Last year, Alberto Zorzi became the first Italian rider in history to win the Turkish Airline grand prix at the Olympia International Horse Show. This year, he became only the fifth rider to have ever taken back-to-back wins.
“I’m a very lucky man,” said Alberto, who goes down in the annals alongside previous consecutive victors David Broome (1977 & 78), Nick Skelton (1982 & 83), Malcolm Pyrah (1985 & 86), Franke Sloothaak (1988 & 89) and Ben Maher (2013 & 2014).
Last year, it was Contanga who landed the jackpot for the 29-year-old world number 23, this time he was partnering the 10-year-old Selle Francais mare Ulane De Coquerie, who wowed with her natural speed.
Just five combinations had made it through a really tough first round from course builder Bernardo Costa Cabral, which riders found more exacting than the previous day’s Longines FEI world cup that 18 produced clears.
The first faultless performance had come from Portuguese rider Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (CH Chopin’s Bushi), who was joined by warm-up class winner Doron Kuipers (NED) and Charley. His countryman Maikel Van Der Vleuten (Idi Utopia) also made it through, while Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson were the only British representatives in the second phase.
Four riders produced double clears, with Rodrigo’s clean and quick pathfinding round setting a strong opening bar. His lead was short lived however, as two riders later Maikel found an extra 0.05sec with the 10-year-old Quasimodo Z mare.
Scott thinks “very highly” of Jefferson, a relatively green nine-year-old who he has partnered since the spring. But while his first round clear demonstrated his talent, his lack of experience showed on a turn back to the red double in the jump off, where an error of communication forced them to pull out.
“He’s not really ready to go that speed but when you’re riding in front of your home crowd, you want to try and do your best,” Scott said.
“I was maybe a bit too aggressive in the turn with my hands and he got a bit sensitive and didn’t know what I wanted from him and we had to do a circle, but there’s no harm done.
“I feel he’s got all the ability,” he added. “He’s a top horse in the making.”
‘I always wondered what it would be like to win something like this and now I have it hasn’t really
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The boys’ team won the competition, while Bridget Andrews rode the fastest individual round
Last into the ring, and known for his prowess against the clock, Alberto and the nippy daughter of L’Arc De Triomphe kept the speed up through all the turns to land a distinct victory, stopping the clock a brilliant 1.22 sec ahead.
It was only the third time the mare had contested a 1.60m track.
“I’m so lucky to ride this horse, “ he said. “I know that she is very fast and I trust her and go with her. I will be back to try and win again next year.”
Don’t miss a moment of H&H’s extensive coverage. Check out dressage and Wednesday-Saturday showjumping reports in the 28 December issue (out Friday, not Thursday this week because of Christmas schedules), while showing, driving and Sunday showjumping coverage will be in the 3 January 2019 issue.