Geneva, Switzerland – December 11, 2022 – The scene was then set for this year’s CHF $1,200,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, in which 40 horse and rider combinations representing 14 nations – including 16 out of the current top 20-ranked riders – lined-up, each staking a claim for one of the sport’s most sought-after prizes, as part of their Rolex Grand Slam quests. Course designers Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx set a technical, 14-obstacle first round test, which would be followed by a nine-effort jump-off, should two or more partnerships navigate the opening round without a fault.
Great Britain’s Ben Maher (GBR)) and Dallas Vegas Batilly recorded the 1.60m class’s first clear, emulated soon after by Daniel Deusser (GER) with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. At the halfway stage, a further seven riders had gone clear, including Gilles Thomas (BEL) on Calleryama, French duo Kevin Staut (FRA) with Scuderia 1918 Viking d’la Rousserie and Simon Delestre (FRA) on Cayman Jolly Jumper, Andre Thieme (GER) aboard DSP Chakaria and Christian Ahlmann (GER) with Dominator 2000 Z of Germany, Dane Andreas Schou (DEN) on Darc de Lux, and Irishman Shane Sweetnam (IRL) aboard James Kann Cruz.
The second half of the round witnessed just four additional riders progressing to the jump-off, with the Oxer-Liverpool (6a) proving to be the trickiest and most knocked down element. These riders included crowd favourites, Martin Fuchs (SUI) on Leone Jei and Elian Baumann (SUI) with Little Lumpi E, American McLain Ward (USA) on HH Azur, and a delighted Daniel Bluman of Israel (Ladriano Z), making a final shoot-out of 13 pairings.
Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Daniel Deusser (GER) set the early jump-off pace and put the pressure on after becoming the first to go double clear in a time of 42.58 seconds. However, it wasn’t to be a second consecutive Major victory for Deusser after Simon Delestre (FRA) went 0.12 seconds faster, with the Frenchman’s time soon being eclipsed by next generation Belgian talent Gilles Thomas (BEL), who went 1.58 seconds quicker still (40.88 seconds).
After both Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Rolex Testimonee, Kevin Staut (FRA) were unable to go clear, Saturday’s winner of the Credit Suisse Challenge, Shane Sweetnam (IRL), looked like a man possessed, going clear with James Kann Cruz (Kannan x Cruising) and knocking Thomas off top spot in 40.48 seconds, a time that looked unbeatable.
However, next into the arena, Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Leone Jei (Baltic VDL x Corland) proved Thomas’ time in fact was beatable, going sub-40 seconds (39.77 seconds), and in turn sending the crowd wild.
With penultimate rider Daniel Bluman (ISR) putting one down, Fuchs’ destiny lay in the hands of American McLain Ward (USA) and his 16-year-old bay Belgian Sport Horse mare HH Azur (Thunder v. Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui v. Zuuthoeve). Renowned for their speed and accuracy, the pair glided around the course, going faster than Fuchs at the first two sectors, eventually clearing the final fence over a second quicker than the Swiss, etching their names into Rolex Grand Slam history, with Ward ultimately becoming the Live Contender.
On his first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major victory and where it ranks among his career wins, McLain Ward, said: “To win the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva ranks right up amongst the very greatest moments. Olympic gold medals, the Grand Prix in Calgary – this is a very special moment.”
And on what makes CHI Geneva such a special place to compete at, McLain Ward, commented: “Its people! I mean, it’s spectacular, the atmosphere, the environment, the organisers and sponsors make it so special that the competitors rise to the day.”
Final Results – CHF $1,200,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva CSI 5*
1) McLain Ward (USA) & HH Azur – 0 / 0 – 38.43
2) Martin Fuchs (SUI) & Leone Jei – 0 / 0 – 39.77
3) Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & James Kann Cruz – 0 / 0 – 40.48
Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping
Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder