Italian star Emanuele Gaudiano continued his rich vein of form by making a flying start to the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show.
Gaudiano thrilled a sizeable crowd for the opening session of the three-day, four-star show at Liverpool Echo Arena.
Riding Cocoshynsky, Gaudiano landed the 1.45 metre two-phase class, sponsored by Harthill Stud, in a brilliant jump-off time of 29.25 seconds, which proved just enough to edge out 60-year-old multiple British Olympian John Whitaker and claim a £6,000 first prize.
Yorkshireman Whitaker, who has his sights set on a possible sixth Olympic Games appearance in Rio later this year, clocked 29.41 seconds for the runners-up sport aboard Lord of Arabia, with Britain’s Nicole Pavitt taking third place on Victor Blue.
Gaudiano has enjoyed an outstanding few weeks on the European circuit, highlighted by him staving off a powerful British challenge to win the Longines FEI World Cup qualifier at London Olympia just 12 days ago.
“I have done a number of shows with the horse, and it is great to win here at Liverpool on the opening day,” Gaudiano said.
“It is a super new show. It is the first show of the year, and it is an unbelievable event – one that will get bigger and bigger.”
Whitaker, meanwhile, added: “The facilities, the ring, everything here is top-class. It is not easy to organise something like this, but it’s a great new addition to the calendar.
“Lord of Arabia jumped well at Olympia, and he hasn’t jumped a fence since then, but he came out great today. I am very pleased.
“I normally have a little bit of a break after Olympia, but it is great to be here.”