Julien Epaillard has become the second Frenchman in history to win the Olympia leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping, beating Scott Brash into second place by less than half a second.
Just four riders made it through to the jump-off out of 36 starters. Peder Fredricson was first in on H&M Christian K and he jumped a steady clear, which Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander then beat with her exciting new prospect Inca Boy van T Vianahof. The nine-year-old was produced in Britain by Tim Wilkes, and it was only their sixth competition together.
Next in was 2016 winner Scott Brash, who was riding the 16-year-old supermare Ursula. The pair effortlessly knocked almost four seconds off Edwina’s time, however it wasn’t quite quick enough.
Last to go was Julien, on Toupie de la Roque, who beat their time by 0.43 seconds to become the first French winner of the Olympia World Cup in 32 years.
‘Lot of risks’
“I saw Scott go – he started quickly, but I thought he was a bit careful over the last two fences so I had nothing to lose and I took a lot of risks at the last two jumps and it worked!” said Julien.
Rarely ruffled, Scott was typically cool about narrowly missing out on a back-to-back win, which was last achieved by Nick Skelton in 1984.
“I kinda thought he would be faster, but I was hoping he was going to have a jump down which he didn’t have!” said Scott.
Bob Ellis’s tough track proved testing, with horse and rider barely having time to draw breath between fences. Poles fell and a number of horses has surprising run-outs, including Michael Whitaker’s Calisto Blue.
Despite the world-class field, which included six of the world’s top 10 riders, the packed-out crowd didn’t see a clear until the 21st round.
Both William Whitaker and Laura Renwick came close to making it through to the jump-off, but had an unlucky four faults each. William was riding the experienced Fandango, while Laura was on the eight-year-old Top Dollar VI, with whom she won the Cayenne Puissance earlier in the week.