Following the devastating loss of her 11-year-old mare Sara Galotiere in a freak accident during Saturday night’s four-star international jump-off class, Holland’s Sanne Thijssen showed true strength of character when winning the Voltaire design sponsored CSI4* Speed Class on the Sunday afternoon of the Liverpool International Horse Show.
Sanne was in the lead after a fantastic round on Bacardi crossing the finish line in 50.91seconds when the class was stopped due to the fire in the nearby car park. As the fastest round at this stage in the competition and very near the end of the class, Sanne’s time was judged the winner with Irishman, Shane Breen taking second and William Funnell claiming third.
Show President Nina Barbour paid tribute to her fantastic effort.
“It was a remarkable and brave performance by Sanne,” said Nina.
“Sadly, we didn’t get to celebrate her performance after she rode with such skill and determination to win a very competitive world-ranking class a day after she suffered such a terrible loss.
“It was truly outstanding, and she should be very proud of her victory.”
Alberto Zorzi’s Olympia debut ended in the best way possible, with a superb victory in The Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix, the first win in the class for an Italian rider, on Athena Onassis’ Contanga.
Dutchman Harrie Smolders crowned a great year with second place on Zinius, propelling him to the top of the Leading Rider of Show table. Michael Whitaker, the winner two years ago, gave the home crowd something to cheer about with third place and a fast double clear on Jb’s Hot Stuff.
Twelve horses went through to the jump-off but only five jumped double clear, including fourth-placed Maikel Van der Vleuten from the Netherlands on Dana Blue and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander on the ride that took her to third in the Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Leg, Inca Boy van T Vianahof.
Alberto said of his 13-year-old mare Contanga: ‘I think she is the best horse in the world, very scopey, very special. The feeling over a fence is amazing. This is an amazing indoor show. I love the Christmas atmosphere and am so happy to be here.”
Ben Maher finished sixth on Winning Good, only an eight-year-old but clearly a talent for the future, enough to put him second in the Leading Rider rankings. Laura Renwick, another who looks to have some promising up-and-coming horses, was fourth and John Whitaker, the hero of Sunday night, was seventh – all excellent results considering the overseas talent that came to Olympia this year.
There was a popular home win in The Holly Speed Stakes sponsored by Champagne Taittinger for William Funnell on the home-produced 14-year-old Billy Angelo, a horse he’s been bringing to Olympia for seven years.
“He’s won a fair bit here over that time and he loves the atmosphere,” said William. “He squeals with excitement when he goes into the prize giving.”
Despite getting the better of the rest of the field, William was analysing how he could have gone even better. “We stumbled just a little on a turn which broke the rhythm a bit. Laura [Renwick, who finished second] hadn’t left much room for improvement.”
Earlier, Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano riding Jamar d’Ysenbeeck Z was the sole survivor after four rounds in the Christmas Stocking Six Bar to claim the win.
“My horse hasn’t had that much international experience,” said Emanuele, who cleared 1.80m to take the class, “but he has gone well today.”
The Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Leg provided an afternoon of exhilarating sport in the Olympia Grand Hall, with only four of the 36 starters jumping a clear in the first round. As the penultimate to go in the jump-off, Britain's Scott Brash set the packed crowd alight, jumping clear in a time which looked like it could be the winning round. However, the notoriously speedy Julien Epaillard, riding Toupie de la Roque, knocked Scott off the pole position to take the victory by 0.43 seconds.
The day kicked-off with The Pony Club Mini-Major, which went to 11-year-old Poppy Deakin and the in-form Laura Renwick, with ponies also taking to the fore in the opening class of the evening session, The Mistletoe Mini Stakes, which was won by Rachel Proudley.
The evening CSI5* class, The Ivy Stakes, proved to be another challenging content, with just six clears through to the jump-off, however a speed masterclass from John Whitaker secured the victory, ahead of Ben Maher and Laura Renwick, to make a British one-two-three.
John Whitaker’s assiduous scrutinising of the jump-off course for The Ivy Stakes paid off in spades as he found the most audacious turn which had the crowd roaring their appreciation.
