The Rolex Grand Prix provided a fitting finale to the four-day Show, with the finest horse and riders in action to compete for the prestigious prize, which went to Gregory Wathelet. The CAIO4* Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix came to a close following three days of intense competition, with Boyd Exell taking the spoils. Elsewhere, the Champagne Laurent Perrier Meet of the British Driving Society, featuring Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor, provided a fantastic spectacle and the final of the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games was won by Wales.
WATHELET RIDES TO GLORY IN THE ROLEX GRAND PRIX
The feature CSI5* class of the day, the Rolex Grand Prix, saw the world’s best horse and rider combinations battle it out for the prestigious title. Bernardo Costa Cabral’s up-to-height 1.60m course proved challenging, with only three riders making it through to the jump-off. The likes of World No. 2 Martin Fuchs, World No. 3 Henrik von Eckermann and London International Horse Show Grand Prix winner, Harry Charles, all accumulated four faults in the first round.
First to go in the jump-off, Belgian Gregory Wathelet, laid down the gauntlet with the tightest of turns to the Rolex double at the far end of the arena and flying down to the final fence to set the time to beat of 34.79 seconds aboard Nevados S. Max Kühner was next to take up the challenge, and he set out meaning business with Elektric Blue P, however he was not able to match Wathelet’s time, leaving it to Daniel Bluman as the final remaining rider able to take over the lead. Bluman was able to get closer to Wathelet’s time, but in doing so accrued four faults at the very last fence, leaving him in third.
Wathelet said: “It is amazing to win a Grand Prix, especially a Rolex Grand Prix. I jumped in the Nations Cup at La Baule last week and the horse was jumping really well, so I was confident coming to Royal Windsor that he was on great form. It was a tough course which was very up to height, but I thought there would be more clears from the top combinations. Even though there weren’t many riders in the jump-off you still have to go fast and clear to win. The Show is incredible, the atmosphere and the crowds are amazing, all of the riders love coming here.”
THE CHARLES DYNASTY RULE AT ROYAL WINDSOR
The Show Jumping got off to an early start with the Protexin Equine Under-25 Jumping Competition featuring Great Britain’s top up-and-coming young riders. Of the seven combinations who went through to the second round, it was Sienna Charles riding Chinta Van Geluut Z who set the pace as second to go, jumping an immaculate round in a time of 34.93 seconds. Those who followed were unable to match Charles’ standard, with Joe Fernyhough coming closest with a clear in a time of 35.42 to finish second, ahead of Oliver Fletcher in third.
A delighted Charles said: “This class is one I’ve always wanted to win, I’ve come close a couple of times so I’m really pleased with how it’s gone today. I was off a lot of last year with injury or illness, so I took her [Chinta Van Geluut Z] to Spain to build-up for the season and I’m really happy with her today.”
The Manama Rose Show Stakes was a speed class with riders jumping one round of 12 fences against the clock. Home favourite John Whitaker took an early lead, setting the standard with an impressive display of speed and agility. Compatriot Guy Williams, known for his skill against the clock, set off meaning business but took an extra pull down to the last which denied him pole position. It was Britain’s leading lady rider, Holly Smith, fresh from victory yesterday, who was the first to put Whitaker’s lead in jeopardy, and with a forward stride to the last, shaved 0.61 seconds off his time to take the lead at the midway point.
Shane Breen stepped up the pace once again, galloping flat out to the last to set what looked to be an unbeatable target. However, ultimately it was Harry Charles who showed his class, taking over the lead with just four to go with a slick performance aboard Billabong du Roumois. The 22-year-old shaved off over two seconds from Breen’s time to take the victory, the perfect preparation for the afternoon’s Rolex Grand Prix.
Charles said: “He is a new horse to me, and this is our first win together. He is a fantastic horse, who is extremely fast and has a lot of potential, so I am really excited about our future together. I didn’t watch anyone in the jump-off, I just stuck to my plan which was to start off conservatively and build up the speed as the course went on. I can’t believe that we were two and a half seconds faster than everyone else – it truly is an ode to how fast the horse is. He is very similar to my top horse, Stardust. Both are naturally quick and careful – those horses are hard to beat!”
SHOWING CHAMPIONS CROWNED
Her Majesty The Queen only narrowly missed another win in the showring today. Her home-bred five-year-old Fools Paradise — rated “a star in the making” by rider/producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable — was second in the Novice Riding Horse sponsored by Mr and Mrs Phil Swallow this morning. Coincidentally, this lovely gelding is the son of a mare called Stardust, whom Jerram-Hunnable rode to win the Ladies Show Horse class twice here in the past. The overall title went to Cheshire producer Vicky Smith with the Mears family’s Times Square (pictured).
Chief Showing steward Sebastian Garner was in celebration mode when his daughter Kinvara topped the Intermediate Show Hunters, riding the 10-year-old Irish-bred gelding Despicable Me for her employers, Steve Pitt and Vicky Smith.
Senior Castle Arena Showing Steward and long-time Royal Windsor supporter Philip Judge was also beside himself with joy when his oldest son, Harry, seven, won the Lead Rein Show Hunter Pony class with his charming grey pony, Thistledown Snowfall. Judge, who owns an international haulage company, has stewarded at the show for many years, and also competed here as a child.
At the other end of the equine size scale, Forgelands Hyde Park — Friday’s Hack Champion with producer Danielle Heath — returned to the Show this morning to land the Intermediate Championship with his owner’s daughter, Issy Mears.
EXELL SECURES VICTORY
At the end of a thrilling three days of international action, Boyd Exell (AUS) stormed home the winner of the CAIO4* Land Rover Grand Prix nearly 16 penalties clear of his closest rival, Glenn Geerts (BEL). Having led from the start with an untouchable Dressage score, Boyd held on to his lead through the Marathon phase despite mounting pressure from Geerts and eventual third place Michael Brauchle (GER). However Exell’s early advantage was too much for his competitors to match, and even a handful of penalties in today’s Cones kept him well clear of his rivals.
The Team title went to Belgium, whose line-up of Dries Degrieck, Glenn Geerts and Tom Stokmans clinched the competition by just 0.51 of a point over Germany’s Michael Brauchle, Mareike Harm and Rene Poensgen.