The final day of Royal Windsor Horse Show in England provided top class sport and entertainment across the showground as the week’s champions were crowned.
Top sport in the Rolex grand prix
The pinnacle of the CSI5* showjumping, the Rolex grand prix, was won by Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (pictured) after a gripping jump-off. The USA’s Laura Kraut was the runner up. The class featured some of the world’s best riders, all of whom were looking to claim the prestigious title and the €75,000 first prize.
A field of 30 riders contested Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater’s up-to-height 1.60m course, which posed several challenges, with faults falling evenly around the course. 10 combinations jumped clear inside the time to qualify for the jump-off.
Britain’s William Whitaker was the first to tackle the second round, jumping a brilliant clear to heap pressure on the remaining nine. His cousin Robert Whitaker followed and showed that the time could be beaten, but was the first of several combinations to incur four faults over the Rolex oxer at the last.
Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) put in a physical display of riding to push Caspar 232 on between fences and take the lead with an impressive time of 44.31, however it was Laura Kraut with her new ride Catwalk 22 who lay down the gauntlet to the remainder of the field, knocking 0.79 seconds off Emanuele’s time. Laura, who has only had the ride on the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Catoki for three weeks, showed her brilliance, making slightly wider turns, which allowed her to keep up a faster pace, with smoother turns and take the lead at the half-way stage of the jump-off.
With four left to go, including two Olympic champions and the reigning European champion, it was a nail-biting conclusion, and it was Steve Guerdat with his consistent mare Bianca, a 12-year-old Swedish warmblood by Balou Du Rouet, who managed to pip Laura to the post with a relentless pace and quick turnbacks to shave another 0.41 seconds off the time, finishing in 43.11 seconds.
Canada’s Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5, one of the fastest combinations on the international circuit, looked like he had the class in the bag as last to go, crossing the line in a time of 41.82, but was another to succumb to the final fence, finishing on four faults.
Steve, who last competed at Windsor at the European Championships in 2009, where he won team gold, said: “Windsor has been a good place for me; I had a really good feeling coming in to today. Bianca has been jumping really well and gaining experience and she felt fresh and happy to jump this week. It might sound crazy, as amazing as she is, but this is the first class we’ve won together, so I’m really pleased for her, she really deserves it, it’s very special.”
The only other US rider in the grand prix, Kent Farrington, had a single pole down in the first round aboard Creedance to finish just outside the money.
Earlier in the day, there was a British victory in the Palm Speed Stakes, with Robert Smith taking the win riding the 11-year-old grey gelding Cimano E.
“It’s always great to have a home win, but the show here at Windsor is as good as anywhere in the world and it’s always top class competition,” he said. “The classes this week have all been fast and very competitive; it’s not easy to get in the money, so I’m really pleased to be going home with a win.”
Her Majesty The Queen was present to watch the retirement of her homebred former racehorse, Barbers Shop, winner of the Royal Windsor Supreme Ridden Showing Championship in 2017, in an emotional ceremony in the Castle Arena.
Detailed times of H&C Royal Windsor 2018 coverage:
Grand prix freestyle dressage Saturday May 19 at 7pm Eastern
Bahrain King’s Cup jumping Saturday May 19 at 8pm Eastern
Rolex grand prix jumping Sunday May 20 at 7pm Eastern
Bahrain Pearl Stakes jumping on Tuesday May 22 at 8pm Eastern