It was a class full of the best riders from across the globe, but it was Italian Emanuele Gaudiano who set an unbeatable and impressive time to top the Longines FEI World Cup at Olympia, London International Horse Show on Sunday (20 December).
Riding the 10-year-old gelding Admara – a horse he has partnered for eight years – the 29-year-old fended off a host of British riders who were snapping at his heels. Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker, Scott Brash and Guy Williams occupied the following spots on the scoreboard.
Taking plenty of risks, that ultimately paid dividends, throughout the nine-fence jump-off, the Italian posted a swift time of 36.20 seconds. “I tried and it was good enough,” said a modest Emanuele after his emphatic win from which he pocketed a healthy €36,250 (£26,425). “I have ridden him since he was a two-year-old, he’s a fantastic horse and was in very good form – to win here was very nice.
“Italy only had one place in today’s World Cup and I chose to come here – it’s a great show and every rider has the opportunity to win.”
Out of the 36 starters, 17 went forward into the final test around a fair and twisting track that, in course-designer Bernardo Costa Cabral words, “walked tougher than it rode.”
Ben Maher, aboard the 10-year-old mare Diva II, held the lead initially with a time of 37.15 seconds. Scott Brash followed Ben in the jump-off and was knocking at the door riding Hello M’Lady. But putting eight strides – instead of seven – in between the final two fences proved costly and the world number one finished fourth.
“My mare could not have done any more,” said Ben. “Emanuele is renowned for being a naturally fast rider. It is a tight ring but the surface is great and the crowd is the best. I felt like I was at Cheltenham coming down to the last fence,” he added having flown down the last line in a speedy seven strides.
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Last to go, Michael Whitaker looked to mean business as he entered the ring with Viking to a huge cheer from a patriotic home crowd – the pair finished 13 seconds slower than Ben and Diva to slot into third.
“I was happy with him today but it wasn’t my best jump-off, I got a terrible stride to fence three and four. He feels very fresh and I’ve been saving him for the grand prix tomorrow (21 December),” added Michael.