British success, a flying Dutchman and a very glamorous supermodel — the Longines Global Champions Tour of London has kicked off in tremendous style

Friday dawned and it was the moment we’d all been waiting for — the return of the Longines Global Champions Tour to London. With British success in the ring, a flying Dutchman thrilling the crowds, a stunning location and a super atmosphere, it’s no wonder the riders, crowds and guests were all giving the show a big thumbs up from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Here are our highlights from day one of the three-day competition…

(Photos copyright LGCT/Stefano Grasso)

1. Performance of the day goes to the flying Dutchman Harrie Smolders, who currently heads the rankings in the Global Champions Tour series. He and the 13-year-old mare Zinius (above) scorched round the 1.45m two-phase in top gear to beat a brilliant round from William Funnell and Billy Angelo by just half a second.

2. There were two British successes on day one, so well done to Polly Gredley (Unex Clintan B) and Emily Moffitt (Tipsy Du Terral) for whom the national anthem rang out in the CSI2* classes.

3. Model / petrolhead Jodie Kidd was spotted mingling with the VIP guests. “My dad was a show jumper and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said Jodie. “I started modelling to pay for a bigger horse box – the rest is history, but I could have been here!”

 

4. Of the 202 horses in action at the show this weekend, one of our favourites so far is the bay stallion Aikido Z, who Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts rode to victory in the 1.50m jump-off class on Friday evening, worth over 30,000euro to the winner. Deceptively quick, careful and willing — we like this horse a lot.

5. Unbelievably, John Whitaker turns 62 tomorrow (Saturday) but the celebrations started early when he and Argento finished fifth in the opening CSI5* of the show. Go Archie!

John Whitaker on Argento

6. The backdrop of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is simply stunning. One USA rider was heard to comment that it felt like being on the set of Downton Abbey. The arenas have been constructed from scratch on the South Grounds using 1,300 tonnes of sand and it’s lucky we’re not competing this weekend as we’d be too busy looking at the views…

7. Enjoying a busman’s holiday from his team training duties with the Ireland team, Brazilian Olympic gold medallist Rodrigo Pessoa was happy to return to the saddle in the five-star classes, while his daughter Alexa contested the CSI2*: “It’s great to be back in London in this beautiful location,” he said. “Great Britain is real horse country and I am sure the crowd will be behind this event 100%.”

8. Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, now a keen amateur jockey, also attended the first day of the show in London. “I’m retraining one of my racehorses, so I had a jumping lesson a couple of days ago but I feel quite embarrassed looking at the height I was jumping compared to this!” she said. “Making half a tonne of horse look as light as air is incredible to watch.”

9. The London-themed fences had everyone talking. Course-builder Uliano Vezzani has helped design the set of jumps that include the Underground to the London Eye and a whopping great Big Ben set of wings.

10. And finally… Who would have believed it… the sun finally shone! So what are you waiting for? Grandstand tickets are sold out for Saturday but Sunday’s set to be another thriller so hop on the tube and head on down to the show!

Stay tuned for more from the show on our website and dedicated Facebook page @horseandhoundshowjumping and don’t miss the full report in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (10 August), where Nick Skelton also gives his exclusive verdict.