Ludo Philippaerts and RGB Parco, who shared the honours in Bordeaux, were supreme in the World Cup qualifier at Paris Bercy and are the runaway leaders of the Western European league.
Eleven of the 18-strong field mastered Serge Houtmanns 13-fence course, which rode much better than the riders had anticipated. The most testing question was a six-stride right-handed curve from fence nine, an oxer, to the combination.
Only four could go clear again in the decider. The first was the opener, Ireland’s Jessica Kurten on Paavo N, who did well to finish fourth from this position.
Two horses later, Italian Jerry Smit and the huge-jumping 10-year-old Jamiro, who was making only his third World Cup appearance, took the lead. This Dutch-bred chesnut, by Damiro out of a Voltaire mare, wastes a lot of time in the air.
“He’s a little difficult to ride,” said Jerry. “I bought him as a three-year-old colt and waited until he was an eight-year-old before gelding him. He then started to improve and won the Verona grand prix.
“He’s so careful that I have to ride him in lots of small classes to stop him jumping so high.I think hes an exceptional horse, probably the best I have ever ridden.
Michael Whitaker, who was eighth to go on Ann Bedfords Handel II.
Handels recent form has been consistent. He claimed a major class here, was fourth in the big grand prix in Zurich and second in the Bordeaux grand prix.
At Olympia, where Michael rode him in a bit, he was too strong. He went much better in a hackamore.
“He¨s honest and the only problem is that hes so strong, but he is getting easier to ride, said Michael.
Michael still led until, from final draw, Ludo Philippaerts had the last word, scoring by 0.63sec on Parco, his striking nine-year-old grey Darco stallion, who has matured considerably since last season.
“I think I made a little time up everywhere from the moment I crossed the start, said Ludo. Parco seems to be coming good very quickly. He’s a year younger than Otterongo and is currently my second horse, but it could change. I plan to take both to the final.”
Ludo Philippaerts was also unbeatable in the World Cup pre-qualifier, triumphing on the chesnut Otterongo from Lars Niebergon Loro Piana Esprit.
Beat Mandli claimed the shows most valuable class, the 13,200 first prize Grand Prix Ericsson, by a distance on Pozitano.
Ten of the 36-strong field were clear, but notable casualties included world number one Ludger Beerbaum on Goldfever.
Michael Whitaker started Tornedo, who had been placed earlier in the show, but the young stallion faulted twice and Michael retired him.
The barrage was opened by Jan Tops and Roofs, who were first to jump in round one. They were again clear, but Jan played safe and did not fully extend the mare for an eventual third place.
“As there were some fast horses behind me, I calculated that I must take care. I went too fast the World Cup qualifier,” said Jan.
The next faultless performance came from Willi Melliger, whose Calvaro was ballooning the fences. They took the lead, but this only lasted two horses, as Beat Mandli then supplied the winning performance.
The beautifully balanced Pozitano produced some incredible turns, almost coming to a halt once before a huge double, and their winning margin was 3.41sec.
“The first round was bigger than the World Cup,” said Beat. “The ground is good and there are some top-class horses here, so this win was one of my best.”