‘I only brought one horse here’: rider takes back-to-back Windsor Rolex grand prix wins with precision campaign

  • Martin Fuchs took a chance bringing only one horse to Royal Windsor but his faith in Leone Jei’s extraordinary talent was rewarded when he took home the Rolex grand prix.

    It was the second consecutive year that the Swiss rider has secured the €125,000 first prize here, having piloted another exceptional horse, Connor Jei, to a 0.4sec win over Ben Maher in 2023.

    “There’s usually a lot of pressure on the one class, not having any other chances, but I felt very comfortable after jumping on Friday,” Martin said. “I knew when I walked the course that the jump off would suit us very well and if I do a good job, then normally he’s going to jump two rounds clear.

    “Taking back-to-back wins is obviously fantastic,” he added, “but it’s not only winning back-to-back, the whole atmosphere here is special.”

    Bernardo Costa Cabral had built a delicate first round track that made subtle rather than overt demands. Poles fell throughout the course, although a vertical to oxer double on the final line, followed by a tall vertical at the final fence, elicited the most faults.

    It was a testament to the quality of the 34-horse field, rather than soft course building, that 12 combinations jumped clear. Among them were three British riders: Rob Whitaker (Vermento), Matt Sampson (Daniel) and Tim Gredley (Imperial HBF).

    ‘Every jump came down’

    “I was very happy with the course, I thought it rode very nicely — nicer than I expected,” admitted Bernardo, who had been aiming to get eight clears.

    “In hindsight, I wouldn’t do anything differently, if they perform, fair dues to them. I wouldn’t do anything more to catch them because they were just very good horses with superb riders.

    “The last line didn’t cause as many problems as I thought, it was a big vertical coming out on a flat five strides. We tried to get horses to jump well and catch riders on difficulties of control, not catch out the horses because they can jump.

    “Every jump came down, even number one, and when that happens I am happy with the job.”

    Brits take early lead

    A world class jump off field of 12 was always going to provoke a dogfight against the clock and Matt Sampson’s impressive double clear on James Davenport’s 16-year-old stallion, which initially went into the lead from third draw, didn’t hold the advantage for long.

    He was first toppled by Sweden’s Petronella Andersson (Odina Van Klapscheut), then Italy’s Giulia Martinengo Marquet (Delta Del’Isle) who axed almost 2sec. But her lead was wrested by Martin, who was in another league as he kept attacking on, tight, angled lines in a flawless rhythm to stop the clock in 41.40sec, 3.42sec out in front.

    Both Gregory Wathelet (Bond Jamesbond De Hay) and Steve Guerdat (Dynamix de Belheme) came close, lodging 41.75sec and 41.86 sec respectively for second and third place, but couldn’t quite match Martin and the 12-year-old grey, who have strong recent form having won the CSI5* grand prix in Ocala, Florida in March.

    While Rob Whitaker gave it a good try on his 11-year-old homebred King George V winner Vermento, he was way off the pace, posting 44.53sec for best of the Brits in fourth.

    “I knew today it was going to be very difficult to be quicker than Martin and Steve and Gregory, so I did what I thought I could do with him,” Rob said. “He jumped very good in the jump off and if I was offered fourth place at the beginning of the week, I probably would have taken it.”

    Matt’s double clear still secured him a €20,000 payout in seventh, while Tim Gredley, who executed a fluid, clear but steady round with his 11-year-old gelding, finished 6.73sec behind him in eighth, adding one time fault.

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