The cheers became deafening as his winning time of 33.17 seconds flashed up, signalling the 62-year-old’s second victory of the week on his own and wife Clare’s 15-year-old stallion Argento.
It was a thrilling end to a great day’s sport with a British one-two-three, Ben Maher second on Madame X and Laura Renwick third on MHS Washington, with the younger riders all quick to acknowledge a genius ride.
“I studied the course carefully because I knew Kevin [Staut, eventual fourth on S&L Through the Looking Glas] was last to go and I had to do something,” explained John, who has been competing here for four decades.
“It shows what a good horse he is because when we did the sharp turn the crowd gave a big cheer and that could have put him off. This show is special, with the crowds and Christmas and everything. It’s a great feeling and I feel lucky to still be in the sport.”
Poppy Deakin, 11, secured the win in The Pony Club Mini-Major relay that had previous escaped both of her sisters, Daisy and Kirsten.
“I wanted to come here and do better than them,” said Olympia first-timer Poppy with a cheeky smirk.
Riding 16-year-old Munsboro Plunkett, and partnering Britain’s leading lady rider Laura Renwick (Shiraz II), the Tynedale Pony Club branch member perfectly executed a tight turn back to the penultimate fence to take the class by more than one second.
“Poppy knew what she was doing,” said Laura. “I gave her hardly any advice. She was telling me how she was going to ride the course and she did what she said she would.”
Later on, North Yorkshire’s Rachel Proudley finally claimed her dream of winning The Mistletoe Mini Stakes with Painted Lady IV at the fourth attempt. “It’s my favourite show and it’s my last year riding her,” said Rachel, 12. “She’ll be staying in the family though, as she’ll now be ridden by my sister, Sarah.”
Julien Epaillard, riding Toupie de la Roque, became only the second Frenchman in history to win the Olympia leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping, thanks to a spectacular burst of speed in the jump-off which relegated last year’s winner, Scott Brash, to second place.
“It is a great honour for me to win at Olympia,” said the 40-year-old, who was 0.43 seconds faster than Scott. “It was a very difficult course, very technical – you needed scope but also great control.”
Course-designer Guillaume Jorge, who officiated at the Rio Olympics last year, set the high-quality field, which included six of the world’s top 10 riders, quite a challenge, and it wasn’t until the 21st to go, European Champion Peder Fredricson on H&M Christian K, that there was a clear round.
Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander, a wild card entry, followed with another clear on Inca Boy van T Vianahof, a nine-year-old produced in Britain by Tim Wilkes, in only her sixth competition on the horse. The winner here in 2008, she now heads the Longines FEI World Cup™ rankings joint with France's Kevin Staut, who finished fifth today with just four faults.
Scott, who pronounced the course “challenging, but well thought out and jumpable”, raised the roof with his clear round on the 16-year-old Ursula Xll and hopes were high that he might score the first back-to-back win since Nick Skelton in 1984. However, despite the fantastic jump-off speed of 37.34 seconds, it wasn’t to be.
“I know Julien well and I knew how fast he would go, so fair play to him,” said Scott sportingly afterwards. “Ursula was fantastic and, although I would love to breed a foal from her, while she’s jumping like this, she certainly isn’t ready to retire.”
Scott is now 28th on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Rankings with five legs to go before the final in Paris in April.
Veteran Olympia crowd-pleaser John Whitaker, 61, set an unmatchable target in The Shelley Ashman International Ltd, E M Rogers (Transport) Ltd Father Christmas Stakes to win the accumulator class from William Funnell and regular Norwegian visitor Geir Gullikson.
John, who was drawn eleventh out of the 22 starters, borrowed his daughter Louise’s Leen O.L., a nine-year-old bay mare, and his clear round, including the double-points Joker fence, in 42.27 seconds proved unbeatable and earned a rapturous reception from the packed afternoon crowd.
“They always give me a great welcome,” he said afterwards. “The mare coped surprisingly well with the atmosphere as she can be hot. She’s sharp to ride but certainly not stupid and she’s a great jumper of verticals.”
