The leading rider in the world rankings, The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders, the one and only Rolex Grand Slam champion, Great Britain’s Scott Brash, and an array of Olympic stars will headline next week’s CSIO Rome – Masters d’Inzeo which marks the dawn of a new era.
The event organisers have always been aware that the unique nature of the Piazza di Siena in the beautiful Villa Borghese public park in the heart of the Italian capital city is to be respected. And this year’s fixture, which runs from 24 to 27 May, sees the development of a project launched in 2017 by the Italian National Olympic Committee(CONI) and the Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE) which is designed to combine a spectacular piece of sporting theatre with extensive improvement and environmental protection for this iconic venue.
Upgrading has already begun, but for many of the competitors the most significant change will be the restoration of the grass arena which has seen so many historic moments in the past. And of course a massively increased prize-fund, totalling €835,000 which makes it one of the most lucrative events on the international circuit today, is another major incentive.
There will be €250,000 on offer to the teams in Friday’s Intesa Sanpaolo Nations Cup. A total of nine nations will line out including Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Italy. And after last year’s Italian victory, the first in 32 years for the home side, all the pressure will be on Lorenzo De Luca, Bruno Chimirri, Emanuele Gaudiano, Luca Marziani and Giulia Martinengo Marquet who have been selected to defend the title.
However the hosts will have to be at the very top of their game if they are to keep the Dutch, French and Americans in check. Team USA in particular is over-flowing with class. Kent Farrington was forced to yield the No. 1 spot on the world rankings due to a leg injury earlier this year, but he’s already back in top form and is joined by Lauren Hough, double-Olympian Laura Kraut, McLain Ward whose extensive list of career highlights includes victory at the 2017 FEI World Cup Final and the multi-medalled Beezie Madden who claimed her second World Cup series title at the 2018 Final in Paris, France just a few short weeks ago.
The challenge from The Netherlands also looks formidable with new World No. 1, Smolders, joined by Jeroen Dubbeldam who was Olympic champion at Sydney 2000 before helping his country to double-gold at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and again at the European Championships a year later. Leopold van Asten, Johnny Pals and Michel Hen-drix complete the Dutch selection. Meanwhile two members of the gold medal winning team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Roger Yves Bost and Kevin Staut, will be in action for France alongside Frederic David, Simon Delestre and Alexandra Paillot. The quality of the Nations Cup field is second to none, and it is going to be a hard-fought affair.
The arrival of the world’s most revered watchmakers, Rolex, as official timekeeper of the event and sponsors of Sunday’s €350,000 Grand Prix is another recognition of the calibre and prestige of CSIO Rome which traces its history all the way back to 1926, and many of the top names chasing down the honours are Rolex testimonees.
Representing Canada will be 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze, competing for Germany will be three-time World Cup title-holder Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum while Swiss supremo and 2012 Olympic champion Steve Guerdat will also be in action.
The youngest Rolex testimonee of all, 22-year-old Irishman Bertram Allen, brings a talented string of horses. With 73 athletes from 16 countries battling it out for the honours, including Britain’s Brash who won the Rolex Grand Slam title in 2015 following three spectacular Grand Prix wins from his London 2012 Olympic gold medal winning ride Hello Sanctos, it’s going to be a battle of the giants.
Join us for all the excitement as ancient history blends with edge-of-the-seat modern sport in a four-day festival of top sport in the stunning setting of Piazza di Siena next week. It’s a new beginning to a legendary event, and it’s going to be very special indeed….
Source: Press Release by CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena
Photo: © CSIO Roma / M. Proli