British riders gave it their best shot in the Longines FEI World Cup qualifer at Olympia – but they were undone by a brilliant performance from rising Italian star Emanuele Guadiano.
The 29-year-old found himself up against fearsome competition, facing a four-strong assault from Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker, Scott Brash and Guy Williams.
But Gaudiano, riding Admara, was in no mood to roll over, with a blistering jump-off display seeing him land a top prixe of £25,000.
A total of 17 combinations made the jump-off — almost half the original entry — yet Gaudiano came up trumps, taking the class by almost a second.
Williams, riding Titus, set a scorching pace as second to go in the jump-off, clocking 37.74 seconds, but Maher then cut 59 hundredths of a second off that time aboard Diva II, before world-number-one Brash and Hello M’Lady moved second above Williams.
It looked like a British procession for top honours, but Gaudiano had other ideas, clocking a time of 36.20 seconds that left his rivals floundering before last-to-go Whitaker posted 37.28 with Viking for third.
“To win here is fantastic,” Gaudiano said. “I love this show, and my horse was outstanding today.”
The British team’s strength, though, was showcased by their dominance — Gaudiano apart — of the top five.
Maher said: “This arena doesn’t suit Diva, necessarily. But she has improved so much. Every time I need her, she comes out and produces.
“We could always hope for more strength in depth. We could always hope for more. There are no guarantees that I will make the team (for Rio), or Michael or Scott. We have to work for it.
“But Diva is definitely my main horse for Rio right now.”
Image: Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano and Admara win the seventh leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015/2016 Western European League at Olympia, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI