Royal Windsor Horse Show drew to a close after an incredible five days of top class equestrian action. The pinnacle Jumping competition of the show, the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix, was won by Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs. Elsewhere, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet was victorious in the morning’s CSI5* Manama Rose Show Stakes.
Saturday: Fuchs and Saïd Victorious
The second day of international show jumping got underway with 28 starters tackling Bernardo Costa Cabral’s technical 1.50m course in The CSI5* Defender Challenge Stakes. The competition consisted of two rounds, with eight going through to the jump-off in reverse order.
After a lightning-fast first round from Olivier Perreau, the Frenchman was in pole position for the jump-off. Ben Maher and the incredibly careful stallion Enjeu de Grisien were first to go in the second round, and set the precedent for the combinations to come. Fellow Brits included William Funnell and the home-bred Billy Marmite, Lily Attwood and Karibou Horta, and Jodie Hall McAteer, who finished in third with Mandy Hall’s Kimosa van het Kritrahof.
There was heartbreak for Daniel Deusser, as he and Kiana van het Herdershof were bumped out of the top spot by a painstaking margin by World No. 4, Martin Fuchs and Viper Z. Fuch’s round was picturesque, with his sixpence-like turn from the Rolex oxer to the water tray finishing 0.05 seconds quicker than Deusser, and sealing another 5* win.
Speaking about Viper Z, the former World No. 1 said: “He’s really great and is naturally very quick, it’s his first 5* show, so I’m delighted with this result. When walking the course I believed it would suit us, so it’s always very nice when it works out. Royal Windsor Horse Show is just such a nice atmosphere, with amazing people who know the sport all around.”
Twenty-one of the world’s best horse and rider combinations went head-to-head in Saturday’s pinnacle show jumping class – The CSI5* Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes for The King’s Cup. First into the arena was Britain’s William Funnell riding the 13-year-old chestnut gelding, Equine America Billy Diamo. Funnell showcased all of his experience to jump clear and set the standard for the rest to follow. Clears continued to come in the Castle Arena, including yesterday’s CSI5* Pearl Stakes winner, Lily Attwood, Belgium’s Abdel Saïd, and two members of Britain’s FEI World Championship bronze medal-winning team, Ben Maher and Harry Charles.
However, the skillfully curated course did also cause problems throughout, with nearly half of the field accruing four faults. Beneath the historic Windsor Castle, crowds came alight when 68-year-old veteran of the sport, John Whitaker, entered the arena. Whitaker executed a superb clear jumping round, but disappointment came when he picked up two time faults.
Eight combinations progressed through to the jump-off, held over seven combinations. First to go was Belgium’s Abdel Saïd riding Arpege du Ru, who won this class back in 2017 and set the standard with an exceptionally fast round of 32.32 seconds. Following Saïd’s round, the pressure was on the remaining combinations. It was a tightly fought contest as France’s Kevin Staut looked to challenge the lead but could not quite match the pace set, coming home in a time of 33.76 seconds. All British hopes rested on Under-25 World No. 1 Harry Charles, after both Ben Maher and Lily Atwood had a pole down. Charles, who partnered the talented Aralyn Blue, rode a beautiful round, and as he rode down to the last oxer the crowd held their breath in hopes of a British winner. The young rider, however, could only do enough for second, with a time of 32.97 — just over 0.60 seconds slower than the winner, Abdel Saïd.
Saïd said; “I’m really happy with Arpege, she’s naturally a really fast mare, I know her really well as I’ve been riding her since she was eight, so I stuck to my plan and I’m really pleased with how she went. I love competing at Royal Windsor Horse Show, the British crowds are so supportive and they really understand the sport so it’s an amazing experience.”
Speaking of his tactics for the jump-off “I don’t usually walk the jump-off course when riding Arpege, as she has such an unusually quick stride, so I spoke to a few colleagues who told me the lines. I tend to just take what I see as it comes, and today it really paid off.”
