As we all look forward to this week’s Royal International Horse Show (29 July-3 August 2014), H&H picks out some of the stand out supreme performances and King George V Gold Cup jump-offs that we won’t forget.
1. 1993: First time a pony takes overall title (showing)
More than 10 years before the Dick Saunders Trophy was introduced at the Royal International for supreme pony, a 148cm show pony lifted the Winston Churchill title — which was originally for the overall supreme. It was the first time a pony had taken it. Royal Bronze, ridden to glory at Hickstead in 1993 by Anna Evans, had also claimed the 148cm show pony title at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and was produced by the Hollings brothers.
2. 1994: Michael Whitaker and Everest Midnight Madness vanquish the opposition (showjumping)
The King George V Gold Cup was first presented in 1911 and remains one of the most coveted trophies in showjumping. Over the years we’ve witnessed some thrilling head-to-heads, outright victories and mammoth jump-off battles and this year, Michael Whitaker was bidding for his fourth King’s Cup after success in 1982 on Disney Way, in 1989 with Didi and two years earlier with Sir Phil [now Lord] and Lady Harris’s Everest Midnight Madness.
Five progressed to a gripping jump-off where Nick Skelton and Limited Edition set the target thanks to an unbelievably short turn into the gate at fence three, crossing the line clear in 42.15sec.
According to H&H, “Michael then used Midnight Madness’s normal, forward-going stride, took a stride out from the first to the second and was already up on the clock coming to the gate.”
He maintained that momentum to dash home 0.49sec quicker than his friend and rival, with David Bowen (Ben Hur) third with the only other double clear. “Even though I was faster than Nick, I cut in to the gate,” said Michael. “I hadn’t planned to do so beforehand but knew I had to after watching him.”
3. 1999: Nick Skelton and Hopes Are High put Ludger Beerbaum in his place… (showjumping)
Things were touch and go for Nick riding Lady Harris’s Hopes Are High after the horse caught a pole between his legs in the collecting ring and was too lame to return for round two of the Nations Cup earlier at the show. Ten days before that, he was diagnosed with a lack of fluid around the hock.
However, he was sound again on the morning of the King’s Cup and Nick was up against nine jump-off rivals. The reigning European champion Ludger Beerbaum put the pressure on with a quick opening round on the nine-year-old Selle Francais Champion Du Lys.
“My strategy was to get two attacking clears,” said Ludger. “Champion’s very fast but what can you do if you’re first in a jump-off on a relatively inexperienced horse?”
So great was the powerful German rider’s target that most of his rivals, including Edward Doyle (Wingates King Koal) and Tim Stockdale (Wiston Bridget), simply waved the white flag and made no attempt to beat the time.
Nick’s competitive core, however, meant he was never going to take the submissive approach. He had seen Ludger’s round, assessed his tactics and, to great cheers, he and Hopes Are High sailed round 0.33sec faster. “When Hopes Are High is going well, he’s as good as any horse in the world,” he said.
H&H recorded: “Nick gave a magnificent exhibition to defeat a field of much higher quality than for many years.”
4. 2002 …But Ludger returns to exact his revenge with Champion Du Lys (showjumping)
Three years later, Ludger was back on the grey stallion and found himself, yet again, drawn first in the jump-off for the King’s Cup having not realised that first-round time was the deciding factor for the draw.
This proved no hindrance to the then world number one and, according to H&H: “Ludger simply moved up a gear and set what proved to be an unbeatable target. He swept aside the opposition on Champion Du Lys, with a round that those watching felt privileged to see.”
This was Ludger’s first and only success in the class. He said simply: “I don’t have many jump-off rounds like today’s. You should never say never, but I was confident [I couldn’t be beaten].”
The runner-up was a 22-year-old Richard Davenport, then based with Jan Tops in Holland, who produced a tremendous performance with his brother James’ 14-year-old mare Enjoleuse De L’Eaugrenee. They gave the mighty German a good few anxious moments with the only other jump-off clear — an incredible day for the young rider who was joined on the rostrum by another legend, third-placed John Whitaker (Steps Helsinki).
5. 2006: Roger Yves Bost does it his own way (showjumping)
The class’s traditional double of white gates caused carnage in round one, where a moving TV camera was partially blamed. There were only two clears but the fastest faulters joined them to make it six in round two. The crowds sizzled in anticipation.
William Funnell and Mondriaan carried just a time-fault and their clear against the clock meant that the final two riders on zero score had to repeat their performances to beat him.
