Richard Davenport, 24, scored one of the biggest wins of his career when he became only the fifth British rider since 1979 to win the FEI World Cup qualifier at Olympia.
Davenport’s victory was against the odds because he was 12th to ride out of a field of 36 in the first round. When he produced the first clear of the competition it meant he had to go first in the 13-strong jump-off, a statistically weak position from which to win.
Riding his second string, Martin Dawes’s nine-year-old mare Laguina, who had never previously won a class, Davenport made a bold bid with a fast clear which, amazingly, was never bettered. Even luminaries such as Marcus Beerbaum, Marcus Ehning and Nick Skelton all had fences down.
The biggest shock came at the very end of the jump-off when the ante-post 4-1 favourite, Rodrigo Pessoa’s stallion Baloubet de Rouet, ran past the influential planks fence and incurred four faults.
“You don’t often see Rodrigo make a mistake like that,” said an overwhelmed Davenport, who admitted: “The waiting was terrible.”
The second and third-placed riders played a tactical game, calculating that if they opted for safe clear rounds they had a chance of a lesser prize and World Cup points, but they were both surprised to finish so high up the order. For both Switzerland’s Christophe Barbeau and Finland’s Sebastian Numminen it was a best ever World Cup result.
“That’s the beauty of show jumping – usually it would be Pessoa in here, but instead you’ve got us!” said Barbeau. “I saw Richard go and I thought: ‘wow, that’s fast’, but then I saw Sebastian do a nice clear and I thought that was very clever. I’ve been lucky.”
Earlier in the day Paul Barker earned his place in the final quartet for the Mitsubishi Motors Ride & Drive to win an Outlander 2.4 worth £17,000.