Jockeys of a different kind stole the show on day four of Olympia, The London International Horse Show. Ten of the most renowned jockeys from the world of flat and National Hunt racing took to the Olympia Grand Hall for the Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund, with Sir AP McCoy’s team of ‘legends’ coming out on top.
The day kicked off with the Olympia Senior Showing Series Championships sponsored by Anthony D Evans Insurance. Jayne Harper and her 20-year-old black gelding, Crimewave II, triumphed in the ridden section and Alice Stratton and the 13-year-old Welsh Section B gelding Laithehill Pashsa won the in-hand final.
Three CSI5* Show Jumping competitions and a FEI World Cup Driving Leg provided top class international action from start to finish, with Maikel Van der Vleuten taking the pinnacle of the day’s Show Jumping, the 1.60m Longines Christmas Cracker. Meanwhile, showing his Dad how it is done, there was a win for Rocco Dettori in the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National.
Cool-headed Dutchman Maikel Van der Vleuten, who has so often set the Olympia arena alight, was victorious again, this time on the 12-year-old bay mare VDL Groep Arera C in The Longines Christmas Cracker when shaving 0.19 seconds off the time of one of the world’s best horsemen, German Olympian Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut).
It was an international affair with Frenchman Simon Delestre third on Teavanta ll and another Dutchman, quiet horseman Harrie Smolders fourth on Cas.
There was no home cheer until ninth place, filled by Ben Maher on Don Vito, but the London Olympic gold medallist is now lying third in the Leading Rider of Show table.
In earlier classes, Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jnr set an unbeatable target from an early draw in The Snowflake Stakes, a speed class. Riding Falco van de Clehoeve, he held off a challenge from Britain’s Cayenne Puissance winner Laura Renwick, this time riding MHS Washington.
“Because I was so early to go I was hoping for a finish in the top five, so I am happy about how it finished,” said Francois. “This is the type of class where Falco has been quite competitive. He’s a special horse with a special personality.”
Germany’s Daniel Deusser, winner of the 2014 FEI World Cup Final, triumphed in a nine-horse jump-off in The Keith Prowse Snowman Stakes on SX Hidalgo VG.
Florida-based Amanda Derbyshire was fourth and highest placed Brit on Luibanta BH. Amanda, who is trained by Nick Skelton, and used to compete Olympic champion Big Star as a youngster, admitted that her aim was to be talent-spotted for the British team.
“It’s much warmer in Florida and I did wonder whether I wanted to travel over, but then I thought maybe I’d never get another invitation!” she said. “I was really quite over-excited when I arrived but I’m a bit more relaxed now. It’s fantastic to be here at Olympia.”
A stellar team of legendary jump jockeys trounced the flat jockeys in a thrilling Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
The National Hunt jockeys, trained by Graham Fletcher and headed by the winning-most jockey of all time, Sir AP McCoy, joked that their ages added up to more than 300 years. Their best performance came from Ireland’s Charlie Swann, winner of three Champion Hurdles on Istabraq back in the 1990s, but former champions Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody and John Francome, a former Junior European champion Show Jumper, showed they could still cut it.
The best performance from the flat jockeys, trained by Nick Skelton, came from captain Frankie Dettori, who said: “We gave it our best shot.”
Ijsbrand Chardon, the most experienced driver on the FEI World Cup circuit, treated the Olympia audience to a breath-taking display of rein-handling as he knocked favourite Boyd Exell into second place in the FEI World Cup Driving Leg presented by Dodson & Horrell.
First to go, Exell (AUS) set the bar high and the next four all picked up knockdown penalties. Penultimate to go, Benjamin Aillaud from France, who hasn’t competed in FEI World Cup competition for over a decade, posted a clear round, putting him second, but the Dutchman Chardon, twice a FEI World Cup champion, then took the course by storm, his horses responding to his every command. The win was his by 1.5 seconds, putting him in prime position for tomorrow’s final.
With a new mare in the lead, Chardon felt she was more settled. “Yesterday, she was a little over-awed by the atmosphere which is always so fantastic here. Today her concentration was better. Boyd had set such a standard, but today it all came together for me.”
GB’s representative, Daniel Naprous, whose day job is horsemaster to the display and stunt team The Devil’s Horsemen – recently taking the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars – put up a more assured performance, going clear until towards the end of obstacle two.
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