Seven days of superb competition drew to a close yesterday at the London International Horse Show, Olympia. The final class was a closely contested Grand Prix, won by Italy’s Alberto Zorzi, with Harrie Smolders and crowd favourite Michael Whitaker just fractions of a second behind him.
The show included FEI World Cup legs in dressage, driving and jumping, with top horse and rider combinations out in force to earn points for next year’s finals.
The week started with the dressage Grand Prix, followed by the Freestyle. The Grand Prix went to Edward Gal and his very exciting young stallion, Glock’s Zonik, with Patrik Kittel second on Delaunay. Patrik and Delaunay went one better in the Freestyle, taking the victory from Emile Faurie and Delatio, with Edward and Zonik third.
Six of the world’s top 10 show jumpers took to the arena on Thursday, the start of the CSI5* competition, with the Puissance going to Britain’s Laura Renwick, much to the delight of the packed grandstands. The World Cup jumping was won by Frenchman Julien Epaillard, with home favourite John Whitaker pulling off the jump-off round of the week to take The Ivy Stakes later that evening.
The FEI World Cup driving went down to the wire and was won by the jubilant Dutchman, Ijsbrand Chardon.
The Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund created an electric atmosphere on Friday, with Sir AP McCoy coming out of retirement to lead his team of jump jockeys to victory against Frankie Dettori’s flat-racing counterparts.
In showing, 12 native pony breeds provided a magnificent sight in Olympia’s Grand Hall. The ridden championship went to a palomino Welsh Section B pony, Cadlanvalley Sandpiper.
Other highlights of the show included dog agility, the Shetland Pony Grand National, which raised a total of £40,150 for charity, the Chilean Huasos, the very popular displays from The Mounted Branch of Metropolitan Police, and the Christmas Finale. Olympic gold medallists, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, held two inspiring masterclasses, showcasing their future stars, Mount St John Freestyle and Hawtins Delicato.
FEI World Cup Dressage was the focus on the opening two nights of Olympia and it was Edward Gal riding the outstanding young stallion Glock’s Zonik who claimed the Grand Prix with a score of 76.68%. Glock’s Zonik, competing in just his third-ever Grand Prix, put on an expressive and elegant performance which impressed the judges, and won by more than 1.5%, with Patrik Kittel and Delaunay in second place. “He’s one for the future,” said Edward afterwards.
Patrik was able to reverse the result in the freestyle, putting on a strong, rhythmic and faultless routine aboard Delaunay OLD to take the victory with a score of 80.56%. The Swedish combination displayed a high degree of difficulty in the programme set to a medley by the rock group Guns and Roses, which opened with a zig-zag of passage and piaffe, showed controlled double pirouettes to tempi changes and was on the beat throughout.
British rider Emile Faurie and his new ride Delatio were hot in pursuit, finishing second on a score of 80.405%, with Grand Prix winners Edward Gal and Glock’s Zonik very close behind in third place.
The first class of the week was a win for Staff Sgt Moore of the Defence Animal Training Regiment and his partner, Lucas, in the Services Jumping Championship; the only combination to finish clear.
The highlight on Thursday was the Puissance, which went to Britain’s leading lady rider, Laura Renwick, as the only rider to jump the 7’3” (2.13m) wall in the final round.
Dutchman Maikel Van der Vleuten won the 1.60m Longines Christmas Cracker, and Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr won the earlier speed class, The Snowflake Stakes.
Saturday saw Harrie Smolders crowned champion of The Christmas Masters as the only rider to complete all five rounds faultlessly. Harrie was narrowly denied a double when Bertram Allen pipped him to the post in The Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree Stakes later that day.
Julien Epaillard, riding Toupie de la Roque, became the second Frenchman in history to win the Olympia leg of the Longines FEI World Cup jumping, the highlight of the action on Sunday 17 December. Last year’s winner, Britain’s Scott Brash, finished a close second, with Edwina Tops-Alexander in third.
Monday’s action saw Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano and Jamar d’Ysenbeeck Z emerge as the sole survivors after four rounds in the Six Bar to claim the win. The Holly Speed Stakes was a win for William Funnell on the home-produced 14-year-old Billy Angelo, a horse he’s been bringing to Olympia for seven years.
Alberto Zorzi’s Olympia debut ended in the best way possible, with a superb victory in the Grand Prix, the first win in the class for an Italian rider. He was riding Athina Onassis’s 13-year-old Oldenburg mare, Contanga 3. Dutchman Harrie Smolders crowned a great year with second place on Zinius, which gave him the Leading Rider of Show title. Michael Whitaker was third with a fast double clear on Jb’s Hot Stuff.
The Netherlands’ top driver, the exuberant Ijsbrand Chardon, pulled out all the stops in the FEI World Cup leg, winning his first qualifier of the season.
Australian Boyd Exell was the winner of the first driving competition, but Ijsbrand came to the fore on day two, before cementing his position on the final day with a win of almost 10 seconds. Glenn Geerts was second and Boyd was third.