The final night crowd were in for a real treat as a thrilling competition unfolded in the showpiece Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix. It was horsemanship at its best as Scott Brash, in the very last round of 2019, produced a magical display on Hello Vincent to snatch the prize from his six rivals in the jump-off.
“Winning my last Grand Prix of the year, in front of a home crowd – it doesn’t get any better than that,” said a visibly thrilled Brash.
Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander, on brand new ride Identity Vitseroel, had given it her all, her 11-year-old bay gelding trying his heart out with prodigious leaps and turns on a sixpence, but Brash’s smooth horsemanship was pure class and, with the crowd screaming him down to the final fence, the clock showed that he had shaved 0.82 off her time.
Holly Smith, who has enjoyed an outstanding show and took the Leading Rider accolade by an astonishing 28 points, finished third on Hearts Destiny and sealed a brilliant season. “I’m absolutely delighted with all three of my horses, but Hearts Destiny has taken me to places I’ve only dreamed of – a bronze medal at the Europeans, winning the Aga Khan Trophy in Dublin. And the calibre of riders here at Olympia – seven of the world’s top 10 – makes it all the more special.”
In fourth place was new face James Wilson, 25, on Imagine de Muze, a mare that has given him a dream year. “I’ve been watching Olympia since I was a kid so this is particularly special,” he said. “This horse has made all my dreams come true: my first World Cup, my first Nations Cup and now my first Grand Prix placing. She has catapulted me right up there and now I’ve got Tokyo in my sights.”
Seven riders made it through to the jump-off, four of them British, and, as tension built, Brash was coolly waiting in the wings on Hello Vincent, a horse produced by new under-25 champion Jodie Hall-McAteer and which he’s only been riding for a few months.
“The others were very fast and I knew I had to pull out all the stops,” said Brash. “I just tried to keep it tight. I got a good first forward distance and then managed the seven strides to the tray, which is what you had to do to win. The crowd was great and really gets behind you. I’m so proud of Vincent – he was great.”