“It’s an amazing feeling – I’ve been coming here for years and this is the one every rider in Britain, everyone everywhere, wants to win,” he said. “To win in front of this crowd, to do it in the first year of the new location – I can’t tell you the exact feeling but it’s very good.”
Harry’s father Peter won this class exactly 20 years ago.
Speaking about his father’s influence on his career, Harry said: “He’s been by my side all the way and I couldn’t have done it without him. He’s really helped with all his knowledge and experience and I owe it all to him.”
John Whitaker – 44 years older than Harry’s tender 22 – set the standard from sixth draw in the 11-rider jump-off. As the crowd cried, “Come on John!” he made sure of the turn into the double, which had been causing problems, before picking up the pace to finish in 37.5sec on Unick Du Francport.
“For one tiny second I thought I might win it – I think I just need more experience!” joked the rider who has been riding at the London Christmas show since 1972.
The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders followed John in and had to recover from an extraordinary misjudgement at the first fence when Monaco seemed to fail to sight the jump and ended up clearing it awkwardly at an angle. It was some feat to get ahead of John with this start, but he did, in a time of 36.77sec.
“I don’t know what happened. I think I had the right distance but the fence was in the wrong place!” he quipped. “But it’s a Harry day today and this is just the start of Harry Charles, we’ll see a lot more of him in the future.”
The next in, Ben Maher, opted for a slightly steadier clear with Faltic HB, who is quite new to this level and finished fifth in 38.74sec.
Harry put down his challenge next, scorching round in 35.91sec after taking out strides to both the penultimate upright and the final oxer.
“I didn’t watch anyone else. I know my horse and she’s short striding, so I didn’t want to get hung up on numbers. I stuck to my plan and it came off,” he said.
Martin Fuchs, already the winner of three classes here this week, set off at a pace, but the delicate upright into the double fell for Conner Jei and relegated the Swiss rider to seventh.
A British win in this London Horse Show showjumping top class was guaranteed with Matthew Sampson last to go and he certainly gave it his all. But his turn into the upright at fence nine didn’t quite come off and Geneve R refused and crashed into the fence. The pair jumped it on second attempt and the remaining obstacles to finish 11th.
The winner Harry Charles started his partnership with the 11-year-old Stardust, who belongs to his father and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, at the start of the year and the pair also won the leading showjumper of the year at Horse of the Year Show in October.
“This is only her third five-star grand prix,” he said. “She has the biggest heart. She’s short striding, with loads of blood and is super careful. She jumped the Geneva grand prix last week and made it feel quite easy, so I knew if I did my job right today and nailed everything, we’d have a chance.
“My father said to me on Monday, ‘You have a good chance’ and before the jump-off, he just said, ‘Good luck, you can do it.’”
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