Schuttert makes history
Hendrik-Jan Schuttert became the first Dutch winner of Hickstead's prestigious Longines King George V Gold Cup on Sunday.
- Related Content
And in doing so he kept the roll of honour an exclusive male club after Louise Pavitt and Marie Hecart threatened to make Hickstead history.
No female showjumper has lifted the King George Cup - it went 'open' in 2008 - but Sussex-based Pavitt and Hecart of France both challenged strongly.
They featured at the business end of a nine-horse jump off, with Hecart taking third on Myself de Breve and Pavitt finishing fourth aboard her recent Royal Windsor Grand Prix winner Don VHP Z.
But 22-year-old Schuttert, whose father's pig farming business in Holland provides him with financial backing, kept his nerve on Cerona HS, clocking 54.91 seconds and consigning German star Ludger Beerbaum (Chiara) to second.
"We bought the horse four years ago, and started him at 1.20m shows, but I won the Copenhagen Grand Prix earlier this year, and now this," Schuttert said.
"For me, it is an amazing victory. It's like a dream.
"I thought I was going to be second, with Ludger the last to go in the jump off, but I made a really short turn to one of the later fences and I couldn't have gone any faster in the run to the final fence."
Beerbaum, who removed himself from German Olympic selection after his London hopeful Gotha suffered a fall four weeks ago, was gracious in defeat on his Hickstead return following several years' absence.
"The ground here was perfect from day one, and it was a pleasure to come back. The atmosphere was great," he said.
"It was a really good competition - a great day for showjumping - and I am satisfied with second given that I have only had the horse for eight months.
"Hendrik was the best today and he was the fastest. He deserved to win."
Beerbaum's fellow German Philipp Weishaupt made the jump-off despite suffering crushing disappointment only two days ago when his London horse Monte Bellini was ruled out of the Olympics due to an infection that required a blood transfusion.
Weishaupt has now been replaced in the German Olympic quartet by Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Ludger Beerbaum's sister-in-law.
Pavitt, meanwhile, was ecstatic after the Brendon Stud-owned Don VHP Z again showcased huge potential.
"He is the best horse I have ever ridden," Pavitt told Press Association Sport.
"The Brendon Stud bought him as a two-year-old from Belgium, and today was a big step up for us.
"He is a naturally fast horse, but I didn't want to be do or die in the jump off. He loved it in that arena, and it would be great to ride abroad with him a little bit now."
The King George was first contested in 1911, and boasts a galaxy of showjumping greats on its roll of honour with previous winners including David Broome, Harry Llewellyn, Paul Shockemohle and Piero d'Inzeo.
And today's 89th running once again attracted a world-class field in the final major international showjumping class before London 2012 begins.
A capacity Hickstead crowd of just under 20,000 saw Davos and Candy launch the 47-rider competition in arguably the best weather a British equestrian event has experienced this season.
And Davos made light of the number one draw, jumping a brilliant clear that Yorkshireman Joe Clayton immediately followed, but there were also several early casualties.
Ellen Whitaker, who has endured a miserable show dominated by eliminations and retirements, called it a day early on, as did Schuttert's fellow Dutchmen Albert Zoer and Leon Thijssen.
Past King George winner - London 2012-bound Briton Peter Charles - collected 14 faults on Murka's Nevada - and there were moments of unexpected comedy after Geoff Billington and Albert Voon exited early.
Billington waved a white handkerchief when he retired after knocking down the first two fences, but Voorn did not even get that far, falling off Tobalio before the first fence and being eliminated, which saw him react with a humorous curtsey to the crowd.
Clayton, meanwhile, won the show's penultimate class, landing the Royal International Accumulator in style.
The 22-year-old, who is is based with British Olympian Michael Whitaker, swept to victory on Antello Z.
The one-round class, which offers points for fences jumped, saw Clayton score a maximum of 44, a feat that seven other combinations matched, but his time of 44.57 seconds ensured a comfortable win.
"It feels fantastic," Clayton said. "That was my first big win at this show."