Germany’s Heinrich Engemann was quick on Aboyeur but the experienced Roger Yves Bost is one of the quickest riders on the circuit and can light up any jump-off. Some daring turns caused spectators to gasp but they put him up on the clock.
The packed stands held their collective breath as the Frenchman galloped straight down the long final line without taking a check to win by a sensational 3sec.
“I’ve been trying to win this for 21 years,” said “Bosty”, recording France’s first victory in this class since Pierre Jonqueres D’Oriola in 1947. “To win at Hickstead is always important but this was very special.”
6. 2009: Peter Charles and Murka’s Pall Mall H benefit from a last fence blunder (showjumping)
The weather often adds an extra element of difficulty to the top classes at Hickstead and this year was no exception, with incessant drizzle for the seven jump-off contenders.
Peter Charles and the 12-year-old stallion were assigned first draw but galloped round threateningly in 53.40sec. “It’s like a game of chess,” said Peter.
As often happens with a strong opening contender, the following riders were cornered into making mistakes, including Ben Maher with Robin Hood W. This pair hit the first fence but motored on to chase the decent place prize-money on offer and moved in to the runner-up spot, beating Peter’s time by 0.26sec.
However, this plan then backfired slightly for the Hertfordshire rider as it showed last-drawn Tim Stockale (Fresh Direct Corlato) that the time was beatable, and Ben was ultimately knocked off his runner-up spot.
With victory in sight, Tim and the grey mare launched down to the final oxer but jinked slightly coming in to it, sending the rails crashing and with it his second chance for glory. Defeat was not made any easier by the fact he’d recorded the fastest time, 53.14sec.
“I can’t believe how miserable I am to win £30,000!” said Tim.
Peter summed up: “I’ve wanted to win this class for a very long time. We Brits know what it means.”
7. 2009 You’re never too young… (showing)
Poppy Carter — daughter of former top show pony rider Katy — is now an accomplished jockey, but in 2009 she lifted the pony supreme, on the lead-rein. Partnering Chagford Lewis (below), who has gone on to claim more glory with other young riders, she scored 27 out of 30 to take the top accolade.
An equally impressive performance earned them the 2008 HOYS supreme ridden pony championship.
“He’s the easiest to produce,” said Katy of the Lechlade Quince six-year-old. “He hardly needs any working in.”
Which was just as well, as Katy had had a long run round the international arena at the other end of the lead-rein…
8. 2010: Worker hits the top spot (showing)
The beauty of the RIHS is that it so often throws surprises. In 2010, Pebbly Pipe Dream (below) went into the record books when making his Hickstead debut as the first working hunter pony ever to lift the top accolade. The 143cm gelding was ridden by Abi Boulton, also making her debut in the International Arena.
Supreme judge Guy Landau said: “He looked a grand kind of pony to hunt, the sort that would jump and stay out all day.”
He wasn’t wrong. Abi hunted Pipe Dream — another to come from the late Jane Beswick — with the Meynell and South Staffs.
9. 2012: A horse of a lifetime (showing)
Katie Jerram is one of the nicest people in showing — not just because she is an H&H columnist! — so when she claimed the horse supreme in 2012 on her own Dunbeacon it was a popular victory.
After being presented with the Winston Churchill Trophy, an emotional Katie described her winning partner as “my best friend and soul-mate. He is my horse of a lifetime — where on earth would I find another one like him?”
Then aged 13, Dunbeacon had claimed the supreme at HOYS two years previously but this was only the second time he had competed at the Royal International.
10. 2013: An epic head-to-head (showing)
Last but not least, who could forget Simon Charlesworth and Danielle Heath going head to head? Danielle produced a show-stopping performance with the middleweight hunter Oathill Take The Biscuit but it was matched at every turn by Simon and the sublime hack Pearly King (right). They both scored 28 out of a possible 30 and had to “ride-off”.
Danielle galloped “Hovis” the entire length of the arena and celebrated with a glass of champagne from the ringside hospitality. But Simon and “Elvis” also produced a blistering gallop and Simon — ever the showman — swung off on the wrong side and remounted from the correct one to clinch the title.
Got five more minutes to spare? Take a look at our showjumping editor’s pick of unmissable King George V Gold Cup video clips from the show’s pre-Hickstead days:
1981: David Broome and Mr Ross
1986: John Whitaker and Ryan’s Son
1978: Jeff McVean and Claret
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (24 July 2014)