Top riders do battle for Britain’s biggest first prize in showjumping

By Penny Richardson

Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou jumped two magnificent rounds to win the Rolex Grand Prix, the final class at this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show, and simultaneously capture €125,000, the biggest first prize ever offered in British showjumping.

The 12-horse jump-off was packed with world-class stars and with the two Britons who got through drawn early, the chances of a home win looked a little slim. However, William Funnell (Billy Diamo) and Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) weren’t there to make the numbers.

William and his home-bred Cevin Z nine-year-old jumped another great clear and although the time wasn’t the fastest, they watched most of their rivals leave poles on the floor and ended up in a magnificent third place. Robert really went for it and Catwalk tried his heart out, but just left a toe on one fence to end up sixth, with four faults in a time good enough to win.

Fifth-drawn Frenchman Simon Delestre took the lead with a flying round on Hermes Ryan that included a brave gallop to the last fence, but the best was still to come. Without looking as though they were hurrying, Henrik von Eckerman and the brilliant Toveks Mary Lou breezed round and shrugged off not the best of strides to the influential penultimate vertical to win by almost two seconds.

“It’s my first visit to Windsor since the European Championships 10 years ago and all I can remember is the castle!” said Henrik, who learned his trade with German ace Ludger Beerbaum.

And what of Mary Lou?

“She’s got a mind of her own, but she really wants to help me. That makes her very special.”

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Earlier in the day, 19-year-old Joseph Stockdale had his first Windsor win in the arena where his late father Tim had so many top results. Riding the little stallion Gunner II, Joe produced a fabulous round to hold off a quality field to take the Clipmyhorse Under-25 title.

Read the full report from this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show in next week’s issue, on sale Thursday 16 May

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