IF the classes on the first day of the show are anything to go by, spectators at Olympia Horse Show are in for a real festive treat this week.

Ben Maher ended the first day of international showjumping with a daring round in the Eros Equestrian Ltd speed stakes on Oscar IX, snatching victory from long time leader Robert Smith (Talan).

“This class was a bit of a step down for him but he is fit and fresh and jumping smaller fences made it very easy for him,” said Ben. “He is actually a very quick horse.”

Robert watched from the side of the ring and his fears were realised as Ben turned in tight and angled the final oxer knocking 2sec from his time.

However, the day was far from a hard luck story for Robert. Earlier, he’d won the Horse Deals Christmas pudding stakes in a 10-horse jump-off which was also a crowd-thriller. Robert’s early target on Vangelis S had his rivals chasing his time, and despite all bar one of those who followed him going clear, none could catch him.

“Vangelis is a zippy horse,” said Robert. “People don’t realise just how quick he can be.”

Ireland’s Cian O’Connor was the only non-Brit to win an international class. Partnering Umberto, a ride he’s had for just under a month, he topped the show’s opening Shelley Ashman Ltd/EM Rogers Transport Ltd welcome stakes.

“He won the Geneva speed Derby last weekend, so this is his second victory in five days,” said Cian. “He’s a very uncomplicated straightforward ride.”

Phoebe Locke (Dynamite Diggity) partnered Germany’s Thomas Weinberg (Ariella) in the Equestrian Clearance Pony Club mini-major relay. Taking note of his tactical advice to her, she whizzed round on her speedy grey partner to win the class, receiving perhaps more applause than any of her senior counterparts on the day.

Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from the Olympia horse show, on sale Thursday 23 December