Bertram Allen, the talented young Irish rider, brought the evening to a thrilling close with a stunning turn of foot on new ride Gin Chin van het Lindenhof to win The Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree Stakes.
The 11-year-old grey, previously ridden by Marcus Ehning, may be Bertram’s ride in Monday’s Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix. Bertram only acquired the gelding a couple of months ago, but their partnership looks well cemented already and they had 0.38 seconds in hand over in-form Dutchman Harrie Smolders who looked to have the class in the bag on Cas.
“Harrie is very fast so I knew I had to nail it and I gave it my all,” said Bertram. “This is a relatively new horse for me but he’s been very well schooled.”
Dutchman Harrie Smolders, currently number 5 on the Longines FEI World Rankings, continued his fabulous season with a brilliant win in The Christmas Masters, jumping five clear rounds in succession on Corrada to take the €11,000 jackpot.
The winner-takes-all class is for the seven leading riders in the Show at this stage; the prize pot goes up with each clear round jumped and riders nominate a fence to go up with each round.
It came down to a head-to-head with Ben Maher on Winning Good, but the British rider was eliminated for a fence down. "He is 100% a championship horse – I’ve got my eye on him for Tokyo," said Ben. "This was a good class for him. He’s got huge scope, but often tries to rush, but he began to settle here."
Harrie, the 2017 European silver medallist, said the class had suited his horse as well. “This is a great Show that I always enjoy. You feel you are sharing your skills with the public and they appreciate it.”
Cool-headed Dutchman Maikel Van der Vleuten, who has so often set the Olympia arena alight, was victorious again, this time on the 12-year-old bay mare VDL Groep Arera C in The Longines Christmas Cracker when shaving 0.19 seconds off the time of one of the world’s best horsemen, German Olympian Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut).
It was an international affair with Frenchman Simon Delestre third on Teavanta ll and another Dutchman, quiet horseman Harrie Smolders fourth on Cas.
There was no home cheer until ninth place, filled by Ben Maher on Don Vito, but the London Olympic gold medallist is now lying third in the Leading Rider of Show table.
In earlier classes, Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jnr set an unbeatable target from an early draw in The Snowflake Stakes, a speed class. Riding Falco van de Clehoeve, he held off a challenge from Britain’s Cayenne Puissance winner Laura Renwick, this time riding MHS Washington.
“Because I was so early to go I was hoping for a finish in the top five, so I am happy about how it finished,” said Francois. “This is the type of class where Falco has been quite competitive. He’s a special horse with a special personality.”
Germany’s Daniel Deusser, winner of the 2014 FEI World CupTM Final, triumphed in a nine-horse jump-off in The Keith Prowse Snowman Stakes on SX Hidalgo VG.
Florida-based Amanda Derbyshire was fourth and highest placed Brit on Luibanta BH. Amanda, who is trained by Nick Skelton, and used to compete Olympic champion Big Star as a youngster, admitted that her aim was to be talent-spotted for the British team.
“It’s much warmer in Florida and I did wonder whether I wanted to travel over, but then I thought maybe I’d never get another invitation!” she said. “I was really quite over-excited when I arrived but I’m a bit more relaxed now. It’s fantastic to be here at Olympia.”
Laura Renwick was overwhelmed by her spectacular victory on Top Dollar Vl in The Cayenne Puissance. Four riders made it to the fifth round, but Karline De Brabander from Belgium on Fantomas de Muze, Ireland’s Padraic Judge on City Business and 2016 joint winner Holly Smith on Quality Old Joker all faulted and as Laura entered the ring she knew the €7,425 prize was there for the taking.
“That wall is huge and, having seen the other horses hit it, having been jumping really well, I knew it was a big ask,” said Laura afterwards. “I was a little bit lucky – I didn’t have the best stride and the horse really had to use his body to get over it.
“I’ve never won the Puissance outright and so to do it on an eight-year-old horse with not much experience but loads of scope and heart feels amazing. The atmosphere was electric.”
