Brash’s grip on the top spot lasted for an amazing eleven months but Delestre, who competed at his first Olympic Games at London 2012 with Napoli Du Ry, has been on great form since taking individual bronze at last year’s FEI European Jumping Championships in Aachen.
He now has a 23-point lead over Brash and a more comfortable 128-point lead over the world’s number three, America’s Kent Farrington.
The French rider, who comes from an equestrian family and won his first national pony showjumping championships at the age of 12 in 1994 (and his second one at 13 in 1995), will now look at consolidating his lead when he competes at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 23-28.
The Final starts exactly 135 before the Olympics—and there’s no doubt that Delestre will have his eyes firmly trained on Rio.
Image: Simon Delestre aboard Qlassic Bois Margot at the CSI 5* in Bordeaux, by Eric Knoll, courtesy of the FEI
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.
Image: Scott Brash will head the showjumping line up at Olympia although his top ride, Hello Sanctos, won’t be there. Picture by Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0
Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos are arguably the greatest combination British showjumping has ever seen, winning Olympic gold, European gold, the Rolex Grand Slam and successive Global Champions Tour titles. So it should come as no surprise that they have been recognised by the British Horse Society in its equestrian hall of fame.
The BHS Hall of Fame celebrates heroes and heroines — human and equine — of the equestrian world, and each year, a select number of Britain’s most gifted horses and riders are invited to join the elite group.
World-number-one Brash will now take his place alongside such notables as David Broome, Charlotte Dujardin, Jane Holderness-Roddam, The Princess Royal, Sophie Christiansen and Marion Mould, while horses previously recognised include legendary names like Milton, Valegro, Foxhunter, Penwood Forge Mill, Primmore’s Pride and Beethoven.
Sanctos, owned by Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham, and Brash are joined this year by eventer Lucinda Fredericks’ former Badminton winner Headley Britannia and the consistently-successful showing rider and producer Jayne Ross.
“I think Hello Sanctos and I just really understand one another — I know what he likes and what he doesn’t like. We just click as a partnership,” Brash said about the accolade. “It’s great to receive this recognition and to be remembered by the British Horse Society.
“I am especially glad that Hello Sanctos is getting the recognition that he deserves because he truly is a horse of a lifetime. He’s got to be one of the best horses of all-time.”
No-one, probably even Brash, knows Sanctos better than his groom Hannah Colman, who travels the world with a horse that, injuries and form permitting, will head to next summer’s Rio Olympics as individual gold-medal favourite.
Assessing Sanctos, Colman said: “He is totally laid-back, which you might not expect. He is so easy to do everything with. He is such a very, very nice horse.
“I think he just loves jumping. He likes his own personal space in his stable, and he doesn’t like to be fussed with too much. He doesn’t like too much attention in the stable, but when he is ringside he just loves it, and I think he always knows when he has done well.
“There is a brilliant chemistry between Sanctos and Scott. It’s really good to see, absolutely lovely. When it comes off, it’s amazing. I cried at Spruce Meadows (when Brash and Sanctos clinched the Rolex Grand Slam), and I think when he won Aachen (the second leg of the Grand Slam), well, that has to be the biggest grand prix there is.
“Sanctos just goes in and does his job all the time. With that horse, if you have got him feeling the best he can feel, he will always try his best for you. That’s why I don’t worry so much when I watch him. I always feel peace of mind when I watch him.
“I am incredibly proud of him. I’ve been with him a few years, and it’s the way he does it. It feels better every time. He is so. so clever. If he was a person, he would be a lawyer. He knows when the big days come around.
“When he gets to a show, it is nice and quiet for a few days, then you start jumping and he goes in the ring and he gets a feel for it. There is not a lot of pressure, but come the grands prix he knows it is important and he must feel from Scott when it is a big occasion.”
World number one showjumper Scott Brash’s reign as king of the Longines Global Champions Tour is over.
The 29-year-old Scotsman’s bid for a hat-trick of overall GCT titles ended in Doha, when an eighth-placed finish in the series’ final grand prix left him 11 points behind newly-crowned champion Luciana Diniz.
Diniz, riding Fit For Fun, won the Doha grand prix and the overall crown, securing a bumper pay-day of £305,000, while Brash collected £135,000 for second, just in front of Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson.
Brash and the brilliant Hello Sanctos, the horse on which he memorably completed the Rolex Grand Slam in September, had a fence down in each round, and Portugal’s Diniz seized her opportunity brilliantly.
“I had a silly fence in the first round, coming out of the double,” Brash said. “Okay, this is showjumping, so we know it can happen. So I started the second round thinking that I had to be the fastest of the four-faulters to have any chance, so I went as fast as I could and it’s the reason I had a fence down. But Sanctos has been wonderful all year.
