The home crowds at Olympia had a lot to celebrate on Saturday, with two home wins and several other ribbons for the British riders.
Ben Maher produced a superb display of power jumping on new ride Boomerang (Orlando x Lux) to scoop €15,000 in the winner-takes-all Christmas Masters.
This fascinating competition, which is all about tactics and clearing huge fences, is open to the seven riders currently heading the H&M Leading Rider of Show table. Each clear round means another €500 in the prize pot, the fences keep going up, and a rail down spells elimination.
By the end of the fourth round, only Pius Schwizer, Ben and Jur Vreiling were left to jump off against the clock for the jackpot.
Pius had a fence down and Ben went clear, but in a time that was slow enough to leave the door open yet fast enough to put pressure on the Dutch Olympian, who hit the second fence.
"There’s an enormous amount of tactics, and I think this sort of competition is a way that the sport could develop," commented Ben. "They’re probably the biggest jumps we’ll see this week and the crowd loves it."
"We have an agreement beforehand that the winner buys everyone drinks – and no doubt the others will take me up on it!"
Ben has acquired the ride on the nine-year-old Boomerang, and also on Quabble, through Danish rider Emilie Martinsen, who is taking a break from competing. "Everything is new territory with this horse - he’s still has to be led into the ring," explained Ben. "But although he’s now quite tired after five rounds, he’s learned a lot. It’s a great way to end the year."
There was yet another British win in the Christmas Tree Stakes, in which William Whitaker and his uncle John finished first and third, split by Finnish visitor Anna-Julia Kontio on her beautiful grey Fardon (Corland x Mezcalero).
Thirteen of the 21 starters went through to a mammoth jump-off, but there were only five clears, of which William’s was the fastest on Balibu – keeping it in the family, the 10-year-old chestnut by Baloubet du Rouet x Grannus is owned by another uncle, Michael.
"I’m thrilled with the way he has come on," said William. "Even though it was quite a small class I knew it would be tight because there were so many good combinations."
Uncle John, beaten by about 1/100th of a second, admitted he was ‘sick as a parrot’, but pointed out that his mare, Ornellaia (For Pleasure x Calato), hadn’t got the biggest of strides.
"Every fence came up perfectly and I don’t think anyone was faster than me at the second to last fence, but William did the last in six strides and I intended to do the same, but she just didn’t seem to get there," he explained.
Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher continued his run of form when emerging victorious in the fast and thrilling Shelley Ashman International Ltd, K M Rogers (Transport) Ltd Father Christmas Stakes on Callisto (Casall x Acorado).
The long-time leader of this accumulator competition was John Whitaker on Lord of Arabia (Cassini II x Carry), ahead of his younger brother Michael on the Diamant de Semilly-son Right Now Semilly. "Watching John’s round was a big advantage for me because I was able to create a good plan," said Hans-Dieter. "It was a fast course, with short turns, and I had to go for it. Luckily, my horse is very careful."
There’s two more days of exciting competition to come but, for now, John, the senior rider at Olympia, has the satisfaction of heading the H & M Leading Rider of Show leaderboard.
Source: Press release from Revolution Sports + Entertainment // Picture © Kit Houghton/Hpower.
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