Shetland Pony Grand National
The Shetland Pony Grand National kicked off to an exciting start at Olympia yesterday, with 13-year-old Alice Godfrey and Ulverscroft Elite Gold outpacing the eight-strong field to take first place. Cherith Wilson, 10, and Ulverscroft Select were a close second with 11-year-old Will Twiston-Davies and Ulverscroft Drambuie in third.
The result went straight to Ulverscroft Elite Gold’s head; as the winners performed a speedy lap of honour, he stuck his head between his knees and bucked, depositing his rider on the ground. Like a true professional Alice rolled herself up into a ball to allow the other tiny hooves to race past, then she bounced back to her feet to accompany the race’s tiny mascot out of the arena, waving as she went.
The Shetland Pony Grand National takes places every day throughout the London International Horse show and this year all funds raised by the bookies will be donated to Great Ormond St Children’s Hospital. Since starting 25 years ago, the races have raised £250,00 for charity.
The Waverley TBS Christmas Stakes
Germany’s Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst started his Olympia campaign with determination yesterday evening, coining the £4,300 first prize in the Waverley TBS Christmas Stakes. Alois lead from the front in the jump off and set such a scorching time that the others were unable to match it. Jessica Kurten from Ireland took second place with Britain’s William Funnell and Cortaflex Amber du Montois in third.
This class was also not without drama when something upset Ben Maher’s ride Onasis II on their approach to the first fence. Ben demonstrated his considerable talents to remain in balance during the near-vertical rear produced by the 10-year-old bay gelding. Once all four of the horse’s feet were back on terra firma, Ben calmly cantered a circle before approaching the fence once again and jumping it without further incident.
Celebrities back in action
William Funnell teamed up with television’s interior designer Anna Ryder-Richardson to win £1,700 for Breast Cancer Haven in the Celebrity Jumping class which got the evening’s action underway. Robert Smith with Jenni Falconer, winner of the BBC’s Only Fools and Horses contest, finished second and won £850. The celebrities were once again mounted on experienced horses who helped them along the way, although Dermont Gavin endured some hairy moments at the end of the prize giving when his horse took fright.
Horse & Hound’s own acting picture editor Charlotte Risius was among the “celebrity” competitors. You can find out how she felt jumping in front of the incredible Olympia crowds in H&H’s special Hallowed Turf series, coming soon. This series will be published in next year’s show specials and will also include racing editor Catherine Austen’s first-hand experience of riding round Cheltenham with Marcus Armytage, and H&H Editor Lucy Higginson’s thoughts on riding round Badminton alongside Ginny Elliot.
Saluting our medal winners
The Olympia crowds were treated to a special parade of British medal winners on Thursday night, including the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Zara Phillips on Toytown, who was crowned KBIS British Equestrian Horse of the Year earlier in the day. The crowd roared their support when the senior eventing team rode into the arena. Unfortunately Mary King’s borrowed mount appeared less than impressed and caused some concern for William Fox-Pitt who had to take evasive action to avoid being kicked.