Oliva Nova, Valencia, Spain – January 31, 2021 – Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Queeletta (Quality 9 x Landor S) concluded the third week of competition at the Spring MET 2021 with a victory in the CSI3* 1.50m Grand Prix presented by CHG – Construcciones Hispano Germanas S.A. Run under strict Covid-19 protocols and with no audience present, Sunday’s Grand Prix had a strong start field with some of the world’s very best riders on their championship horses.
The quality of the participants surely challenged the course designer Grégory Bodo (FRA). However, the French mastermind once again illustrated why he is one of the best in his field: Eight of the 59 horse-and-rider combinations that started in the first round cleared the delicate track, joining the deciding jump-off.
Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE) on the incredible H&M Indiana (Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Animo’s Hallo) delivered the first clear in the jump-off with a time of 36.33 seconds. Philip Houston (GER) on Sandros S Bella (Sandro Boy x Chacco-Blue) and Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) on Nuance Bleue Vdm Z (Nabab de Reve x Canturo) followed but could not match the Swedish rider’s time.
Epaillard – who kicked off the first week of the Spring MET 2021 with a Grand Prix win on Usual Suspect D’Auge (Jarnac x Papillon Rouge) – showed that there was still room for improvement when it came to the leading time. As second last to go, he set Queeletta in top gear. Cruising around the track, Epaillard stopped the clocks on 34.13 seconds, pushing Baryard-Johnsson down to second, Houston to third and De Luca to fourth.
As the last pair to go, Christian Kukuk and Mumbai (Diamant de Semilly x Nabab de Reve) looked set to challenge the new leader, but with one fence down, last week’s winning rider had to settle for the sixth place. The fastest four-faulter, current world number one Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Albfuehren’s Maddox (Cohiba 1198 x Maraton) ended fifth.
“The course was very technical and delicate,” Epaillard commented afterwards. “It was not too big, but you needed good control all around the track. The last line and the triple combination caused some problems. For me, the course was very well built.”
“To go fast and not touch the poles,” Epaillard laughed when asked about his jump-off strategy. “With Kukuk behind me – who is always very fast – I was not going to play for the second place. It was a win or lose for me.”
“Queeletta had a little break after Riyadh, this was her first Grand Prix of the year,” Epaillard said about his winning partner. “Now she is going to have three weeks off before the Longines Global Champions Tour season opener in Doha. For the moment, I am on the French Olympic short-list with her. However, it is difficult to make a plan right now.”
With the strict Covid-19 protocols being implemented at the showground, Epaillard said he felt very safe in Oliva Nova. “We all want to jump, and everyone is doing their best to respect the restrictions: No one wants the sport to stop again.”
The Mediterranean Equestrian Tour’s spring edition now takes a break of one week before returning to action on February 9, 2021.
Source: Press release from the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour
Photos: © Hervé Bonnaud / www.1clicphoto.com.