Sunday: Fearless Fuchs in Flying Form
The Jumping highlight of the show came from the Rolex Grand Prix. Bathed in the glorious afternoon sunshine, Windsor Castle proved a fitting backdrop for this prestigious class. With the world’s best riders gathered, and a truly international field representing 12 different countries, the competition was set to be fierce.
It was none other than show jumping legend John Whitaker who was first to tackle the technical and up-to-height track set by Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral, but he unfortunately could not quite pull off the result that both he and the crowd had hoped for. Second into the ring, Bertram Allen set the standard for the rest of the field and, just a few horses later, France’s Kevin Staut with Dialou Blue PS ensured that there would be a jump-off. Clear rounds came throughout the class, with a total of four clears before the mid-way break.
Britain’s Scott Brash and Joseph Stockdale were some of the unlucky riders who finished on four faults. However, Greece’s only representative — and Royal Windsor Horse Show first-timer — Ioli Mytilineou, joined the exclusive group proceeding into the jump-off, as did winners of the 2021 Rolex Grand Prix at the Show, Ben Maher and Explosion W, and former World No.1 Martin Fuchs, who was third behind Maher that day.
In total, nine combinations made it through to the jump-off, providing top-class entertainment for the packed-out crowds. Ireland’s Bertram Allen, with his top horse Pacino Amiro, was first into the Castle Arena. The partnership, who have had huge successes in Wellington, Florida, earlier this year, produced a faultless round in the time of 34.50 seconds. Five combinations in total jumped clear, but it was the battle between Ben Maher and Martin Fuchs that truly set the crowds alight. Having just come back from injury, Maher, with his Olympic gold-medal winning gelding, looked to be unbeatable, but Fuchs’ spectacular turn to the penultimate fence helped him clinch the victory by 0.40 seconds.
A delighted Fuchs said: “Connor Jei was fantastic today. He’s back after quite a long break since Geneva as he did a lot of shows last year, so we gave him the indoor season off. To be honest he wasn’t so easy at the last show I took him to, so I wanted some advice on what I should be doing differently and how I could help the horse to be at his best again, so I called my uncle – Markus Fuchs – and he has been riding him three times a week, so I’m very lucky to have him to help.”
Fuchs continued: “The Rolex Grand Prix always has the best horse and rider combinations so it’s an honour to be competing, and then to be winning and to be standing on top of the podium at such a prestigious Rolex Grand Prix makes me very proud.”
On his round, he said: “I knew who I needed to watch, and Bertram and Ben were the two rounds I watched. Bertram had a hard draw – to go first in the jump-off is never easy, but he did everything very well. Then I watched Ben and saw where he left out the strides compared to Bertram, and just tried to do the same round as that, just hoping to be a bit quicker. I think I made up a little bit of time to the second last – I knew that I wanted to do seven strides to the turn, which is what Ben did, I actually didn’t turn as hard as him, so I really had to push hard for those seven strides and I think that’s what made it quicker in the end.”
Maher, at only his second show since breaking his shoulder, said: “I’m very happy, Explosion jumped incredible, he’s been out for eight or nine months, he just did two small classes last week so to come here this week and show his experience and perform in a Rolex Grand Prix like that, I’m very proud of my team bringing him back. I did what I had to do in the jump-off, I took a lot of risks and nine times out of ten that might have been enough, but it’s never over when you’ve got Martin after you. I don’t think I could have done any more, on the day he was the better rider and I had to settle for second.”
Allen added: “I was first to go in the jump-off and with the line-up we have here, it was always going to be very difficult. I gave it a good go and I’m very happy with my horse.”
Earlier in the day, The CSI5* Manama Rose Show Stakes, a single round against the clock, took centre stage in the Castle Arena. Gregory Wathelet opened the class, riding the fourteen-year-old Clarity. Despite being first in, the combination took a stride out down to the last water tray fence, securing a clear round in a time which proved unbeatable throughout the competition. In doing so, he added another win to his impressive resumé, which includes a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and 36 Grand Prix wins.
