Popular American rider Laura Kraut brought the first day of jumping at Olympia, The London International Horse Show to a stirring conclusion with an audacious win in the Christmas Pudding Stakes.
Riding the genuine mare Jubilee d’Ouilly she shaved nearly a second off the brilliant round produced by Germany’s former European champion Marco Kutscher, riding Cash, who threw down the gauntlet in the jump-off with a brave line inside the upright planks fence.
The course designed by Portugal’s Bernardo Costa Cabral, who was making his Olympia debut, reaped 14 clear rounds from the 37 starters. Michael Whitaker was best of the home side in third on the grey Elie van de Kolmen and Laura Renwick was fourth on the fantastic Oz de Breve.
“When I walked the course I didn’t like the line inside the planks, but Marco was the only rider I watched in the jump-off and when I saw him do it, I realised that if I wanted to win, that was what I had to do,” explained Laura. “But the mare is so honest that if there’s a fence in front of her, she’ll jump it.”
Laura has not yet decided whether she will ride the French-bred Jubilee d’Ouilly, formerly ridden by Penelope Leprevost and Trevor Coyle, in Saturday’s Longines FEI World Cup qualifier or Cedric. The faithful little grey horse, now 16, fractured a rib when slipping on a pavement at a show in Lausanne a few months ago, but is “back in great form”.
The first international class was an Italian job when Luca Moneta got his week off to a great start when winning the first international class, the Santa Stakes, on the 16-year-old Jesus de la Commune. He finished 0.57sec faster in the speed class than second-placed Peder Fredricson from Sweden on H & M Sibon.
“You can tell the Olympia crowd really loves horses,” said Luca. “They cheer everyone, no matter where they’re from!”
He explained that he’d had to start from scratch with the horse when it arrived at his yard five years ago. “Although he is well bred and jumps well, he hated humans and so I had to try methods of natural horsemanship. It worked so well that I will now try it on other horses – the only downside is that he’s addicted to carrots!”
The first jumping winner of this year’s Olympia, The London International Horse Show was 12-year-old Amy Roberts who teamed up with Robert Whitaker to win the JJ Jumping Pony Club Mini Major. Amy, a member of the Iveagh branch, faced a race against time to get to Olympia after her ferry from Northern Ireland was cancelled; fortunately, her mother managed to negotiate a place on another boat.
The first of the three Extreme Driving competitions – a top-score round that precedes Thursday and Friday’s FEI World Cup competition – lit up the ever-enthusiastic Olympia crowd with its seven teams of thundering four-in-hands. The reigning World Cup champion, Koos de Ronde from the Netherlands, took this class, the only driver to go clear in both rounds. Germany’s Michael Brauchle actually put up the fastest time in the final round but fell back with 10 penalties as two balls fell. Four-times World Cup champion, Boyd Exell from Australia, was third with three balls down.
Finally, top coach Alan Fazackerley, who has overseen a phenomenal medal haul by the British Pony team over the last 13 years, was awarded the Ryan’s Son Trophy, presented annually by John and Clare Whitaker to a great contributor to the sport.