Great Britain’s Harry Charles continued his excellent run of form with two superb victories with rising star Sherlock and speed demon Billabong Du Roumois at the CSI5*-W La Coruna, Spain, this weekend (1-3 December).
Victory with Sherlock in the World Cup qualifier put the Hampshire rider top of the Longines FEI World Cup Western European league standings and he looks all set to contest his third World Cup Final in Saudi Arabia in April.
A huge field of 14 made it through to the jump-off for Sunday’s feature class, the World Cup qualifier. Harry had originally planned to give Sherlock “a building round for the future” rather than go all out for victory with his father Peter’s 10-year-old, who is still new to the level. However the poles kept falling for his rivals round a tricky track set by Javier Trenor and only two had gone clear when last-drawn Harry entered the ring.
“The day before, I’d been in the jump-off with Billabong Du Roumois, who is the fastest horse in the world, and I was really annoyed with myself because I nearly had it won but I just took too much of a risk to the last line and had both jumps down – I ride to win,” explained Harry. “But I said if I get in the jump-off on Sherlock, I need to remember I’m not on Billabong, I just wanted to give him a nice experience.
“He jumped the first round really well, but you could just feel he was a bit cautious, trying to work it out a bit, because it was big. You don’t see jump-offs like that and Jack Whitaker was in the ring helping me and he said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t come out of the ring having knocked a jump down’. I set myself a target and when I saw Willem Greve jump before me and have one down, I said to Georgia Ellwood [Harry’s groom], ‘We’ll win this!’,” said the 24-year-old.
The pair executed some remarkable turns and soared sky-high over the final airy vertical to stop the clock nearly a second faster than Austria’s Max Kuhner on EIC Julius Caesar, with Spain’s Armando Trapote finishing third on Tornado VS.
Harry Charles on Sherlock: “He’s such an intelligent horse”
The world number 14, who leads a British one-two ahead of Ben Maher in the World Cup standings, punched the air in delight after crossing the line.
“It probably wasn’t the prettiest round I’ve ever ridden – I had to hustle and bustle a little bit and when I finished the emotion came out a bit but I couldn’t really help it because I couldn’t quite believe it!” he said.
“Sherlock is jumping well but he’s not the fastest just yet – but he’s not slow either. You have good horses and great horses, and I never had any doubt that he’d be one of the great ones – I just didn’t think it would be this quick,” said Harry, who finished second in the class last year on Casquo Blue.
“He’s won two of the last three grands prix he’s done. But even from the start of the year when he was doing the three-star grands prix down in Oliva, he was green and spooky and having two down, one down, but I was always delighted with him because he took it all so well. He’s such an intelligent horse, he doesn’t get stressed, he doesn’t worry – he’s actually very lazy to ride until he comes in the ring, then he lights up.”
Harry finishes the year at CHI Geneva this week, then brings Romeo 88, Billabong and Casquo to the London International, saving Sherlock for the World Cup Final.
“He still wants a few more rounds experience-wise, so with the pressure off to qualify for the final, I might take him to one more World Cup just to get a bit more mileage into him,” said Harry, who also achieved the outstanding feat of beating lightning-quick French rider Julien Epaillard to win the 1.50m Caixabank Trophy against the clock with Stall Zet’s Billabong Du Roumois on Friday night.
“That was the first time I’ve ever beaten Julien in any kind of speed class, it’s not easy to do!” said Harry. “But it’s easier when you’re on Billabong.”
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