No one was more surprised that Harry Charles won the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ A Coruña on Sunday than Harry Charles.

And for good reason.

Charles’ mount, Sherlock, is a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion that the 24-year-old Brit has developed since age five: “I’ve done everything with him.”

The horse is just starting his high performance career. Charles and Sherlock have primarily jumped in 1.40m and 1.45m classes this year, occasionally moving up to 1.50m and 1.55m. In June, Sherlock made his 1.60m debut with Charles at the Longines Global Champions Tour Paris. They’ve jumped four rounds at the height—and posted zero clear rounds (Jumpr App).

Until Sunday afternoon in Spain that is.

Forty starters came forward for the seventh leg of the Western European League. Fourteen pairs managed to leave all the poles in place of Javier Trenor’s 13-fence course to advance to the jump off. Charles, the current world no. 14, and his developing prospect were the final pair to make the cut. And it wasn’t looking hopeful.

Up against world no. 1 Henrik von Eckermann and Glamour Girl and world no. 9 Max Kühner and EIC Julius Caesar, plus proven winners in Pieter Devos (Mom’s Toupie de la Roque) and Christian Ahlmann (Mandato van de Neerheide) and nine more largely more experienced partnerships, a win looked doubtful for the unproven pair.

“He’s very green at this level, it’s only his second or third [or fourth] 1.60m class so I’m delighted to have a clear with him and I’m just going to give him a nice trip in the jump-off,” said Charles ahead of the short course.

“I’m not going to try any heroics and try and win or anything. It’s more a building round for the future for him. We’ll see how the others go in front of me, I’ve got a good draw and I’ll try and jump another clear and be tight where I can. But I won’t be a danger to any of the other guys!”

But as one after one the poles fell, Charles’ perspective began to shift. With only two pairs double clear when he entered the ring as the last horse and rider to tackle the short course, he made a new plan.

“These are the jump-offs you always find yourself sitting and watching but you never seem to be in it, but luckily today I was in it and I couldn’t quite believe it—poles were coming down all over the place!

“When I saw that then my perspective started changing, maybe we could do something here, but it was still a very big ask to get him to go in and do what he did—I really can’t believe it. I’m lost for words for Sherlock! He’s just an incredible horse!” said Charles after storming to victory with a clear in 44.92 seconds.

“It probably wasn’t the prettiest round I’ve ever ridden, I had to hustle and bustle a little bit and when I finished the emotion came out a little bit but I couldn’t really help it because I couldn’t quite believe it!”

Kühner was relegated to second with a time of 45.69. Spain’s Armando Trapote and Torando VS took third in 45.98.

For Charles, it’s a course correction over 2022. He came second in the same class last year aboard Casquo Blue after losing a two-horse jump off to Germany’s Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann and Messi van’t Ruytershof.

“He’s like my baby,” said Charles. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him!

“Maybe he came up a bit quicker than I thought he would. I really used the last few shows as developing shows for him and he had two down in Madrid last weekend but the feeling was actually really good and he did it with ease. And then straightaway next weekend he comes and wins this one! In another six months he’s going to be a very dangerous horse to have!”

The British rider has now moved to the top of the Western European League standings with 55 points ahead of countryman and reigning Olympic champion Ben Maher (52 points) and defending series champion von Eckermann (51 points).

The World Cup Western European League next heads to London, December 19.