A Truly International Affair at the London International

(Last Updated On: December 17, 2023)
Boyd Exell and his team of Four-In-Hand Horses @LondonInternationalHorseShow/Peter Nixon

Day four of the London International Horse Show saw the concluding leg of the FEI Driving World Cup Qualifier won by Boyd Exell, and Lorenzo de Luca and Max Kühner took the CSI5* Jumping classes – The Agria Lifetime Equine Snowflake Stakes and The Longines Christmas Cracker.

In addition to the range of high-quality Showing classes, the New Horizon Plastics London Arena hosted the inaugural edition of The Brilliance Horse Auction Co.’s Elite Collection, which saw 10 horses sold, with the top lot – Billy Etna – fetching an impressive £300,000. The eight-year-old mare by Billy Congo was formerly ridden to CSI4* level by William Funnell.

The Auction, which was brought together by Shane and Chloe Breen and William and Pippa Funnell, was deemed a huge success, celebrating the best of British and Irish breeding. The next Brilliance Horse Auction will take place at The Agria Royal International Horse Show in July.

The evening concluded with the presentation of the Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy, which was awarded to Jodie Hall McAteer.

EXELL(ENT) FEI DRIVING WORLD CUP

Following his victory in the first leg of the FEI World Cup Qualifier, Exell once again demonstrated his prowess in a crucial moment, guiding his team of horses with unparalleled precision and harmony to secure the win. Exell’s closest rivals, Dutchmen Ijsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde, both incurred four penalties in the second round, leaving the door open for Exell as last to go. Exell seized the opportunity to successfully navigate Jeroem Houterman’s intricately designed course, which demanded the highest level of technicality around the obstacles and concluded with a long run to the last.

Chardon, a four-time World Champion, showcased his skills by driving his team of grey dynamos with such speed that even with eight penalties in the first round, he progressed to the drive-off ahead of Dan Naprous, Britain’s leading carriage driver, who cleared the course at a slower pace to finish fourth.

Speaking on his win, Exell said, “I felt the pressure. You can have a ball at any moment in indoor driving, and if you go slower and have a ball later on in the course, then you get punished. The sport is definitely growing every year as the public understands more, and therefore enjoy the entertainment more. ExCeL is a fantastic venue for the London International Horse Show because we can simply unload the horses and get them straight into the stables, which are so close to the Warm-Up Arena and the International Arena – it’s fantastic.”

Fourth placed Dan Naprous, the highest-placed British competitor, said: “I am so proud of my horses today. To be on the tails of these three legends is phenomenal. I owe it to my horses; they have tried so hard. I have been away for six weeks filming on the Gladiator 2 set. We flew in last Sunday, so we drove them around for ten minutes before we came to the Show on Monday. It was brilliant getting a clear round whilst being the first to go. A huge thanks to the team beside me here. I stayed with Koos de Ronde for three or four weeks a few months ago and he helped me. Then when I was struggling here on the first day, Boyd was gracious enough to give me some tips on different things.”

A CRACKING CHRISTMAS CRACKER FOR KÜHNER

The feature Show Jumping class of the day came from The Longines Christmas Cracker, which saw 23 of the world’s finest horse and rider combinations take on Guilherme Jorge’s masterful course.

First to canter into the International Arena was World No. 6 Julien Epaillard, who set the standard for the rest of competitors with a perfectly judged clear round. It was third to go, the popular duo of Joseph Stockdale and Ebanking, who ensured there would be a jump-off. The young British rider’s result was also emulated by London International Horse Show Ambassadors, Harry Charles and Jodie Hall McAteer.

