Steve Guerdat denies Anthony Condon a win at Olympia

Always a danger against the clock, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat maxed on his final draw to take the Longines Christmas Cracker 1.60m with Corbinian.

Only five reached the jump-off with British-based Irishman Anthony Condon taking the lead aboard Kat Taylor’s Oklund 10-year-old Balzac. Until Steve commandeered the top spot in the final round, shaving 1.37 sec off the time on the Cornet Obolensky 10-year-old Corbinian.

“I was lucky to be last draw in the class and therefore last in the jump-off, so I knew what I had to do. And I was confident that if I rode well, he’d be on my side,” said Steve.

British-based American Laura Kraut topped the Snowman 1.45m winning round with Cavalia, a Vingino/Manhattan nine-year-old. Their early jump-off round claimed the honours. They had over a second in hand over Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca on Halifax Van Het Kluizebos.

“I can’t believe I finally beat him, Luca's so fast,” she said.

Jessica Mendoza and Wan Architect jumped for eight faults in the jump-off for eighth spot.

Ireland’s Darragh Kenny claimed the Snowflake 1.45m speed stakes on the Actionbreaker 11-year-old Fixdesign Funke Van’t Heike with a 0.44 sec margin over Sweden’s Malin Baryard Johnsson on the eight-year-old H&M Second Chance.

“Malin’s horse is very nice, but my horse has a little bit more experience,” said Darragh, who splits his time between America and Europe. “I’ve usually already left for America’s winter circuit, but my owners, sponsors and National Federation kindly let me come here – it’s a show I’ve always wanted to compete at, it is amazing.”

Robert Bevis was best Brit on Courtney Z in third, closely followed by William Funnell and the eight-year-old Billy McCain. British ladies Laura Renwick (Dominant H), Anna Power (Chesterfield Z) and Jessica Mendoza (Horst Van De Mispelaere) were bunched together for sixth, seventh and eighth repectively.

In the Markel jockeys challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund, the Flat Jockeys team – under coach Scott Brash’s guidance – of Adam Kirby, Jamie Spencer, Jim Crowley, Bridget Andrews and a flying round from final rider Frankie Dettori clinched a commanding win.

“My lads were fantastic,” said winning trainer Scott Brash afterwards. “They were really tight in their turns. Frankie in particular did a great round.”

“There’s a lot of cameraderie between both codes of racing but this is the icing on the cake,” confirmed Frankie, “and we’ll be dining out on it for a long time! Scott told us to keep it tight, keep it smooth and not cut any corners, and it worked. And it’s all for a good cause, the Injured Jockeys Fund is really important for our sport.”

Coach Nick Skelton’s Jump Jockeys team of Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, champion National Hunt jockey Richard Johnson, Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore and Nick’s son Harry Skelton took second place despite Harry’s last-ditch, headlong gallop.

For Victoria Pendleton, who was first to go for the jump jockeys, this was the latest sporting challenge in a memorable year that saw her finish a brilliant fifth in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March only 12 months after she first sat on a horse.

“That was pretty good!” she said breathlessly afterwards. “I can only go as fast as I can – I’ve never show jumped before. It was fantastic to have the chance to compete at Olympia, but when I was asked, I did say that I couldn’t guarantee I would help the team.”

Photos © Jumping Around & Horsepower/Olympia