The highlight this Sunday at Equita Lyon was obviously the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup class. Forty couples were involved in the Lyon stage of the World Cup circuit. They were all ready to give their utmost to qualify for the jump-off and earn as many points as possible with a view to qualifying for the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping final to be held in Paris from 11 to 15 April.
A total of eleven couples qualified for the jump-off, including some of the sports most well-known stars! When the English rider Michael Whitaker rode the first double clear round on Calisto Blue (40”01), the audience knew they were in for a great show. Soon after, the Irish rider Mark McAuley – in great form this weekend with his horse Miebello (who won the Longines Grand Prix qualifying class on Friday) – shaved a hundredth of a second off this benchmark time. However, everything was still to play for. The Belgian rider Pieter Devos was the first to try a different option on the course, thereby putting a gap between himself and his competitors (39”28). After this, the jump-off became even more spectacular, with each rider managing to better the previous rider’s time. The battle for first place was like a game of musical chairs! Steve Guerdat – the 2012 Olympic Champion from Switzerland, a two-time winner of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping final (2015 and 2016) – , immediately piled the pressure on the remaining couples with his time of 39’’05.
The French rider Julien Epaillard and the Spanish rider Sergio Alvarez Moya rode even faster rounds, but incurred penalties. However, this demonstrated it was possible to do as well as, if not better than, the Swiss rider. Finally the superb Hermès Ryan had the last word in this test of agility and speed. Indeed, Simon Delestre and his chestnut horse – who is clearly back to his best form – crossed the finish line in 37”72. The Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann on Mary Lou was last out, but he could not improve on the time (38”35), taking second place in the final rankings.
Grégory Bodo, who was in charge of his first course of World Cup Jumping course here at Equita, explained that he was particularly pleased with the way the event had gone. “I just wanted to approach things in my own way, even though it was my first course at this level and a huge challenge. I can tell you that the emotions have been running high since the beginning of the week. Above all, I want to create courses that reflect my values and philosophy, focused on respect for the horses. Creating technical difficulties for the riders should never involve the horses over-exerting themselves,” he explained. Sylvie Robert also congratulated the course designer for his work. “I am delighted to have helped Gregory take charge of his first 5-star competition. Along with the French Equestrian Federation, we have been working to nurture and promote a top-level French course designer. Well done for your work in these classes and for getting just the right number of riders in the each jump-off. We have had a great weekend of sport. So, a big thank you to Greg.” The Director of Equestrian Events at the GL events Group was also very pleased with the French victory this evening: “Seeing Simon win in Lyon is like a dream come true, especially after the difficult year he has had. It was a really great win!”
Source: Press Release by Equita Lyon
Photos: © Equita Lyon 2017 / PSV Photo / J. Morel
Categories: Longines FEI World Cup Jumping