World number one Scott Brash will lead a stellar line-up of riders for the London International Horse Show at Olympia.
Four of the current global top 10-ranked performers — Brash, Frenchman Simon Delestre, Ireland’s Bertram Allen and German legend Ludger Beerbaum — are among confirmed entries, in addition to Daniel Deusser, who briefly disrupted Brash’s two-year reign as number one eight months ago.
Brash’s top horse Hello Sanctos, the brilliant gelding on which he has achieved so much, will not be in London, though, and it is likely that Hello M’Lady will be aimed at the headline Longines FEI World Cup class.
“I love Olympia,” Brash said. “The atmosphere is always great and the home crowd always cheer me, so I am looking forward to that.
“I don’t often get the chance to ride in front of home fans, as there aren’t many five-star events in Britain, so it’s always nice to come home and compete in front of the home crowd.”
A powerful German challenge also features Marcus Ehning, Marco Kutscher and Hans-Dieter Dreher, while former European individual champion Kevin Staut spearheads the French assault alongside Delestre, with Holland’s representation comprising major championship medallists Maikel van der Vleuten and Jur Vrieling.
Brash apart, the considerable British entry also features recent Olympia-World-Cup winners Michael Whitaker and Ben Maher, young star Jessica Mendoza, who helped her country qualify for next year’s Rio Olympics through securing a fourth-placed European Championships finish in August, plus in-form riders Joe Clee and Laura Renwick.
It would be no surprise, though, if Britain’s grand master — 60-year-old John Whitaker — rose above everyone, with ultra-consistent stallion Argento and richly-promising mare Ornellaia ready to grace the Olympia arena.
Whitaker’s longevity is underlined by the fact that when he helped Great Britain win an Olympic team silver medal in Los Angeles 31 years ago, Brash was not born. And a possible sixth Olympics appearance after Los Angeles, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing is firmly on Whitaker’s radar, especially given his powerful string of horses.
“I have had a really good year,” he said. “My horses have been jumping well — they’ve been on form — and I can still win at my age, which is quite good!
“For sure, gaining selection at the highest level is tough, and all you can do as a rider is keep doing your best. The mare is still improving, and if she keeps improving, I know I have a good chance (of Rio selection). I will try my best to get to Rio.”
Reigning Olympic champion Steve Guerdat is also set for the five-day Olympia showjumping spectacular — he will be joined by his fellow Swiss star Pius Schwizer — with Italy represented by rising force Emanuele Gaudiano with Ireland’s London 2012 Olympic individual-bronze medallist Cian O’Connor also taking part.
The showjumping action takes place from December 17-21, with considerable excitement also set to surround the Dodson & Horrell Under-23 British Championship, which parades some of Britain’s finest talent, including Mendoza, Millie Allen, Pippa Allen, Harry Charles, Emily Ward, Chloe Winchester and last year’s winner Kerry Brennan.