British Olympian Harry Charles has swept all before him from Barcelona to Birmingham during the last six months and confirmed his place among showjumping’s elite.
But the best could be yet to come, with the 22-year-old Hampshire rider now chasing World Cup glory.
Only two British showjumpers – John Whitaker and 2016 Olympic champion Nick Skelton – have won the sport’s World Cup final, which has been staged on 41 occasions and this year carries a total prize fund of £460,000.
Charles, whose father Peter helped Great Britain win showjumping team gold at London 2012, made his Olympic debut in Tokyo last summer.
And it proved a springboard for sustained success, with Charles collecting a £42,000 bonus after jumping double-clear at the FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona, then taking his winnings into six figures through three notable triumphs.
He was crowned Horse of the Year Show grand prix champion in Birmingham, before claiming a stunning London International Horse Show double just before Christmas by landing the headline World Cup qualifier and grand prix classes.
It also took him into elevated company among the world’s top 30-ranked riders, and he heads to Leipzig in Germany this week for a World Cup final debut that could further showcase his blistering form.
“I won’t be going there to make up the numbers, that’s for sure,” Charles told the PA news agency, ahead of an intense three-day competition that starts on Thursday and includes four previous World Cup final winners, including three-time champion Steve Guerdat.
“It’s a huge event, one of the biggest of the year for me. I am really motivated, and the horses are in fantastic shape.”
Charles is part of a three-strong British contingent in Leipzig alongside John and Jack Whitaker, and he takes top campaigners Romeo 88 and Stardust, accompanied every step of the way by his father.
“It’s invaluable having my dad there. He is a great trainer,” Charles added.
“There is no messing about with him, it’s straight to the point, and that is what you want. You don’t want to hear ‘could have, should have’ and he is not like that.
“He stopped his career early to support us (Charles’ sisters Scarlett and Sienna are also international riders), and says he enjoys the sport more now than he did when he was riding!
“He is passionate about it, but he doesn’t put us under any pressure.
“We can very much choose our own paths, and he has encouraged us to do that, but by the time I was 16 I realised that this was what I wanted to do.”
Charles’ packed schedule this year is also set to include a number of top British events, including the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May.
“I am taking Aralyn Blue to Royal Windsor this year,” he said. “She is an incredible horse and is certainly a possibility for Paris 2024.
“She hasn’t performed lots at this level yet, but I can see the huge potential in her ability. I will ride her in the Rolex Grand Prix on the Sunday of Windsor.”
Windsor, like Leipzig, could be another stepping stone along the road to potentially a second Olympics appearance for Charles, and he added: “I learnt a lot in Tokyo. I went there as fourth (British) rider and ended up doing every single class.
“It is a huge ambition to get to Paris in 2024 and try to win a medal with the team.”
:: Tickets are still available for Royal Windsor Horse Show. Book at www.rwhs.co.uk
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