In doing so, he became the first rider since Robert Smith in 2005 to land both feature classes at this five-star show. The full house of spectators recognised this superb achievement by giving the Hampshire rider and his great partner Borsato a standing ovation as the curtain came down on a spectacular five days of top sport.
“Weekends don’t get better than this – I’ll probably never have a weekend like this in my life,” said Harry, who is son of the 2012 Olympic team gold medallist Peter Charles. “What a way to end the year and thank you everyone for putting on such an amazing show. It’s my first time here and I can’t wait to come back.
“I didn’t think I’d done enough to win – the guys behind me are all so quick,” he said. “The crowd make this show what it is. So thank you everyone for supporting all of us.”
The past 24hrs have been a breakthrough moment in the career of this youngster, winning his first World Cup on his other top horse Stardust and now his first five-star grand prix. But Harry has experienced a remarkable year, including making his Olympic debut in Tokyo in the summer.
“A lot of cool things have happened this year,” he said modestly earlier in the week at London Horse Show.
Tactical performance at London Horse Show
His assured, tactical and daring winning performance was even more remarkable as it came from first draw in a nine-way jump-off. He and the naturally quick Borsato (Contendro x Nijinsky) negotiated the turns on exceptional angles, particularly to the vertical-oxer double and to the midway vertical where they came close to kicking out the wing, such was their ambitious approach. But Harry provided the crowd with a huge grin and a thumbs up after he stopped the clock clear in 33.53sec, having clearly piled enough pressure on his rivals. He admitted afterwards that he went straight back to the stables and didn’t watch any of his pursuers.
The combinations immediately in his wake all faulted and only Frenchman Edward Levy could come close in a time of 34.3sec with an attacking ride on the bouncy 15-year-old Rebeca LS. Dutchman Harrie Smolders, who finished runner-up to Harry in the World Cup, opted to ride for a steady clear on Dolinn NOP which would be enough to place him fourth this time around.
The greatest threat came from Harry’s British team-mate and the reigning Olympic champion Ben Maher with Jane Clark’s highly competitive Plot Blue mare, Ginger-Blue. The pair quickly reached their high cruising speed and the mare obliged with Ben’s every inch of coaxing. The pair flew over the final oxer clear in 33.94sec – less than half a second behind the leaders and into second place. So when last drawn Denis Lynch’s promising Cornet Obolensky stallion Cornets Iberio faulted, victory was once again secured for Harry Charles.
“I found out on the screen that I’d won – I’m ecstatic,” he said, landing a cheque for over 31,000 euro to add to the 42,500 euro he won the previous day at London Horse Show.
“Being first you can only really do what you can do, and what your horse is capable of. I rode to his strengths today.”
Of the 15-year-old Borsato, who has now won three out of three of his past five-star classes including one at London Horse Show and one at Geneva the week before, Harry said: “This horse keeps going from strength to strength. He’s in the best shape of his life, he’s a jumping machine.
“It’s just a credit to all of our team at home, Georgia [Elwood, his groom who was also recognised in the prize giving] works tirelessly, my dad, everyone it’s a real team effort.”
The runner-up Ben Maher added: “Boy it was close. Harry’s an incredible rider. When you’re on a run like he is this week, you start to ride like nothing can go wrong and that’s very hard to beat.
“Ginger-Blue is a bit of a slower jumper in the air and in the end, that’s probably where I lost it. I can’t change her style. But I did my best. She jumped brilliantly.”
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