The course produced only eight clears – with many of the best, including the likes of former World No. 1, Daniel Deusser, picking up four faults. The only two Brits to finish with a clean sheet were William Funnell and Jack Whitaker. Whitaker was incredibly close to sealing the win with a dazzling round, but just missed the mark by just 0.04 seconds to finish second.
Of his win, Wathelet said: “I was first to go and knew I didn’t have the fastest horse out there, so I had to take a big risk and take some strides out, and it worked! I won the Rolex Grand Prix here last year, so for me the Royal Windsor Horse Show has always been a great show, in a fantastic place with an amazing crowd.”
Royal Windsor Horse Show Ambassador, Whitaker, said: “There’s always a great atmosphere here at Royal Windsor, with the crowd giving you such a big cheer when you canter into that arena! Gregory took us all by surprise, but I stuck to my plan, cut corners, and maybe if I had chased that bit harder to the last, I would have won!”
12th Royal Windsor Win For Boyd Exell
The climax of the International Driving Grand Prix took place with Competition C today, the Obstacle Cones. The CAIO4* World Cup Qualifier saw Boyd Exell’s four-in-hand team deliver a thrilling performance to secure the Australian his twelfth win at Royal Windsor Horse Show. During the drive through the twenty sets of cones, Exell’s hopes were questioned for the first time in the competition, after accumulating three penalties at the last obstacle. This meant the defending champion’s team finished behind both Ijsbrand Chardon and Mareike Harm’s teams in the third round. However, Exell’s team had done enough by winning the Driven Dressage and The Marathon to defend the title, finishing 8.43 points ahead of the Dutch runners up, Chardon and 24 points ahead of Harm’s team, who finished third.
A Double For Dujardin
Charlotte Dujardin continued her Royal Windsor Horse Show dominance, claiming victory on Friday in The Defender CDI4* FEI Dressage Freestyle to add to Thursday’s Grand Prix win. In doing so, she repeats her dual triumph from 2019 – the last time international Dressage was held at the Show.
Kathleen Kröncke took an early lead as third to go. With music that suited her horse perfectly, Kröncke received excellent artistic scores of over 80% to contribute to an overall mark of 76.365%. Laura Tomlinson riding Fallatijn, a horse she has produced since 2016, was second behind Kröncke going into the half time break. However with several strong combinations to come the leaderboard was by no means secure.
Louise Anne Bell was the first to enter the arena after the break, excelling in her piaffe and passage to go into third with a score of 72.590%. Showing no evidence of her recent break from competition, Charlotte Dujardin set the Castle Arena alight with an athletic and fluid performance aboard her 10-year-old gelding, Imhotep. Dujardin’s impressive test was the first to break the 80% barrier, receiving a score of 83.200% and setting the standard for those to come.
On his debut at Royal Windsor Horse Show, Lewis Carrier put in an impressive performance to go into second place with a score of 77.405%. Carrier, who has already experienced success in the Under-25 ranks, cemented his status amongst the best up-and-coming talent in the country aboard Diego V. As last to go, Dujardin’s 2022 FEI World Championship teammate Gareth Hughes looked to put her lead in jeopardy with the experienced Classic Briolinca. However his score of 80.510 was only enough for eventual second, pushing Carrier back to third.
Dujardin said: “I was so excited to come here, it was really not in my schedule to rush back after having my daughter, but I got on and felt really good. I absolutely love this show, so here I am! I was so excited to be here, back out here riding and competing, for me it’s just such a buzz and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Of Imhotep, she continued: “He hasn’t competed since the World Equestrian Games last year, so it was a huge ask for him to come here as it’s such a huge atmosphere! I’m a bit ring rusty, he’s a bit ring-rusty, we’re still making mistakes, but he’s such an incredible horse to come to this kind of show and perform the way he has the past two days, I can’t ask for more. To get this under our belt is absolutely fantastic.”
Complete results from all classes here.