Leone Jets Into Geneva and Concordess Leads from the Front at Coruna

As we approach the end of what has been a difficult 2021 to say the least, the final Rolex Geneva Show in Switzerland managed to be staged. Quite an achievement as all the world governments go into a spin over the new omicron covid variant and the danger of all the old restrictions gradually being re-instated once again.

As the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells us of his fear of the new South African variant and the introduction of extra measures, the London International Horse Show at the Excel Centre this week, as we write, is still expected to go ahead, but with certain new conditions. More will appear on this next week.

Geneva Arena

In Geneva, one of the top indoor showjumping events did escape the covid measures and the iconic Rolex Grand Slam Grand Prix saw 40 of the world’s top riders come to challenge for this prestigious title. The course was designed and built by Gerard Lachat from Switzerland and contained all the usual features of a course with a top jump and spread of 1.65m allowed. Starting with a couple of uprights before turning back on themselves, the horses were then presented with the treble going down through the middle of the arena. Turning at the bottom of the arena over a narrow testing fence the riders turned again to take the first of the double fences next to the permanent water feature. Back up to the top of the arena to a top spread and height oxa before three more large single fences before the penultimate fence, a large double which preceded the final upright.

There were representatives from fourteen countries in the field with the trail blazer coming from France in the shape of Julien Gonin riding Valou de Lys. He took the first part of the treble out and then a pole off a rather high colourless upright fence, another fence to be a telling feature of the course. He left with 8 faults. The course designers must have been getting worried after over half the field including Henrik Von Echermann riding King Edward and other top international riders all succumbed to faults. Finally, after 24 had gone, the first clear round from Ireland’s Darragh Kenny riding VDL Cartello; followed by another clear from the very next rider from Switzerland, Martin Fuchs riding Leone Jet. Despite the loss of Olympic Champion Ben Maher with Explosion W and home supported Steve Guerdat, relief must have been palpable as Kent Farrington from the USA secured another clear.  A few later, Max Kuhner from Austria took another clear before another top USA rider Laura Kraut riding Baloutinue also cleared all the obstacles. The final of the six clears in the first round was from The Netherlands in the shape of Harrie Smolders riding Monaco. He was the penultimate rider, and with Scott Brash riding Hello Jefferson as the last in and collecting 4 faults, that just left the six.

Martin Fuchs takes win

In the jump off, Darragh Kenny went first and went clear in 43.47 seconds, leaving the rest of the field a decent target to beat him. The second in was Martin Fuchs, and with the support of the home crowd, (nice to see spectators at the show) he also went clear and bettered Darragh’s time by nearly 2 seconds, finishing on 41.54 seconds, really applying the pressure to the final four. Kent Farrington was in third riding Gazelle had 4 faults, just beating Martin’s time, but in his hurry to gain the top spot, just caught the last of the eight fences with a back foot. Max Kuhner was next and he went clear in 42.22 seconds leaving him just behind the current leader. Another to go clear was the penultimate rider, Harrie Smolders who rode a terrific round but just not quite fast enough to take the lead. The final rider was Laura Kraut, never one to be dismissed when sitting in pole position. However, on this occasion, Lady Luck was not with her as she had two fences down in the slowest time of all the jump off competitors. In a difficult round with her steed throwing his head about the whole time, she took out the third fence and the first part of the double at fence four.

So the honours and the top place with 330,000 euros went to home based Martin Fuchs riding Leone Jet with Harrie Smolders riding Monaco in second and Max Kuhner from Austria taking the third place riding Electrik Blue P.

Philipp Schultz Topphoff wins from the front.

At La Coruna in Spain, a further round of the Longines World Cup Qualifiers took place for the show jumpers. 39 combinations took to the Santiago Varela designed course of 13 obstacles with 16 jumping efforts required in a time allowed of 74 seconds. Philipp Schultz Topphoff started the ball rolling for Germany riding Concordess NRW. He left the ring with a clear. Despite being the first to go, and after being first in, he was in the lead, it was a lead he never relinquished as he also had a clear in the jump off in the fastest time in37.69 seconds. It is very rare that the trail blazer can take the lead and keep it for a whole top international 5 star CSI! There were seven clears in the first round and a further two who went clear but collected 1 time fault. In the jump off, the second best in this round of the World Cup was from France, Gregory Cottard riding Bibici, coming home in 37.78 seconds and the third home was Sweden’s Angelica Augustsson-Zanotelli riding Kalinka ven de Nachtegaele in 38.39 seconds. They were the only three riders to have double clears. All the rest of the clears from the first round collected 4 faults in their attempt to better the time set by the winner, and actually all did do a better time.

Peder Fredricson wins retains his Number One Ranking in the world

In showjumping news, Peder Fredricson maintained his world ranking of number one to end what has been a very successful year for both him and the Swedish showjumping team. He retained the title for the third month in succession with 2870 points. His nearest rival with 2715 points was Daniel Deusser from Germany with another Swedish rider Henrik Von Eckermann in third position with 2635 points.

While in Geneva, the International Jumping Riders Club held their annual general meeting, and there is still huge disquiet over the FEI’s decision to retain their Tokyo Olympic format for the Paris Games in 2023. The president of the international riders club, France’s Kevin Staut opened the meeting with a statement ridiculing the FEI and was joined from Germany by Ludger Beebaum, a long-time opponent of the format. The frustration was aimed particularly at the FEI jumping director, Marco Fuste. There were several others complaining at the FEI decision, but there were a few who told the meeting that they only had themselves to blame as they did not take the discussion period seriously before the final decision was made.

Kevin Staut (FRA) – President of the riders

We at Horseview have always supported the FEI and the three riders with no discard score allowed as the better format, as we think it adds the potential of a result which would not necessarily be a foregone conclusion which is surely what everyone wants? No other athletic, swimming or field Olympic sport has this rather odd idea of having a discard score. The riders say that they fear for the welfare of their horses, and as with all welfare questions, their opinion should be taken into account, but we feel that we cannot see horse’s welfare being compromised any more with three horses in the team as opposed to four. No one has ever really explained what the welfare issue could be?

All the top riders who are disputing the FEI’s decision on this are rather, ‘shutting the door after the horse has bolted’ surely? They had every opportunity to voice their opinions before the decision was made in that the FEI set out a timetable for comments and directives to be made to them through the national riding organisations before mid-October, a full 3 months between the end of Tokyo and the end of the consultation period; at which point only eight of the hundred or so national federations even bothered to comment. So it is not surprising that the FEI made their decision to leave new format in place as they could only see complete apathy from the riders and national federations at the time the decision needed to be taken. No doubt the saga will continue!

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