By Jean Llewellyn (press release) and Sonja Grob Photography: FEI/Kit Houghton
The final of the Swiss Breed Classic for young Swiss-bred horses, the 18th ROLEX IJRC (International Jumping Riders’ Club) top-10 finale, the much-awaited ROLEX Grand Slam Grand Prix, as well as the prize-giving ceremony for the leading breeders of 2017-2018 all took place under the vast roof of Geneva’s Palexpo arena during the 58th Concours Hippique Swiss CHI.
In the first of these sport and breeding highlights, the top 10 riders from around the globe competed in one of the most exciting classes of the year, the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Finale, at this iconic indoor show. A class in which only the world’s top 10 ranked riders are invited to compete to be named the best among them – it was, therefore, an elite field who lined up at the start.
World-renowned course designer, Gérard Lachat formulated an imposing and technically challenging course staged over two rounds, ensuring a thrilling competition for the enthralled crowd. First to enter the vast Palexpo arena was Great Britain’s Ben Maher riding the nine-year-old KWPN, Explosion W (Chacco-Blue - Uarina x Baloubet du Rouet), leaving the equestrian fans gasping as he hit the first fence in the Rolex combination and left the arena with 19 faults. However, .with his blue-blooded ancestral credentials it won’t surprise anyone to see this gelding occupying podium places in the years to come.
The first clear of the night came from Niels Bruynseels (BEL) riding the Perry de Winter-bred Gancia de Muze (Malito de Reve - Barones x Nimmerdor), exhibiting precision and determination as she glided around the course, finishing in 63.03 seconds, and setting the bar high for the remaining riders.
As the curtains to the arena entrance opened to unveil one of the home favourites, Martin Fuchs, the crowd rose to their feet to witness his immaculate clear round riding in his first Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, and with his world-championship gelding, Clooney 51 (Cornet Obolensky - Fraulein vom Moor x Ferragamo). He was followed by current world number one rider, Harrie Smolders (NED) with Don VHP Z NOP (Diamant de Semilly - Sarah van het Parelshof x Voltaire, bred by Guy de Schumer) who similarly produced an effortless clear round in the second fastest time, finishing just behind Bruynseels on the leaderboard.
The arena was then treated to a second Swiss rider, as 2010 winner Steve Guerdat mesmerized the crowd by clearing this demanding course in a time of 63.78 seconds with his 10-year-old Alamo Ukato - Mariona x Equador).
Tobago Z (Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve - Whoopie C x Mr. Blue, bred by Jonas Bellemans), Clinta (Clinton - Last Flight x Lord Pezi, bred by Silke Harms), and Castello 194 (Cristallo 7 - Top Levinja x Lifestyle, bred by Markus Ostendarp), then carried Daniel Deusser, McLain Ward and Henrik von Eckermann, respectively, to clear rounds, bringing the total to seven who progressed to round two.
Out of the first four riders contesting the second round, Deusser and Tobago Z threw down the gauntlet by producing a fast-paced, faultless round in a time of 41.53 seconds which moved the pair to the top of the leaderboard. However, Alamo produced another electrifying round for Guerdat, jumping with bold precision, to eclipse Deusser’s time by 1.78 seconds. Fellow Swiss rider, Martin Fuchs, also recorded another clear with Clooney, but despite their best attempts was unable to improve Guerdat’s time. Likewise, Von Eckermann and Ward, but neither could reproduce Guerdat’s speed. Hoping to emulate his earlier round, Smolders and Don VHP made a valiant attempt, but exited the arena with four faults. Last to go, and winner of the Dutch Masters in March 2018, Niels Bruynseels, is well-known for speed, but his attempt to overtake Guerdat with Gancia de Muze was at the cost of lowering a rail...CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO BREEDING NEWS
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