Two of the most stylish young riders on the circuit topped the results list in equal first place after a quality Cayenne Puissance competition which, for the second year running, went to a thrilling fifth and final round. The familiar face of Britain’s William Whitaker and Michael Pender, an Irishman making his Olympia debut, both cleared the famously imposing wall at 7ft 2in.
Last year’s joint winner, Guy Williams on the big grey Mr Blue Sky UK, also made it to the final round but knocked a brick out of the wall on his last attempt.
An elated Whitaker’s result was all the more credible as it was a first Puissance for Rushy Marsh Farm LLC’s 10-year-old RMF Charly. “I was a bit apprehensive, but the crowd lifts you and it feels as if you have another person on your back,” he said.
“I’m over the moon with the horse. He’s got a nice active canter and he just got better and better. He’s quite a character at home – a right Charlie, in fact.”
At 10 years younger than Whitaker, 20-year-old Pender clearly has a bright future. Having ridden since a child at his parents’ riding school in Co Kilkenny, he sprang into the limelight when he won the Hickstead Derby on Paul van den Bosch’s magnificent 12-year-old stallion Hearton du Bois Halleux.
“It’s a pleasure to ride a horse like that,” said Pender. “It makes your job a lot easier. Everything you ask him he’ll do. He was a bit tense at first, but then he improved with each round.”