Germany’s Rene Tebbel finished this year’s Royal International Horse Show with a flourish when he headed an absorbing jump-off for the Longines King George V Gold Cup.
Six horses were clear over an uncompromising course that included Hickstead’s famous water ditches as part of the penultimate combination.
Nick Skelton opened the jump-off on Russel, who must have been tired after his efforts on the previous two days. But the grey stallion tried every inch of the way and, although the time looked beatable, he gave every fence a foot.
The winning round came after Belgium’s duo of Philippe Le Jeune (Karioka) and Stanny van Paesschen (O De Pomme) faulted while chasing the time. Rene set off at the gallop and Farina, a 10-year-old daughter of For Pleasure, measured the fences perfectly to reduce the time by 1.58sec.
Frenchman Patrice Delaveau lowered to first fence on Special Envoye, so everyone’s hopes rested with Robert Smith and Mr Springfield. They flew round the course, but a huge groan from the packed opened stands signalled a rolled pole at the second water ditch.
“I’ve been to Hickstead seven or eight times but I’ve never won anything here before,” said Rene, who was heading his first major class on Farina, a winner at Aachen the previous week. “I didn’t watch Nick’s round because you don’t have to watch Nick Skelton to know he’ll be fast. And I also knew that Robert Smith would beat me if he left the poles up, but today was my day.”
Molly Ashe spearheaded an American one-two-three in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup earlier in the day. The trio of riders from the USA were faced by two Britons in the jump-off of one of the world’s most famous classes for lady riders.
After Claire Robertson, who rode a fantastic round to reach this stage on Retreats
Uppercut, lowered two fences, home hopes rested with Lisa Ashe. Lisa set off at a quick pace and Cosmic Lady was looking good, but a late parallel fell, which left the door wide open.
Judy Garofalo’s Swedish-bred stallion Oliver III hit the stile in a quicker time and the jump-off really took off after this. Sheila Burke flew round on her big, long-striding mare, Caya, and her time looked impossible to beat, but Molly and another chestnut mare, Lutopia, took every chance and broke the beam just 0.06sec ahead.
This is Florida-based Molly’s first visit to Hickstead.
“It’s so fantastic to come to a place with so much history and tradition. Hickstead is where all American riders want to jump,” she said.
The 11-year-old Dutch-bred Lutopia is now being aimed at Calgary, where Molly hopes to be on the Nations Cup, with World Cup qualifiers on the agenda after that.