The much awaited CSI5* Show Jumping at Royal Windsor Horse Show kicked off in impressive style, with an extremely tight speed competition, in which the top three riders finished within 0.2 seconds of each other.
Ahead of the class, Britain’s Michael Whitaker said, “It’s very exciting, it’s the first time we’ve had a 5* here, the venue’s unbelievable, the ring is fantastic, the ground is very, very good, so everything is great. I’ve been competing here since I was about 16 so I always look forward to coming back and I think it’s going to be a really top week of jumping.”
A high-class field, which included World No. 1 Kent Farrington, took to the Castle Arena for the 1.45m CSI5* Manama Speed Stakes, the first 5* competition of the newly upgraded Show. First in the arena for the two-phase competition was Canada’s Eric Lamaze, ranked fourth in the World, who rode a double clear round to lay down the gauntlet to his rivals. However, it was tenth to go, America’s Laura Kraut who set the pace for everyone to catch aboard the 14-year-old chestnut mare, Whitney. Making all the turns and pushing on strongly between the fences, Laura posted an impressive time of 27.94 seconds, over two seconds faster than the previous fastest time.
Laura was followed into the arena by home favourite, Scott Brash, riding the 11-year-old Hello Forever, who put up a strong challenge, but came home 0.16 seconds behind the leader. Ireland’s Billy Twomey with Kimba Flamenco also looked to put Laura’s lead in jeopardy, but his time of 28.10 was only good enough for eventual equal second position with Scott.
Speaking after her victory, Laura said, “Windsor is probably one of our favourite horse shows, it’s so special, the surroundings with The Castle, the pageantry, it’s hard to describe what an outstanding extravaganza it is, to win a class here, it’s extra special for me! This is my first real competition with Whitney, so I’m very pleased, she’s a wonderful mare.”
The second class of the day, the CSI5* Bahrain Pearl Stakes, a 1.50m jump-off competition, was equally as exciting with some of the world’s best horses and riders vying for the top position. It was a challenging first round, with only seven of the 31 starters jumping clear through to the jump-off to contend for the £44,500 prize fund.
The first clear in the jump-off came from America’s Lauren Hough riding the bay mare Adare, who set a target of 40.55 seconds over the twisty course. David Will of Germany followed with an impressive display to post a time over two seconds faster than Lauren and take the lead. However, with two Olympic gold medalists to follow, the result was by no means certain and Canada’s Eric Lamaze, the current World No. 4, quickly took over pole position.
It was last to go, Britain’s Ben Maher, riding Jane Forbes Clark’s Tic Tac, who delighted the packed grandstand to take the victory, jumping immaculately and making the tightest of turns, to come home in a time of 37.23, just three tenths of a second faster than Lamaze.
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