Earlier in the day, Eduardo Alvarez Aznar riding Fidux headed a one-two for Spain in the opening jumping class, the Santa Stakes, holding off a late challenge from his fellow countryman Manuel Fernandez Saro (Cannavaro).
“I was early to go, and Manuel was right at the end. He knew what he had to do but wasn’t quite quick enough,” joked Eduardo, winner of last season’s Zurich Longines FEI World CupTM qualifier with Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot. “[Fidux] is a real fighter and very quick across the ground.”
This is Eduardo’s second visit to Olympia, where he won the Six-Bar two years ago. “It’s such a fantastic special show, and a pleasure to ride here,” said Eduardo. “I hope to continue to back here for many, many years.”
Later, there was a Swedish one-two in the Musto Inside Edge Stakes, a speed class, when 2017 European Champion Peder Fredricson (H&M Zoulbet) beat compatriot Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Second Chance) by 0.77sec to clinch the top prize.
The Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva is one of the four equestrian Majors that form the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, and is one of the most prestigious Grand Prix on the international circuit.
Re-live the excitement of the four-day competition at the world's leading indoor venue, as the finest riders compete for the prestigious Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix.
The Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva, regarded as the most esteemed indoor Grand Prix on the global equestrian circuit was won by Rolex Testimonee and World Number One Kent Farrington aboard Gazelle. Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann was second aboard Mary Lou 194 and Gregory Wathelet from Belgium riding Coree placed third.
Some10,000 equestrian fans walked into the iconic Palexpo venue, brimming with excitement and tension as they waited for the famed curtains to open, marking the start of the most anticipated class of the four-day show, the Rolex Grand Prix.
40 horse and rider combinations had qualified to enter the iconic indoor arena at the CHI Geneva and in doing so, tackle an imposing first round course (and subsequent jump-off) designed by renowned international show jumping course designers, Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx.
Clear rounds were hard to come by and the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Philipp Weishaupt, was unable to continue his journey in attempting to lift the most coveted trophy in the sport, as he collected nine faults in round one.
From the first 25 riders who braved the course, including Rolex Testimonees Jeroen Dubbeldam, Eric Lamaze, Bertram Allen and Steve Guerdat, none could master a clear round. It became evident that it would take an exacting and precise round to finish with a score of zero. Last year’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, Pedro Veniss from Brazil, produced the first seemingly clear round, until the clock stopped just over the allocated time and he collected one unlucky time fault.
A clean score was finally achieved by The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders, shortly followed by Henrik Von Eckermann and Gregory Wathelet. The crowd hushed to near silence as USA’s Kent Farrington entered into the arena, shortly displaying why he is the very best rider in the sport right now, producing a foot perfect round over the 13 obstacles. Cian O’Connor from Ireland completed the list of five riders progressing through to the second-round jump-off of the final Major of the year.
A revised course was presented to these elite athletes, reducing the course to eight obstacles. Harrie Smolders was first to go, setting the bar high with a clear round in just 46.89 seconds. This was fractionally beaten by Von Eckermann, who sped through the finishing gate with a time of 45.59. Wathelet was unable to challenge this, leaving it to Farrington and O’Connor. In true Farrington style, he sped through the course on the tightest of turns as the Geneva crowd sat on the edges of their seats, erupting in a cacophony of noise as the clock was stopped on 44.96 seconds, taking the World Number One into the lead. Cian O’Connor was last to go but despite giving everything, his brave grey horse Fibonacci, just clipped one pole at the fourth fence handing the victory to Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington.
After eight months as World Number One, Farrington concluded an emphatic year as the World Number One and now embarks on his very own Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey.
Commenting after his victory Farrington said, “I’m still in shock and I can’t believe that its over and that we walk away with a win. I thought my horse was great today and with this win being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, I will definitely be heading to The Dutch Masters in 2018.
“The riders are so strong here and you have the best horses in the world. With a large arena it can be difficult to set an indoor style course and in today’s sport, with as well as everyone rides, they have to make the time short. I knew it was going to be tough when I saw the course and I am so pleased with the result.”
