The Longines King George V Gold Cup; what a way to cap off the Royal International Horse Show for another year, reports Nicola Strong.
This prestigious cup is arguably one of the most highly sought after prizes on Britain’s showjumping circuit, and is suitably lucrative with 200k Euro’s in prize money up for grabs.
The course looked technical and up to height, promising a stiff test for horse and rider, so thrills and excitement were sure to be seen. Much to everyone’s surprise, the competition started with not one, but two clear rounds courtesy of Belgium’s Pieter Devos and GBR’s own Joe Clayton.
Ellen Whitaker put an end to that though, when her grey mare Ximena took a dislike to the tricky white double of gates for the second time this meeting, planting before take-off. Probably not a week she’ll care to remember.
Ellen was one of a handful of riders who retired gracefully, saving the horse for another day. Geoff Billington was another, retiring with Uppercut II having knocked down both the first and second fence. Ever the showman, theatrically waving a white hanky in surrender much to the delight of the crowd!
John Whitaker had an uncharacteristic round when his ride Maximilian notched up 21 faults, and many of the other top Brit riders also fell by the wayside. Greenwich bound Olympic representative Peter Charles finished with 14 faults, whilst reserve rider Tina Fletcher was unlucky to pick up 4 faults with Ursula XII.
Fresh from success in the Sky Sports Speed Classic, Shane Breen was always a threat. Cos I can jumped immaculately in the first round, but with 4 faults in the jump-off it would not be another win for the Breens and Ireland this time.
French rider Marie Hecart gave a great account of herself to come 3rd with a double clear on Myself de Breve, the little horse temporarily taking the top spot, and almost making Marie the first female ever to win the competition.
Louise Pavitt and Joe Clayton were the only 2 clear rounds for GBR, and the former thrilled the crowd with a superb jump off effort which would be enough to secure 4th place. Louise finished down on the clock having chosen to go around the planks to the last fence rather than inside, costing her valuable seconds. Joe Clayton had recorded another competitive effort but 4 faults put him out of contention.
The worthy winner however, was 22 year old Hendrik-Jan Schuttert and the scopey grey Cerona H S for the Netherlands, making it the first victory for a Dutch rider in the history of the cup.
A superb fast double clear would win him the top spot, but with Ludger Beerbaum the last to go, he was no doubt holding his breath until the last! The ever stylish Beerbaum was double clear, but couldn’t find an answer to Schuttert’s unbeatable time.
Having clocked up 16 faults in the first round of the Nations Cup, it would be a brave person who backed the young man, but a surprise was on the cards and Schuttert will now have his name recorded next to some of the greatest showjumpers of all time. Like many of the spectators, I would have loved to have seen a GBR win, particularly so close to the Olympics, but there’s something about watching the underdog take the spoils that is good for the soul.
Horsemart reader and blogger Nicola Strong has been riding for 24 years and is an amateur rider taking her first steps into the world of British Eventing and British Showjumping, supported all the way by trainer and sponsor Sharon Kilminster. She has her own blog at www.headstrongequestrian.com.