The King George V Gold Cup
All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, West Sussex.
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch #hickstead
More than a hundred years ago, in 1911, King George V became patron of London’s International Horse Show. In honour of the occasion he presented a stunning gold trophy that is still keenly contested each year.
The very first winner of this Gold Cup was Russia’s Dimitri d’Exe on Piccolo and many famous riders and horses from around the world, from Europe as well as the USA and even Australia, have since added their names to it. With the outbreak of World War I the competition was put on hold for six years, contested in 1914 then not again till 1920. In 1930 and 1932 the cup was won by Jack Talbot-Ponsonby riding Chelsea, followed by an outright victory in 1933 with Best Girl. He generously re-presented the trophy for perpetual competition.
Commissioned from Garrard and Company this magnificent trophy, worth more than a quarter of a million pounds, is the most prestigious prize of its kind. “Gold Cup” is a misnomer as the trophy is actually a solid 18-carat gold statuette of St George slaying the dragon. The base is signed by the designer “Paul Montford, Sc” and the main inscription reads “The International Horse Show King George V Trophy. Won outright in 1933 by Lieutenant JA Talbot-Ponsonby and re-presented by him for perpetual competition.”
This achievement of three wins was equalled after World War II by the famous partnership of Harry Llewellyn and Foxhunter, the only horse and rider combination to achieve this, and, a decade or so later, by the Italian rider Piero D’Inzeo riding Uruguay and The Rock. More recently this accolade has gone to both Robert Smith and John Whitaker. But, in the history of the competition, the champion must surely be David Broome with his unbeaten record of six wins on six different horses in a period spanning more than thirty years, followed by Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton with four wins each.
The Italian rider Conte Alessandro Bettoni-Cazzago on Adigrat won the trophy in 1939 and took it home with him to Italy. During World War II the trophy remained on Italian soil. It is said that the Conte was concerned about the welfare of the trophy so he had it buried in the grounds of his villa, from whence it was retrieved after the war and returned to the British Embassy. It was next competed for in 1947 and has never left Britain since then, remaining in the care of the British Horse Society.
The King George V Gold Cup has been contested at various venues over the years, from Olympia to the White City, at Wembley both indoors and out, to Birmingham’s NEC and on to the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, Sussex, which has been its home since 1992. Ridden at a speed of 400 metres per minute over fences that are approximately 1.60 metres in height, this competition is a formidable test for both horse and rider. Until 2007 the King George V Gold Cup class was only open to male riders. In 2008, for the first time, lady riders were permitted to take part and in two successive years, 2014 and 2015, Beezie Madden from the USA became the first and, so far only, woman to take the title, partnered by Cortes C.
For the first nine years of the new millennium the Gold Cup was won by foreign riders. But in 2009, after a tense jump-off, Peter Charles of Great Britain took top honours in the class riding Sandra Cordiner’s Murka’s Pall Mall H with Tim Stockdale and Fresh Direct Corlato in second place with a faster time but having lowered the poles on the final fence. Last of seven riders in the 2010 jump-off, Tim soared clear over this same obstacle on Fresh Direct Kalico Bay, a relatively inexperienced horse, to claim the coveted Gold Cup for himself.
“When I was twelve years old I watched Mike Saywell and Chainbridge win this trophy,” said a triumphant Tim. “From that time on it has been my dream to win it for myself!”
Last year's winner, Germany's David Will riding the 9 year-old bay gelding Never Walk Alone, took home the top prize of €49,500 and a watch generously provided by the sponsors, Longines, Not a single pole fell during the five-rider barrage with David completing in the fastest time of 43.73 seconds.
* * * * * * * * *
David Broome’s six wins:
1960 – Sunsalve
1966 – Mister Softee
1972 – Sportsman
1977 – Philco
1981 – Mr Ross
1991 – Lannegan
* * * * * * * * * *
Michael Whitaker’s four wins:
1982 – Disney Way
1989 – Next Didi
1992 – Everest Midnight Madness
1994 – Everest Midnight Madness
* * * * * * * * * *
Nick Skelton’s four wins:
1984 – St. James
1993 – Everest Limited Edition
1996 – Cathleen
1999 – Hopes Are High
* * * * * * * * * *
Winner – David Will on NEVER WALK ALONE.
The Longines BHS King George V Gold Cup 2019. #HicksteadMoments Photo by Julian Portch