A capacity Monday afternoon crowd at Olympia’s London International Horse Show enjoyed a feast of showjumping that combined exhilarating speed and precision riding, although an administrative mistake meant the day ended on a disappointing note for Norwegian rider Victoria Gulliksen.
The International Six Bar competition is always a favourite with the audience, and they were treated to a thrilling three-way fight to the finish between Spaniard Eduardo Alvarez Aznar, Norwegian Victoria Gulliksen and British star Michael Whitaker.
The class sees riders tackling a line of vertical poles, with the last fence being raised to increase degree of difficulty.
And by the time it came to a final fourth jump round — the maximum allowed — the remaining trio were left facing an enormous last obstacle of 1.95 metres (6ft 5in).
Alvarez Aznar, riding Chatman, made the course look effortless, but it was not the same for Whitaker, who had a refusal at the last with Right Now Semilly, leaving 23-year-old Gulliksen needing a clear on Grand Balou to share the £4,000 top prize.
She rode brilliantly to ensure a share of the spoils, much to the delight of her watching father and fellow international rider Geir Gulliksen. However, it later emerged that Gulliksen should not have entered the competition, as she only had an invitation for Thursday’s Alltech Puissance. As a result, the 23-year-old was disqualified, with Alvarez Aznar taking the prize.
“Sadly, there was a mistake on my part, as I genuinely thought my National Federation had received permission for me to enter the Six Bar,” said Gulliksen.
Ground jury president Jon Doney added: “Unfortunately, under the rules, there is no question that Victoria Gulliksen has had to be disqualified from the Six Bar competition. “We are obviously very disappointed for Victoria and the genuine mistake which led to the disqualification, and look forward to her returning another year.”
Earlier, Swiss star Pius Schwizer edged a pulsating Holly Speed Stakes that saw the first four finishers separated by just 60 hundredths of a second.
Holland’s Maikel van der Vleuten was the long-time leader on Kisby in a time of 52.76 seconds, but London 2012 Olympic-bronze medallist Cian O’Connor then clipped eight hundredths of a second off his time with Coco II.
That looked to be enough for an Irish victory, but former world-number-one Schwizer was in masterful form, clocking 52.34 seconds, which proved too hot a pace, despite the best efforts of last-to-go Ben Maher, riding Quabble, who finished in 52.94 seconds for fourth place.