Michael Whitaker suffered jump-off agony as he was narrowly denied his first victory of this year’s London International Horse Show at Olympia.
Whitaker, last to go in the Christmas Masters on his exciting mare Elie van de Kolmen, clipped eight hundredths of a second off leader Maikel van der Vleuten’s time.
But a final fence knockdown meant the winner-takes-all prize of £10,500 went to Van der Vleuten, whose Masters triumph followed his brilliant Longines FEI World Cup victory 24 hours earlier.
“She sort of misunderstood what I was trying to do going into the last. She jumped it a bit like a water jump,” Whitaker said.
“But she really is the part, and I have some big plans for her next year. She has been knocking on the door at a lot of the big shows. She has got very good experience and a good attitude.
“The Masters class is a good test for the horses. Maybe we should just spread the money out a bit more, but if you win it then you are not going to say that!”
Van der Vleuten, riding VDL Groep Eureka, clocked 26.32 seconds in the jump-off, a stage that only he and Whitaker reached following four rounds in a seven-rider competition that saw Whitaker’s British colleagues Laura Renwick and William Funnell finish equal third.
“It was a great experience for my horse,” van der Vleuten said, of a class when riders are eliminated once they have a fence down.
“It is a horse with a lot of quality, and now it is at the age of learning to jump some bigger classes.
“I wanted to ride a fast time, and also to put some pressure on Michael.
“It is not easy to go first in a jump-off because the next rider can always look at the first one. I tried to put him under pressure to do a fast time.”
Germany’s Marco Kutscher followed up his victory in the H&M Ivy Stakes on Saturday night by landing the Levy Restaurants’ Six Bar competition in dramatic fashion.
Kutscher, riding Chamira 4, was last to go among a field of 13 that had been whittled down to six by the third jump-off round.
And after all five of his rivals – Funnell, Pius Schwizer, Lars Nieberg, John Whitaker and Guy Williams – had at least once fence down, Kutscher went clear, including conquering the final 1.90 metre obstacle.
The last fence was gradually raised from 1.55 metres in round one to 1.90m (six feet three inches) by round four.
Schwizer and Nieberg shared second place, with Funnell and Whitaker finishing in equal fourth spot.