Julien Epaillard became the first Frenchman to head the London leg of the Longines FEI World Cup for 32 years, producing the fastest clear by 0.43 sec to pip Scott Brash to victory at Olympia on Sunday (17 December).
The Brit — who headed the class last year on Hello M’Lady — delivered a beautifully stylish round from third draw on Ursula XII that blitzed Edwina Tops-Alexander’s lead by 3.71sec.
But from final draw, Julien utilized all of chestnut Selle Francais Toupie De La Roque’s groundspeed to find the edge, gaining an extra inch with a very tight turnback into the double.
“It’s a grand victory for me to end my year with a win here in London,” said Julien, who has partnered the 10-year-old mare since June, already securing strong CSI4* and 5* results.
While it was disappointing for Scott to miss out on the back-to-back wins — a feat only achieved on two previous occasions by legends Nick Skelton and John Whitaker — he praised his brilliant 16-year-old mare.
“Fairplay to Julien, it was a fantastic round,” said Scott. “I was hoping he would have a jump down but it wasn’t to be.
“I couldn’t have asked any more of my horse, she was amazing.”
Although Scott has previously mentioned plans to retire Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s prolific winner and breed from her, he said he felt the time wasn’t yet right.
“I think a horse tells you when they’re ready and she certainly isn’t ready. She’s still out there enjoying ithe sport. I’d love to give her a foal one day, it would be a nice end to her career, but while she’s jumping like this and happy, we’ll take each show as it comes,” he said.
The €40,000 (£35,300) win was the second placing on this year’s World Cup circuit for Frenchman Julien, who now rises to 15th place in the rankings table.
A third place for Australian Edwina and Athina Onassis’s Inca Boy Van Het Vianahof — who was produced in the UK by Tim Wilks — elevates her to the top of the standings, tying with Kevin Staut.
Fourth place went to Sweden’s European individual gold medallist Peder Fredricson, who was first to jump on the 10-year-old H&M Christian K.
Don’t miss the next issue of Horse & Hound (out Thursday 21 December) for the full report from the London International Horse Show at Olympia. It’s essential Christmas reading!