difficult turn into the first gate of the second obstacle. A resulting knockdown gave him penalties and put him into third place behind Koos de Ronde from The Netherlands and Jozsef Dobrovitz from Hungary. Dobrovitz, whose son is also competing in the competition, was the only driver to post a clear round at this stage, giving him the top slot.
In the second round, in which the top three placed drivers compete again for first to third place, Exell set the bar high with an excellent round despite one knockdown. Even with 5-penalties added the other two were unable to better his score and he claimed the win again, repeating last year's success in this competition.
"I'll be making a few changes in my team for the World Cup competition tomorrow," Exell remarked. "But today's competition was outstanding. This Show produces an amazing atmosphere and really allows us to showcase our sport. To compete to such an enthusiastic crowd and a full house spurs us all on."
Course designer, Jacobs commented, "I expect all the drivers to make less mistakes tomorrow - there are always difficulties in the first competition. They will be competing over a different course although the obstacles are in the same place - I don't plan to make it any trickier than today though!"
Along with the evening's Show Jumping and the Dodson & Horrell Extreme Driving, a special presentation took place as Tim Wilks was awarded the Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy, presented to young riders demonstrating potential for future success in the forthcoming season.
The Kennel Club ABC Dog Agility Final thrilled the crowd, but Jo Gleed and her dog Bonvivant With Extra Zoom were too quick for fellow four-legged competitors to clinch the victory.
Olympic champion Nick Skelton spent the day being feted by journalists and the crowd, who will no doubt be voting in their thousands for him on Sunday night in BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Speaking of his Olympic Gold Medal, Nick said “I never thought it would happen – I’d tried and failed so many times, but I think it means more to me winning a gold medal at my age than it would have done if I was younger”.
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