Shane Breen gave a masterclass in cool-headed speed jumping to win Thursday’s main class, The Ivy Stakes sponsored by Champagne Taittinger, at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
Breen, riding the 13-year-old Golden Hawk, was first to go in a marathon 15-horse jump-off, but no one could match his clear in 33.41 seconds, and the run of Irish luck continued after compatriot Darragh Kenny’s double yesterday.
In an international line-up, the 2012 Olympic champion Steve Guerdat finished second for Switzerland, 0.5 seconds in arrears on Corbinian. Geir Gulliksen was third for Norway on Gin Chin van het Lindenhof, formerly the ride of Ireland’s Bertram Allen, and riders from Portugal, France and the Netherlands filled the next four places with Ben Maher the best Brit in eighth place.
Amazingly, this is Breen’s first full week at Olympia (he has competed in the Puissance before) and he revealed that the victory had cost him four watches – thinking it unlikely, he promised four children that he would buy them one each if he was successful.
“It looked a tricky enough jump-off course but the horse got in a nice rhythm and it came my way,” said Breen.
The Gulliksen family have been long supporters of Olympia so a first win for 22-year-old Johann-Sebastien Gulliksen in the Christmas Stocking Six Bar proved popular.
Four riders made it through to the fourth round, at 1.90m, but Gulliksen, riding the 13-year-old Arakorn, was the only one to go clear, as Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts (H & M Extra) withdrew, Britain’s William Whitaker (Fandango) hit a fence and Italy’s Luca Maria Moneta on a spooky Centimo retired after a refusal.
Gulliksen, who has been accompanying his father, Geir, to Olympia since a small child, said his horse had jumped 1.95m in Madrid a few weeks ago. “He really tries his best. It’s unbelievable to win here at Olympia. The crowd really gives you an emotional feeling.”
German Olympic rider Christian Ahlmann had a pleasant surprise in The Shelley Ashman International Shipping Ltd, E M Rogers (Transport) Ltd Snowflake Stakes when a horse that has only been jumping for a year carried him to victory in this speed class.
Atomic Z, a breeding stallion until last year, lacks the ring experience of other horses, but showed just how quick a learner he is when his round was fast enough to beat Britain’s William Funnell (Billy Angelo) by two seconds.
“It wasn’t planned at all,” said Ahlmann, “but when I went in he felt so good that I went a bit quicker, and then a bit quicker still, because he is very flexible.”
Darragh Kenny is currently Leading Rider of the Show, with Geir Gulliksen second, Dutchman Doron Kuipers third and William Funnell fourth.
A major highlight of the evening was the parade of British team medallists – British teams combined to bring back 24 championship medals this summer – headed by the gold medal eventing team. Individual world champion Ros Canter was presented with the BEF Medal of Honour, along with carriage driver Jill Holah and Para-Dressage selector Waveney Luke.