In English, “brash” is a word that describes someone who is determined, bold and a bit of a risk-taker, so Britain’s Scott Brash lived up to his name when scorching home with an assertive run from Bon Ami to win the opening international Speed class at Piazza di Siena yesterday.
Going at the halfway stage in a starting field of 56, he cut all the corners to set the target at 61.96 seconds, and, despite their best efforts, the rest just couldn’t catch him.
The home spectators had plenty to cheer about however when their hero, Juan Carlos Garcia, slotted into second with Prince de la Mare, and it was a highly competitive line-up on the podium when America’s Kent Farrington and Blue Angel finished third ahead of Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt who steered Souvenir into fourth.
The strength of the British challenge at the 81st edition of CSIO Rome was underlined by the ease with which Brash’s London 2012 Olympic Games team gold medal winning compatriot, Ben Maher, cruised into fifth place. America’s Richard Spooner and Cristallo finished sixth.
Course designer, Uliano Vizzani, set them a track that included a very narrow vertical of planks at fence four and three different doubles around the course, including two in succession at fences 10 and 11 which proved highly influential throughout the competition.
It was Farrington who set the pace when 18th to go with the 11-year-old mare Blue Angel who is just one of the legion of top-class speed specialists competed by this US rider. Breaking the beam in 64.77 seconds, however, Farrington only held the advantage for a very short time, as, two horses later, Garcia raised the bar. Prince de la Mare has a distinctive jumping technique, but the 10 year old gelding is super-careful and crossed the line in 63.64 seconds to reset the target. Just three more jumped before Brash came into the ring, and it was clear from the outset that he meant business.
Setting off at a cracking pace, he was already well up on time coming to the double of verticals three from home which penalised many others, and having cleared the penultimate double – oxer to vertical – he galloped down to the final vertical to post the unbeatable time of 61.96 seconds.
Talking about his winning ride, the 12-year-old Bon Ami which he co-owns with fellow-Scot Elizabeth McTaggart, he said the gelding was “was fantastic today, I couldn’t be happier!”. Bon Ami’s previous career highlight was victory in World Cup in Toronto, Canada two years ago. “I’ve had him since he was a four-year-old and I use him mostly for Speed competitions” the rider explained. “He’s very, very fast in the air, so he’s always difficult to beat!” he added.
As he left the arena following the prize-giving ceremony, Brash was already looking ahead to tomorrow’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup. “I will be riding my Olympic horse, Hello Sanctos, on the team. We have a very strong squad here but as we all know, anything can happen in a Nations Cup competition – but we will be trying our very best I can assure you!”