Martin Fuchs flies to world cup victory at Olympia

Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs scooped his second win of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup 2019/2020 Western European League at the London International Horse Show at Olympia, London.

Partnering his top ride, the lightning-fast grey Clooney, Martin took the third leg in Lyon, France, by storm last month, and in today’s eighth round of the 14-leg series he galloped to victory with a stunning performance from The Sinner. He’s the reigning European champion and looks set to take over the No. 1 spot on the Longines World Rankings as 2020 gets underway after an incredible run of recent form. 

Today he also became the first Swiss winner of the Olympia leg of the FEI World Cup™ series in 29 years. The 27-year-old rider wasn’t even born when his uncle, Markus Fuchs, stood top of the podium at the London fixture back in 1990. 

British hopes looked bright in round one as Holly Smith was the first to conquer Alan Wade’s challenging track with a class round on Heart’s Destiny and she was later joined by Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson.  Just six of the 37 starters made it through to the deciding round and Martin was full of praise for the course.

It wasn’t crazy big, but Alan set a great course as he always does – it was another of his masterpieces,” he said.

It was definitely no walk-in-the-park, with the relatively small Olympia arena jam-packed with fences and an intense atmosphere in the packed Grand Hall adding to the pressure. And the jump-off was a classic. 

Holly’s hopes dies here when Heart’s Destiny returned on eight faults but Martin, who was second to go, put it up to the rest with a great ride that saw him take a brave turn to the wall, now the fourth fence on the track, and a super-tight line to the penultimate oxer followed by a great gallop to the last. Throwing down a time of 31.99 seconds he then sat back and watched the remaining four give it their best.

Austria’s Max Kuhner followed with an extraordinary second clear from the hugely promising eight-year-old gelding Elektric Blue P, but their time of 33.83 seconds was no threat. However as German ace, and three-time FEI World Cup™ champion, Marcus Ehning set off with Cornado NRW he clearly meant business only to get too close to the penultimate oxer for four faults in 32.17 seconds.

Scott decided today was the day to put some jump-off pressure on his latest shining star, the 10-year-old Hello Jefferson, but when the second fence fell then there was only Niels Bruynseels and his 10-year-old Delux van T & L standing between Martin and victory. And for once things just didn’t go his way, none of the distances coming up nicely for the brilliant Belgian and his big horse with a long stride, so they stayed clear but had to settle for third place behind Kuhner in second and Martin at the head of affairs.

Scott settled for fifth with Holly in sixth place.

“I was early to go so had to take all the risks and put on the pressure,” said Martin, who explained how his horse got his name.  “It was [Ireland’s] Denis Lynch who gave him his name and he was already a good horse for Denis.  At first I found him difficult to ride, but now we definitely have a better partnership, he has better rideabililty and we know each other a lot better now.”

Having moved into fourth place on the Western European League table after today’s brilliant result, Fuchs is now well qualified for the Longines 2020 Final in Las Vegas, USA next April and his biggest headache will be to decide which horse to take - his wonder-horse Clooney or his latest star, The Sinner. His uncle, Markus Fuchs, was runner-up at the series Final in Las Vegas in 2000 and was crowned champion with the great Tinka’s Boy the following year in Gothenburg, Sweden. Martin was runner-up to compatriot Steve Guerdat at the 2019 Final which was also staged in Gothenburg, so could history be about to repeat itself over the coming months?….

Holly rode a great round on the former eventer Denver to lead the way in the Martin Collins Enterprises Christmas Tree stakes but was pipped at the post and had to settle for second.

Last-to-go Belgium’s Wilm Vermeir achieved his first Olympia win with a bold display of speed in the six-horse jump-off, throwing his heart into the round on King Kong D’Avifauna to win.

“I thought they were going faster and faster so I knew I really had to go for it,” Wilm explained. “This show is unbelievable and it’s not easy to win here.”

Holly was 0.99 sec in arrears for second but now heads the Leading Rider of the Show standings by a 15-point margin from fellow Brit William Whitaker.  Ben Maher provided the steadiest of the double clears to finish fourth on Ginger-Blue behind Germany’s Christian Ahlmann with Zampano Z.

“Denver absolutely tried his heart out for me in his first time competing at Olympia.  And to think he was Eventing earlier this year. He absolutely loves it!” said Holly.

Red Morgan, 15, claimed his biggest win to date, remaining cool under pressure to post the sole double clear in the Voltaire Design 148cm mince pie stakes with Bodyssee Des Avelines.

“It was a tricky course,” said Red. “The track was tight in places with a tight time, and there was a double you needed to be really straight for.”

Just three of the 11 starters reached the jump-off with Red posting the only clear to take the win.

Hannah Barker on Ammanvalley Santino was first of three to go through to the jump-off to challenge for this year’s title. A pole down gave Red the advantage:

“I just aimed to be quick without being stupid,” he said.

It worked perfectly as he and his 12-year-old mare came home cleanly to put the pressure on the final rider, Lila Bremner with Lapislazuli, but a rail down put them into third.

Shaunie Greig (Casino Royale) and Elloise Smit (Newtown Samson) both left the rails intact but came home on time faults to finish fourth and fifth.

 

Text & Photos © Jumping Around/ courtesy FEI

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