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.”