There was another bumper action-packed weekend of international showjumping over the weekend (4-8 May) with plenty of success for British and Irish riders — as well as some star-studded equine progeny. Here is your weekly round-up of international jumping action.
1. “We trained in a lake near my home”: La Baule Derby victory for Denis Lynch
Irishman Denis Lynch and the 16-year-old stallion Rubens LS La Silla tackled La Baule’s famous 22-fence Derby track on Saturday and triumphed with the fastest of two clear rounds from a field of 14 riders. Taking second was French rider Nicolas Delmotte (Denerys Du Montceau) with another Irish rider, Mark McAuley and the 18-year-old Miebello, in third with the fastest round of the day but with four faults to add. Denis also won the La Baule Derby in 2012 riding Night Train when he was injured in the prize-giving, and he attributes this year’s victory to some cross-country practice at home.
“I knew Mark McAuley had a horse that was very fast and my Irish teammates in general are good, so I had to prepare myself well,” said Denis. “My horse and I know each other very well, we’ve done all kinds of competitions, and before La Baule, we trained in a small lake near my home. This Derby of La Baule was really a goal for me. Thanks also to my owners who have been with me for a very long time.”
2. Holly Smith and Fruselli surge to grand prix glory
British Olympian Holly Smith and the speedy chestnut Fruselli continued their phenomenal winning surge, claiming victory in the CSI3* grand prix of Le Touquet, France, doubling up on a win on Friday, while it was a hat-trick for Holly who had also won with Azolette on Thursday. Holly and Fruselli, who will be in action in Royal Windsor’s five-star classes this week, scorched home in Sunday’s grand prix just a fraction ahead of Ireland’s Richard Howley riding Consulent De Prelet Z. Sienna Charles was another winner at the show, riding Valkiry De Zance, as was Joe Whitaker (Icaterina), and Trevor Breen took the runner-up spot in the Derby riding Mandy Hall’s Toyger.
3. A victory on home soil for Robert Smith
On home soil, Northcote held its inaugural CSI2* show where victory in the AW Jenkinson-sponsored 1.45m world ranking grand prix was secured by Robert Smith with the 14-year-old Ilton (Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Calvaro Z) he owns with Karina Reilly. Robert steered the tightest of lines to win by 0.94sec.
“He’d had one down earlier in the week so I just went round – today he was good,” said Robert, who will look to the county circuit in the immediate future. “I voted for Brexit, but at the moment it’s making the horse job difficult.”
4. “Eric told me to go for it”: Olympian’s former ride takes Rolex grand prix honours
The Rolex grand prix of La Baule went to Canada’s Beth Underhill riding the former top mount of her mentor Eric Lamaze, the 13-year-old stallion Dieu Merci Van T&L.
“I have a great track record in riding, with a little break in my career; I started again not too long ago,” said Beth, who was also part of the Canadian team who finished third in Friday’s Nations Cup. “I’ve been riding my horse for two months and this is the third 1.60m course I’ve done with Dieu Merci. He suits me perfectly because he is fast and has very long strides so we match up very well.
“This morning I went around the stadium and saw all the names of the winners on the marble in the René Pasquier stand, where my name will soon be. I saw the name of Eric [Lamaze], inscribed twice in 2011 and 2014. Eric told me after the first round to go for it because I could do it. I’m thrilled with my performance and thrilled to be with Eric who has given so much and continues to give us everything.”
The only other double clear from 50 starters came from runner-up Yuri Mansur of Brazil riding the 14-year-old Vitiki – the top six were all horses in their teens. In seventh was Frenchman Simon Delestre riding the 10-year-old Cayman Jolly Jumper, a son of Eric’s late great Hickstead.
5. Sam Hutton conquers in Belgium
Sentower Park’s CSI3* 1.55m grand prix also resulted in a British win, this time for Belgium-based Sam Hutton riding the 11-year-old gelding Givenchi. Victory came after a highly competitive 11-way jump-off.
6. Belgium tops the Nations Cup podium
La Baule also hosted an independent Nations Cup, and eight countries fielded world-class squads for the event. A decade after they last won here, Belgium topped the podium with eight penalties, just ahead of France and Canada, who each came home on a score of 12 but were separated by time. All the riders praised Gregory Bodo’s track.
“What a place, what an atmosphere, what a public!” said Belgium team pathfinder Gregory Wathelet (Nevados S), who was also on the winning team 10 years ago. “To enter this arena is just incredible, we don’t often have this atmosphere. The course-designer has put together a very technical, tricky, but really enjoyable course to ride. We didn’t see the horses, I think, going too hard, it’s really what we needed. This win is well deserved by the whole team.”
Belgium’s chef d’equipe Peter Weinberg gave his insight: “I’m German and I’ve been here before with Germany, with whom I’ve already won the Nations Cup. I am happy to win again with the Red Devils. I set up this strategy to put Gregory first, if ever there was a jump-off, because the horse is the fastest and it allowed him to recover. It was a beautiful course, which was a bit technical, it required a good intelligent horse, but also a good rider.”
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