Only two, however, managed to leave all the bricks intact: Britain’s Guy Williams on Mr Blue Sky UK and French rider Mathieu Billot on Dassler, a horse jumped in the 2017 Cayenne Puissance by Louise Saywell.
The wall was at its highest since 2006, when John Whitaker, Robert Whitaker and Markus Fuchs shared first prize, also at 7ft 4in. Coincidentally, Williams, who lives in France, and Billot had shared the spoils in a puissance class in Rouen recently, jumping the same height.
“C’est magnifique!” said an elated Billot, who was paying his first visit to Olympia.
Williams is considering trying for a record on Mr Blue Sky because he jumps so smoothly. The horse has been taken slowly because of his height and has had some dressage training to calm him.
“He makes it look easy but he’s actually quite sharp and nervous and he becomes strong to ride,” Williams explained.
Young rider Alfie Bradstock, riding H.d’Or, and regular puissance specialist Karline de Brabander from Belgium (Fantomas de Muze), also reached the final round but Bradstock hit the wall and de Brabander suffered an unfortunate fall.
Darragh Kenny’s Olympia got off to a splendid start with a double of victories. The Netherlands-based Irishman took the Santa Stakes on Cassini Z and set an unmatchable target of 48.56 seconds on Carlson in The Musto Inside Edge Stakes, a speed class. For good measure, he was also second in the opening Welcome Stakes on Billy Dorito behind Dutch rider Doron Kulpers on Freestyle.
“It’s been a great day – it’ll probably all go downhill from here on,” he joked.
Kenny plans to ride Cassini in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ on Saturday, but might consider Carlson, a new ride, in the Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix on Sunday:
“He’s a special horse, competitive and brave. I think he’ll be good.”
The Pony Club Mini-Major, a special class in which Pony Club members have the unforgettable experience of being paired with senior riders in Olympia’s atmospheric arena, was won by Holly Smith and Old Berkshire Hunt member Katy Bradburne, whose parents, Mark and Gee (Armytage), were successful National Hunt jockeys.
Harry Charles may not have won a class, but he collected two awards for the most promising under-25 rider: The Raymond Brooks Ward Trophy, presented by brothers Simon, James and Nick Brooks-Ward in memory of their father, and a saddle from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers as voted for by members of the British Equestrian Writers’ Association.