In total, 11 riders produced the exceptional levels of horsemanship required to proceed into the jump-off, returning in the same order as they jumped in the first round. One of the fastest riders in the world, Epaillard lived up to his reputation with a clear in the time of 30.05 seconds. The pressure was on the remaining riders to match the flying Frenchman’s time, with Under-25 World No. 1 Harry Charles scorching down to the final Longines oxer to the delight of the fans, but he was just unable to match the speed set. Several other combinations tried and failed to beat the time, but it was Austria’s Max Kühner and EIC Cooley Jump the Q as last to go, whose forward and positive riding was rewarded as they crossed the line in 29.82 seconds to the rapturous applause and appreciation of the London crowds.

Speaking after the class, Kühner said: “It was a tight jump-off, but that is always how it is with Julien, so I was really pleased with my horse and my round. The crowd here is fantastic and truly supports us as riders; it is what makes the London International one of the best shows in the world.”

The Agria Lifetime Equine Snowflake Stakes saw Lorenzo de Luca take the victory. 28 competitors lined up for the class, which was held over two rounds with the top 10 from round one going through to a jump-off. Great Britain’s Harry Charles was the first to jump clear as second to go; however, he then faced an anxious wait to see whether he had done enough to make it into the top 10. Ultimately, 11 riders jumped the first round clear, meaning Charles’ British teammate, Scott Brash, as the slowest of the clears, did not progress to the jump-off despite a faultless performance.

The riders returned to jump in reverse order of merit from the first round, with the fastest clear round, de Luca, having the advantage of going last. The second round proved challenging, with many accruing faults in their attempt to set the time to beat. The first to jump clear over the shortened course was Britain’s Matt Sampson, continuing his impressive form at the Show. Riding Ebolensky – his London Grand Prix winning-mount from 2022 – Sampson set a target of 42.31 seconds, with just two to go. Next into the arena, Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts gave it his best shot; however, with four faults, he was not able to challenge Sampson. It was left to de Luca, riding Violino Il Palazetto, as the only remaining rider able to take the title from Sampson. The Italian speed king made the tightest of turns to post with a time of 39.72 seconds – over two seconds faster than the Brit.

Speaking after the class, de Luca said: “Violino Il Palazetto jumped amazingly. The course was really fast and I was lucky enough to go last, so I headed into the arena knowing the time to beat. Matt Sampson played it a bit safe, so it made things slightly easier for me, but it was still a good win.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the week, de Luca continued: “Our goal for this weekend is to claim points in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup, and to hopefully be in the top three. I will ride Cappuccino 194 in tomorrow’s competition as he has been jumping really well. For the London Grand Prix, I will ride Don Vito, who is also in great form. It is simply amazing and an honour to be competing at the London International Horse Show – the crowds are super supportive and knowledgeable on the sport.”

In the opening jumping class of the day – The GS Equestrian Pony Club Mini-Major – eight junior riders on ponies, representing seven different Pony Clubs, were partnered with their professional counterparts. Harry Charles, riding Casquo Blue, whom he also rode in The Longines Christmas Cracker, partnered with Keira Merriman to set the standard as the first pair to go.

Third to jump was the combination of Sebastian Hughes, who jumped in the Puissance, and Amy Capper of the Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire Hunt. Capper’s round with Laithell Paisley gave them an early lead that was good enough to finish an eventual second.

The final pair to take on the course was Serena Brown, alongside Geir (Jimmy) Gulliksen. Representing the Iveagh Pony Club, Brown delighted the audience and her enthusiastic Northern Irish support team, which included the winners of the class from 2021 (Clodhna McEvoy) and 2022 (Juliana Nelson). She impressed by navigating the tightest of lines and taking a stride out to the last fence, propelling her into first place with a remarkable time of 21.99 seconds.

Speaking after the class, Brown said: “I’ve had Maxmilo for about two years; he’s a rescue pony and I am so proud of him. It feels amazing to have won that class; I can’t believe it! I was so nervous, but I enjoyed it so much and it was amazing to be partnered with Jimmy.”

More information about The London International Horse Show can be found at www.londonhorseshow.com.

For more information, please contact: Niki McEwen / rEvolution / nmcewen@revolutionworld.com

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