Le Printemps des Sports Équestres: A Host of Champions at Fontainebleau this Week for the CSI 4*! 

Fontainebleau, France – April 19, 2023 – The CSI 4* at Le Printemps des Sports Équestres, the first major European event since the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final last weekend in the United States, will be held at the Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau from 19 to 23 April, and promises some great sport! With almost a third of the World top 20 riders and some renowned names in international jumping competing, the event’s second edition promise to be exciting. Who will succeed Great Britain’s Lily Attwood (GBR), the winner of last year’s GL events Grand Prix? There is no shortage of contenders…

Julien Epaillard: The Man to Beat
France’s Julien Epaillard (CAN), who will undoubtedly be the favourite among spectators in Fontainebleau, will definitely be the man to beat next weekend! He will be competing in the ring as the second-best rider in the Longines FEI World rankings but he should stay cool as usual. ‘The fastest rider in the world’, a ‘rocket’: there are a host of terms to describe the rider who everyone is watching at the moment. And yet he says… ‘I don’t care what people say about me, whether it’s good or bad. When I was growing up, I heard various commentators say that I was ‘gifted’, a ‘prodigy’, etc.: even back then, it really didn’t interest me. I was and still am a rider who makes mistakes in the ring: this sport will always make you humble and encourage you to persevere,’ he says modestly. ‘All riders have the same goal every weekend: to perform well, learn from their mistakes and be attentive to their horses. I take things as they come and if tomorrow, I don’t have any horses to go to big shows and have to go back and build up a string of horses from CSI 2* level, then I will, that’s obvious. Everything is going well at the moment, I’m enjoying it, but I don’t care what the commentators say before I go into the ring or the journalists in the papers. That’s not my job and it doesn’t interest me.’ End of story!

He will be competing at the CSI 4* at Le Printemps des Sports Équestres with Dubai du Cèdre, a ten-year-old mare with which he recently won several 1.45 m classes at the Longines FEI World Cup legs in Amsterdam and Den Bosch.

Harrie Smolders & Strong Dutch Delegation
The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (NED), who is currently the sixth best rider in the world, will be another serious contender in Sunday’s GL events Grand Prix. He will have his heart set on winning the key event of the weekend, after regularly finishing in second position throughout the winter season. The current World team silver medallist who was second in the CSI 5* in Riyadh, and second in the Grand Prix Hermès at the Grand Palais Ephémère, was second again last weekend at the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Omaha. Smolders will head up an incredible Dutch delegation in Fontainebleau: Marc Houtzager (NED), the 2012 Olympic team silver medallist, Willem Greve (NED), the winner of the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona last year, and Kevin Jochems (NED), the recent winner of the 4* Grand Prix in Vejer de la Frontera. Four riders to watch closely!

French Riders Have their Sights Set on Versailles
The spectators will also be keenly watching Henk Nooren’s French riders, who have made the CSI 4* at Le Printemps des Sports Équestres a key event at the beginning of their outdoor season. The French riders, headed up by Julien Epaillard (FRA), have already adopted the event in Fontainebleau. Here’s what the best French lady rider, Pénélope Leprévost (FRA), has to say: ‘The first edition of Le Printemps des Sports Équestres won over all the French riders! We all really enjoyed it last year. This competition managed to satisfy all the competitors, no one was overlooked. This event is already a must for our whole sector of activity.’ The 2016 Olympic team gold medallist, who was also crowned French champion last year, will be competing with Bingo del Tondu. Her 2016 teammates in Rio, Kevin Staut (FRA), currently World number 14, and Roger-Yves Bost (FRA), a rider who lives locally, are also expected at the Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau, as are Simon Delestre (FRA), World number 9, Marc Dilasser (FRA), the winner of the Longines FEI World Cup leg in Gothenburg in February, and Mégane Moissonnier and Olivier Perreau (FRA), the partner riders of GL events, the organiser of Le Printemps des Sports Équestres.

Twenty Nations Expected
Eighteen other nations are expected to compete in the CSI 4* at Le Printemps des Sports Équestres, in addition to France and the Netherlands. Max Künher (AUT), the best Austrian rider in the World rankings, who is currently in eleventh position, will be competing, as will Luxembourg’s Victor Bettendorf, World number 27 and the recent winner of the Grand Prix Hermès. Italy will be represented by Lorenzo de Luca (ITA), and the most French of Ireland’s riders, Mark McAuley (IRL) will also be competing. Riders from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Jordan, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey and the United States will also be competing at the Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau.

The objective of the 2023 edition of Le Printemps des Sports Équestres is clear for Sophie Dubourg, the French Equestrian Federation’s National Technical Director: to start preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. ‘The whole event has an Olympic feeling to it this year. This is the organising team that will be in charge of the equestrian events in Versailles, alongside the Paris 2024 Organising Committee; the test events will be held in Fontainebleau next year; in short, it really feels like the Games. In any case, this is how we are approaching this event and in 2023, Fontainebleau and Le Printemps des Sports Équestres will be an important event for the French Olympic show jumping and dressage teams,’ she added.

Legendary Riders at a Legendary Venue

Two riders in particular among the other great names expected from 19 to 23 April at the mythical Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau are legends in equestrian sports. Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (SUI), who was World number 1 for over two years (from January 2019 to May 2021), the 2012 Olympic individual gold medallist, two-time European team gold medallist and three-time winner of the Longines FEI World Cup Final, will head up an impressive Swiss delegation, including young Bryan Balsiger (SUI), who is also a member of the current European gold medal-winning team, as well as Pius Schwizer (SUI) , 60-years-old and currently the fiftieth best rider in the world. Show jumping has kept Great Britain’s John Whitaker (GBR) in good shape. At almost sixty-eight -years old, he is one of the most senior riders on the world circuit, and will also be competing at Le Printemps des Sports Équestres. During his career at the top, which has lasted for more than fifty years, John Whitaker has taken part in six Olympics, won more than twenty medals in international championships, has been a FEI World Cup finalist twice and has won the mythical Hickstead Derby four times. The young British generation competing alongside him at the Grand Parquet de Fontainebleau will include Lily Attwood (GBR), the winner of last year’s GL events Grand Prix, Harry Charles (GBR), the World number 15 and Jack Whitaker (GBR), John’s nephew.

Source: Press Release by Eloise Lepine for GL Events

Photo: © GL Events / PSV Photo