Olympia’s first day proved that this seasonal event, which is now London’s only indoor horse show, is still a firm favourite with the audience and competitors alike.
Michael Whitaker led from the start of the Welcome Stakes, the opening class at this year’s Olympia International Show Jumping Championships.
Riding his Toronto grand prix winner, the nine-year-old Hanoverian Landfurst 6 FC, Britain’s number one delighting the near-capacity audience by producing a great round to hold off a top-class field by almost 2sec.
Michael’s closest rival was his brother John, who is getting a tremendous tune from his new ride, the eight-year-old mare, Carmen.
German star Lara Nieberg was third on his top ride, Fighting Alpha, while a smooth clear from Britain’s leading lady, Di Lampard, was rewarded with fourth place for Abbervail Dream.
Two riders – last-drawn Tim Stockdale (Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs) and Michael’s nephew, Robert Whitaker (Lord Liberty W) did manage to beat the time, but fences fell en route to drop them down the line
“This was quite a big track for the opening class of the class and I didn’t go mad. I never expected to hang on from second draw,” said Michael, who will jump his top horse, Ann Bedford’s Handel, in this evening’s Sony Ericsson jump-off class.
Sony Ericsson Christmas Stakes
Markus Fuchs showed just why he is a permanent fixture in the world’s top 10 when he rode Adolpho Juri’s Westphalian mare, Granie, to victory in the Sony Ericsson Christmas Stakes, the major class on Olympia’s opening day.
The Swiss star produced some incredible turns from fourth draw of a nine-horse jump-off, to hold off the challenge from his compatriot, Beat Mandli, who produced a classy round on LB Pozitano.
Jerry Smit and Kerkorian Lalan were third for Italy, with Di Lampard (Carlucci) the best of the British in fourth place.John Whitaker produced the quickest jump-off time on Lord Z, but at the expense of two rolled poles, and John’s 16-year-old nice, Ellen, also rode the round of her life to reach the finale with AK Kanselier.
Markus Fuchs, who won last year’s grand prix here on his top ride, Tinka’s Boy, was delighted with Granie’s performance, particularly as the 10-year-old was close to death after a colic attack earlier in the season.
“I didn’t think she would survive, let alone jump again,” he said.
French star Michel Robert had shown all his experience to win the earlier speed stakes on the aptly-named Olympia, while Pony Club riders enjoyed the thrill of their lives when they teamed up with the stars for a mini major relay.
After a fastand furious class, the honours were shared between World Champion Dermott Lennon, partnered by James Smith, and the flying pairing of Andrew Davies and Zoe Adams.
By Emma Thomas
This year’s displays provided exciting and entertaining viewing and, as always, The Shetland Pony Grand National was fiercely contested. However, the most popular performance of the afternoon was definitely the Pedigree Dog Agility Pairs Relay.
Oscar, the Deerhound, may not have won any prizes in the competition, but he certainly won the crowd’s heart as he lolloped his way round the agility course missing out the tube and the tunnel on route and barking with delight.
Sponsored by Taittinger, the Metropolitan Police activity ride saw eight riders perform daring feats which included jumping through hoops of fire and removing their saddles while cantering round the arena.
This year’s international attraction is the Flying Csikos from Hungary. Accompanied by seven horses and a donkey, these dare-devil riders demonstrate the amazing skill and control, driving five horses standing on the backs of two of the team and dramatic one-handed whip cracking.
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