THE first day of international showjumping at Olympia culminated in a stylish victory for Ben Maher and Milena 8 in the Christmas speed stakes.

“She’s a brave horse and been on form recently,” said Ben. “She hasn’t been overjumped and she’s fit and she responded well today.”

Ben and the 14-year-old Caretino mare, owned by Peter Ward, held off the challenge of a strong field of 24 riders including Scott Brash, who came within a second of Ben’s winning time with Sebastian to finish runner-up.

Marcus Ehning and the eight-year-old stallion Campbel 5 impressed in third place.

Earlier in the day, Ireland’s Dermott Lennon rode a classy round with Loughview Lou-Lou to land the Christmas Pudding Stakes.

The 14-rider jump-off proved a real thriller and Dermott, fresh from a win in Geneva last week, just took the advantage from John Whitaker and the ever-consistent Dazzle II.

“I watched Laura [Renwick] and a few others go early on, but I wasn’t trying to beat anyone, just go as quick as I could,” said the Irishman.

The first international showjumping class, the Welcome Stakes two-phase, was won by Norway’s Geir Gulliksen with Rusedski II, while the Pony Club mini-major relay went to the team of Laura Renwick (Parvati De Breve) and Katie Waldock-Smith of the Enfield Chace Hunt branch of the Pony Club riding Duncrynes Jungle Bunny.

Don’t miss next week’s Horse & Hound, out 22 December, for full report, pictures and all the news from Olympia.