The Lady is a Champ

In an exciting Longines world cup qualifier, Scott Brash and the feisty Hello M’Lady found a turn of speed to defy any challengers to take victory at Olympia. Despite a minor slip on a turn-back, the Indoctro/Baloubet Du Rouet 10-year-old quickly righted herself to jump the vertical despite being deep, and the pair claimed a narrow 0.12 sec win.

“She was amazing. I didn’t get as good a distance as I wanted back to fence two and as a result had to put in an extra stride to three, but she was good back to the double and from here she was fantastic and so switched on to her job,” said Scott.“She’s sharp with an exceptional jump and very much one for the future.”

Course-designer Kelvin Bywater’s ingenious jump-off track hinged on a sharply-angled, blind turn-back to a double followed by a curving line to a vertical.

“He did a great job. It was big and technical, but nowadays, the standard is so high that there are horses that just skip round,” said Scott.

Although 13 produced round one clears to reach the jump-off, few clears were to be found in round two, and only five of the riders provided double clears. Ben Maher took full advantage to take an early lead with a thrilling, punchy round on another feisty mare, Diva II – a Kannan 11-year-old bred in Britain by Liz Edgar. The pair – second last year in the world cup last year and winner of the 2014 grand prix – were out to win this time.

“I wanted to win, but if I was going to be beaten by anyone I wanted it to be Scott!” said Ben, 33, who was the last Brit to win this class back in 2011.

“I had a bit of luck at a back rail and I was happy with second, I could have easily been fifth or sixth,” he added.

But they were beaten by just 0.12 sec as fellow Brit and London 2012 gold-medal winning team-mate Scott found a fraction of a sec in the penultimate draw.

“Ben was very fast back to the double, and it was on a blind turn which was tricky for the horses, so we had to be quick to beat him!” said Scott, who was followed by final rider Marcus Ehning.

“Marcus is always a danger against the clock, until he’s been, you haven’t won.”

But when it fell uncharacteristically fell apart for the usual cool German with the scopey Comme Il Faut, victory belonged to Scott.

“It’s very special to win in front of the home crowd, they were really behind us and it gives you that extra edge!” said Scott, who now has the series Final in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, in his sights.

He is now only a few points short of a qualifying place. The win has rocketed Scott 26 places up the leader-board to sixth spot.

“I’ve never really targeted it in the past because the calendar is so full and there’s often a championship, but I’m very fortunate to have a strong team, all coming back from injury, including Hello Sanctos”, he added.

John Whitaker rode an inspired round on Team Harmony’s For Pleasure 11-year-old Ornellaia to take fifth, less than a second behind Scott. Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts took third onH&M Harley vd Bisschop with British-based American Laura Kraut in fourth on Zeremonie.

Michael Whitaker (Viking), Laura Renwick – at just her second show with Van De Vivaldi – and Tim Wilks with Quelbora Merze all returned on eight faults in round one.

Photos © Kit Houghton/Olympia