FINAL RESULTS OF THE 2017 ROLEX GRAND PRIX AT CHI GENEVA
1. Kent Farrington (USA) riding Gazelle
2. Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) riding Mary Lou 194
3. Gregory Wathelet (BEL) riding Coree
4. Harrie Smolders (NED) riding Don VHP Z
5. Cian O’Connor (IRL) riding Fibonacci 17
6. Laura Kraut (USA) riding Confu
7. Pedro Veniss (BRA) riding Quabri de L’Isle
8. Eric Lamaze (CAN) riding Fine Lady 5
9. Peder Fredricson (SWE) riding H&M Christian K
10. Mark Mcauley (IRL) riding Miebello
The current top 10 riders in the world gathered at the iconic CHI Geneva, Switzerland, to contend for one of the most exciting classes of the year, the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final. The roster of elite show jumpers who had qualified to tackle Gérard Lachat’s technically challenging and imposing course included five of Rolex’s Equestrian Testimonees; Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, Eric Lamaze, Kevin Staut and current World Number One, Kent Farrington.
Staged over two rounds, home favourite and Swiss hero Steve Guerdat was first to go aboard his brilliant mare Hannah. The patriotic crowd were electric as he rode into the arena and despite willing the combination over every fence, the pair collected four faults.
The first clear round came from the only rider currently to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Great Britain’s Scott Brash. Ursula XII and Brash glided around the first round, setting the bar high for the remaining seven riders. Despite nearly foot perfect rounds from the 2016 reigning champion, Eric Lamaze and 2015 champion Kent Farrington, they both finished the 12-fence course with four faults, respectively.
For the eighth time in his career, Kevin Staut had qualified for the Top 10 Final and this experience shone through as he delivered the last clear of round one.
The second round welcomed four riders with a clean sheet, Lorenzo De Luca, Harrie Smolders, Scott Brash and Kevin Staut. Rolex Testimonee Eric Lamaze produced the fastest second round of the night, with a time of 40.27 moving him up the leaderboard.
Brash continued to impress and put pressure on his competitors, executing a faultless round with a time of 42.83, putting the passionate crowd on the edge of their seats as they waited for the last three riders of the class to challenge the British rider. It was not to be for Smolders as he attempted too tight a turn and paid the price with four faults. The stage was set for Kevin Staut and Lorenzo De Luca, who was competing in this competition for the very first time and the class’ first Italian representative.
ROLEX ONE-TWO PODIUM FINISH
Staut cut every corner in order to achieve his dramatic clear round, stopping the clock at 40.90 seconds, taking him into the lead. After a valiant effort De Luca was unable to beat the exacting precision of the French rider and world number three, as he exited the arena with four faults. The final result saw Rolex Testimonees, Kevin Staut and Scott Brash, secure first and second place on the podium.
A thrilled Staut commented on his victory, “I am really really happy as not only have I won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final but I have qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow also. It’s been eight years that I’ve been fighting to get a good result and I’m thrilled I’ve now achieved it, especially here in Geneva which is such an incredible show.”
Second placed Brash, “I don’t think I could have done any more, Ursula has a huge stride but is a slow mover. Kevin’s turns were much smoother than mine and Kevin was too fast for us today.”
The equestrian world will now look ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow and the last Major of the show jumping calendar.
FINAL RESULTS OF THE ROLEX IJRC TOP 10 FINAL
1. Kevin Staut (FRA) riding Reveur de Hurtebise HDC
2. Scott Brash (GBR) riding Ursula XII
3. Peder Fredricson (SWE) riding H&M Christian K
4. Eric Lamaze (CAN) riding Fine Lady 5
5. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) riding Ensor de Litrange LXII
6. Harrie Smolders (NED) riding Don VHP Z
7. Gregory Wathelet (BEL) riding Eldorado Van Het Vijverhof
8. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) riding VDL Groep Verdi TN
9. Kent Farrington (USA) riding Creedance
10. Steve Guerdat (SUI) riding Hannah