They may be up against some of the world’s top riders, but Britain’s show jumpers showed their rivals the way home on the opening evening of the centenary Olympia International Show Jumping Championships.
Bob Ellis’s strong track for the major class, the Martin Collins International Christmas Stakes, produced an 11-horse jump-off, in which Michael Whitaker’s stunning round on Suncal Portofino proved too good for the rest.
Michael was delighted with Gillespie Equestrian’s mare.
“In her past four classes, she had two firsts, one second and a third,” he said.
A brilliant performance by Robert Smith that brought applause from his rivals signalled the start of this year’s show.
Robert and the 15-year-old Dutch-bred Kalusha have triumphed on numerous occasions in this famous arena and they stormed round from final draw in the Dodson & Horrell Welcome Speed to demote penultimate-drawn Dutchman Leon Thijssen and Oxford D’Esquelmes by 0.8sec.
“This is a good start to the show. Kalusha was injured last year, so he had a quiet season, but he felt as good as ever today,” said the Yorkshireman.
The Whitaker name was back up in lights at the end of the performance when Ellen Whitaker received the Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy, given in memory of the show’s founder to a young rider in any discipline who shows the most Olympic potential.
Results (top three and all British placings)
Dodson & Horrell Welcome Speed
1. Kalusha (Robert Smith)
2. Oxford D’Esquelmes (Leon Thijssen), HOL
3. For Fun (Marcus Ehning), GER
4. Cortaflex Amber Du Montois (William Funnell)
5. Lou Lou (Tim Stockdale)
6. Rusedski II (Robert Whitaker)
10. Likido (Nick Skelton)
Martin Collins International Christmas Stakes
1.Suncal Portofino (Michael Whitaker)
2. Paparazzi 10 (Alois Pohlmann-Schweckhorst), GER
3. Complete (Cian O’Connor), IRE
7. Ronaldo (Robert Smith)