Robert Smith and Mr Springfield led virtually from the start to gain an amazing 4sec victory in Friday’s major class, the Champagne Taittinger Christmas Cracker.

This World Cup pre-qualifier attracted a tremendous 36-strong field, but Robert threw down the gauntlet from sixth draw with a round in which everything went perfectly.

This victory also gives him pole position in the World Cup qualifier itself, in which he will jump the 2000 Horse & Hound Foxhunter champion, Marius Claudius.

“It’s about time I won the big one here again,” said Robert, whose last victory in the qualifier came in 1996 with Tees Hanauer.

Second place went to Germany’s Lars Nieberg on the scopey Fighting Alpha, with Beat Mandli looking threatening in third after a lovely round on LB Pozitano.

There were only nine clears in this class, and the in-form William Funnell produced the other British zero score, conjuring a great round from Cortaflex Machiavelli to finish fifth.

Double Your Money

The earlier pounds for points class, a topscore with three joker fences, proved quite hard to understand – even some riders were unsure of the rules.

The honours eventually went to DutchOlympic Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam with a flying performance on the mare Balaboeska R, who beat long-time leaders Franke Sloothaak and Adolf D by a fraction.

Accenture Stakes

The crowd enjoyed the Accenture Stakes table C, which went to final-drawn Malin Baryard. The young Swedish rider jumped a wonderful round on the Ramiro Z mare, H&M Tamina, to defeat what looked an unbeatable time from Markus Fuchs and Edza De St Denis.

Young riders also hadtheir chance in the Accenture Young Show Jumper of the Year, where any of the four in the jump-off would have been a worthy winner.

Essex-based Ricki Hill showed the benefit of a month’s training in Holland with Albert Voorn to triumph on Matador by just 0.1sec from Chris Frazer and Witches Touch Of Fleur De Lys.

The Accenture Christmas Puissance

Danish rider Soren Knudsen captured the £4,000 first prize in Olympia’s Accenture Christmas Puissanceon Friday night when he and the big chesnut, Skougardens Wallentin, were the only pair able to clear the wall in the fourth round.

Six of the 11 starters reached this stage, with British hopes lying with Michael Whitaker, who had picked up the ride on Peter Charles’s Apollo when the Irishman injured his arm earlier in the day.

And up to this stage, it looked as though the Yorkshireman and the 19hh bay, a horse which had won many of these classes in Europe and whom Peterimported with this class in mind, would make a fairytale start to their partnership.

However, the Dutch-bred son of Ahorn just brushed a brick from the wall to leave Michael sharing second place with Belgian veteran Stanny van Paesschen (Bioagrico Ohio Van De Paddenborre), Marcus Ehning (Argentina) and Soren Knudsen’s second ride, Ilion Kilen.

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