“I must say that I think Luciana really deserves it. She has been so consistent the whole year, as has Rolf. I think Fit For Fun jumped unbelievably — it was actually an absolute joy to watch. They jumped fantastic, as did Rolf, so they really deserved it. In the last three legs of the Longines Global Champions Tour they just ran away it, so it’s all credit to both of them.”
Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum set a scorching jump-off time of 36.55 seconds in Doha, but last-to-go Diniz kept her nerve, crossing the line in 36.10 seconds to claim a scintillating double triumph.
“I was in a winning mood, and riding Fit For Fun makes my life easier,” Diniz said. “These two boys (Brash and Bengtsson) were gentlemen and let the lady be first, so I am very happy with that!
“Scott and Rolf are so good, and if I thought about focusing on them and what they were going to do, I would be lost. So I just said I would focus on myself and what my horse can do. My strategy was to focus on me and the horse.”
Reflecting on the series, Longines Global Champions Tour founder and president Jan Tops said: “Ten years ago, we started with six events. This year, we’ve done 15 events, with two new events in Miami and Rome. We have very much established our events this year.
“The quality is much higher. If you see what we have achieved in the last 10 years, I think it is amazing. We are not tennis, golf or Formula 1 just yet, but the gap is not what it used to be. We have had constant development for this year, and our sport has a big future.
“These three riders have been really dominating the sport throughout the whole year. Luciana’s horse was on great form to win, Rolf has been every time so consistent — everybody wanted him to win, he has been second twice — and also Scott, he has won twice. I think they have all, between them, been by far the best of all the riders.”
Images: Luciana Diniz (top) and Scott Brash (bottom), both by Stefano Grasso/LGCT, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour
Superlatives are rapidly running out in order to pay British showjumping great Scott Brash a fitting tribute.
Maybe the words “showjumping great” are perhaps most apt to sum up his latest achievement, both in terms of the 29-year-old superstar Scottish rider and wonder-horse Hello Sanctos.
To an Olympic team-gold medal, European team-gold and individual bronze, two Global Champions Tour series titles and a prolonged world-number-one ranking can now be added showjumping’s richest individual prize, the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping.
Brash collected one million Euros — about £730,000 — through completing the toughest hat trick of all, winning successive grands prix at Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows.
In doing so, Brash achieved the acclaimed Rolex Grand Slam, a feat never accomplished by any other rider and one that means he will forever hold a prominent place in equestrian sport’s hall of fame.
To say Brash was under pressure in Calgary would be to make an undertstatement of seismic proportions.
Ten combinations jumped clear in round one, but then the degree of difficulty increased sharply, both in terms of the fences and a fearsomely-tight time of just 72 seconds, for round two.
Brazilian Pedro Veniss and Belgian Pieter Devos looked destined for a jump-off after each collecting one time fault, but then came Brash. Drawn last to go, he was ready for the biggest round in his life.
Brash is known for staying calm under pressure, yet the response — even by his exalted status — was breathtaking.
Not only did arguably the greatest combination showjumping has ever seen go clear, they did it inside the time, and in doing so, provided a moment of sporting greatness that will stand the test of time.
Brash’s face immediately afterwards was a mixture of sheer joy and utter relief. Maybe, there was a tinge of disbelief, too, that what many astute observers of the sport felt was an improbable treble had been accomplished.
“I can’t really describe it, it’s just an incredible feeling,” he said. “It’s what we’ve dreamed off since the start of the year. I’m just chuffed to bits for Sanctos as well, as he really deserves the recognition. He’s such a wonderful, wonderful horse.
“It’s been a team effort and everyone has worked unbelievably to achieve this. It was a great feeling when we went over the last fence.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, it will take a while. I may never be in this position in my life again, I just want to cherish it.
“I’d love to be at the top end of the sport for years and years to come. I would love to be at the top end for a long time, I’m not prepared to give up yet.
“I’m so proud to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping. What they have done for our sport is incredible, and it’s just great to be part of it all.”
Britain has produced some wonderful showjumpers — the likes of David Broome, John Whitaker and Nick Skelton — but Brash, two months before his 30th birthday, might now have confirmed himself as the greatest of all.
The scary thing for Brash’s rivals is that his career has a long way to run, and he will already have been installed as a short-price favourite for Rio Olympics individual gold.
To watch him win the Grand Slam was to be in the company of sporting greatness.
Image: Scott Brash holds the Rolex Grand Slam trophy, courtesy of the Rolex Grand Slam