Laura Renwick and the eight-year-old Top Dollar VI were the sole combination to clear the 7ft (2m20) wall to head an unusually strong field in Olympia, the London International Horse Show’s Cayenne Puissance.
While there are usually combinations in the fifth and final round who have survived more by luck than judgment, on this occasion not one of the four horses through to the decider had so much as tapped a brick.
In fact, by the close of round four — where the wall stood at 6ft11 (2m) — the preliminary triple bar was causing more problems than the feature fence itself.
Last year’s joint-winner Christopher Megahey (IRE) — one of three combinations to have made a special trip from overseas to contest this class — fell foul of the poles in this round, opting to retire the bold but unruly Seapatrick Cruise Cavalier before braving the wall. Antony Condon with the big and classy stallion Cavalier Rusticana also faulted at the first fence.
The first two riders to tackle the final round had also travelled to London just to target this class. Belgium’s Karline De Brabander and the striking Fantomas De Muze just tipped a tile in front to make their first mistake of the competition.
They were followed by Irishman Padraic Judge and his Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) puissance victor Citi Business. The 15-year-old Irish gelding gave it his best shot but was a little long on the approach, dragging off two bricks behind.
Holly Smith had been flawless and smooth throughout on her multiple puissance winner Quality Old Joker, who was also a joint victor here last year. But in the final round, the 18hh gelding changed lead on approach, giving just enough loss of momentum to lower a brick.
Laura’s comparatively green ride had dipped his toe in the water last year when they had been asked to jump this class to boost the entries.
The then-seven-year-old had wowed with his scope, but Laura had withdrawn in the third round as she didn’t feel it was fair to ask the young horse to go any further.
This time, her appearance on the start list with the “cocky” 17.2hh was an indicator that she was in it to win it and as last to jump an outright win was within her sights.
Having ballooned the wall throughout, the Dollar Du Marier x Darco gelding was another to not quite get the perfect approach when it mattered. But despite having to twist slightly to clear it, he left the wall standing with a slight nudge of the top tile.
“It was the one round where you want to get the perfect distance and it was the one round where I didn’t,” said Laura. “He had to use himself but somehow the brick stayed.”
Laura believes the “best is yet to come” from this “cocky” chestnut — who has “not a lot of experience but a huge amount of scope.”
“He’s got all the attributes of a top horse. He’s better than just a puissance horse, it’s just a case of getting the rideability there, which he doesn’t have at the moment,” she said.
Laura and her husband John bought the horse as a three-year-old from his breeder Sue Clark, who they still keep in close contact with.
“He’s her baby,” she added. “She’ll probably be crying down the phone somewhere at the moment!”
Don’t miss the full report in Horse & Hound magazine, out on 21 December 2017.