A close competition was promised and the riders did not disappoint but it was Patrik Kittel and Delaunay OLD (Dude) (80.560%) that rocked the auditorium with a strong, rhythmic and faultless routine to win the FEI World Cup™ Freestyle to Music, supported by Horse & Hound at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
The Swedish combination displayed a high degree of difficulty in the programme set to a medley by the rock group Guns and Roses, that opened with a zig-zag of passage and piaffe, showed controlled double pirouettes to tempi changes and was on the beat throughout.
“The sport was really good and the standard was amazing tonight so I am just really happy to secure this win,” said Kittel, whose previous visit to Olympia was 13 years ago – when he then came last.
“I just loved how easy Dude found this test which has a high degree of difficulty – he just felt like he was cruising.”
The win takes Kittel to the top of the Western European World Cup™ League and he now looks certain for a place in the FEI World Cup™ final in Paris in April.
“I really love Paris and Dude is now qualified for the final so I hope nothing stops me going,” said Kittel.
It might have seemed a hard act to follow for British rider Emile Faurie and his new ride Delatio (80.405%) but the final combination of the night put in an impressive performance in their first competitive freestyle that made the most of the 13-year-old’s expressive paces, to come within a whisker - 0.155% - of the winner's score. He is now just the fourth British rider to score over 80% at this venue.
“I just feel so lucky that after so many years without a really top horse, I now have a whole string,” said Emile who is now based part-time in Germany.
“Delatio does not have a lot of competitive experience but he is an awesome horse, such a trier and his ability to concentrate incredible.”
Grand Prix winners Edward Gal and Glock’s Zonik (79.340%) were close behind in third place. The Dutch Olympian was third last year and has been in the top three here on no less than four occasions since his last win at Olympia in 2009.
“We made a few mistakes tonight and Zonik was a little tense as he is not used to such a crowd, and you don’t get this atmosphere anywhere else but the crowd really appreciate the riders and it was good experience for Zonik,” said Gal.
British riders Lara Butler (Rubin Al Asad), Hayley Watson-Greaves (Rubins Nite) and Richard Davison (Bubblingh) all put in strong performances to finish in 5th, 6th and 7th place respectively and within 1.33% of each other.
The next qualifying round for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage will be in Amsterdam on the 26th January.