Dutchman Albert Zoer and the world’s top horse, Okidoki, had to pull out all the stops to win the grand prix on the Thursday night at Olympia.
This pair have been part of the winning World and European Championship teams for the past two seasons, but they were pushed all the way by an inspired Robert Whitaker and Lacroix.
The British pair had the worst of the draw in the nine-horse jump-off but they led almost all the way and it took a fantastic round to knock just 0.07sec off their time.
Albert has loved his visit to the show.
“The British crowds are the best in the world. They get behind all the riders in every class and we are all grateful,” he said.
Robert Whitaker and Finbarr V had earlier warmed up for Friday’s Puissance with victory in the Christmas Eve Six-Bar, the opening class of the day.
Three reached the final round of the class, where Robert and the giant chestnut were the only pair able to clear the final fence, which stood at a mighty 2m (6ft 7in).
Robert and Finbarr will now go for their 12th victory over the big wall.
“Finbarr feels really well at the moment,” said Robert, who has freshened Mandy Hall’s gelding up by jumping in a few speed classes.
Norway’s Tony Andre Hansen scored his first ever Olympia win when he and ET Royal Volo proved far too quick for the rest in the KBIS Speed.
Tony, who funds his show jumping by playing in one of Norway’s leading rock bands, used to ride Royal Volo in grands prix, but a leg injury put her out for 18 months.
“This is only her fourth show back, but I’m hoping she’ll take some of the pressure off my top ride, Camiro,” he said.
John Whitaker came out all guns firing in the Hong Kong 2008 Table C. He produced a trademark round on Casino and without appearing to go fast was too quick for his rivals, the closest of whom was his son Robert on another of Mandy Hall’s horses, Rusedski II.
“Casino can be spooky horse, so it helps to do a class like this to settle him down,” said John.
Results (Top three plus all British placings)
Christmas Eve Six-Bar
1. Finbarr V (Robert Whitaker)
2eq. Ronaldo & Joal De Madame (Jean-Marc Nicolas), FRA
4eq. Cortaflex Mondriaan (William Funnell)
9eq. Una II (Guy Williams)
Kbis British Equestrian Insurance Speed
1. ET Royal Volo (Tony Andre Hansen), NOR
2. Okometa (Alois Pohlmann-Schweckhorst), GER
3. Exploit Du Roulard (Jean-Marc Nicolas)
4. Prima Vera (Robert Whitaker)
6. Lou Lou (Tim Stockdale)
Hong Kong 2008 Olympic Equestrian Host Table C
1. Casino (John Whitaker)
2. Rusedski II (Robert Whitaker)
3. For Fun (Marcus Ehning), GER
6. Carnaval Path (William Whitaker)
8. Henri De Here (Ellen Whitaker)
9. Merva Des Hayettes (Guy Williams)
Olympia Grand Prix
1. Okidoki (Albert Zoer), HOL
2. Lacroix (Robert Whitaker)
3. Camiro (Tony Andre Hansen)