It was the King of Showjumping – John Whitaker – that went to the top in Saturday’s Longines Grand Prix at the Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show in Saint-Tropez. Some of the very best riders in the world had lined up for the highlight of the weekend at the showgrounds close to Pampelonne Beach, where one of the most popular events in the showjumping calendar is staged.
43 riders gave the 1.60 track designed by Luc Musette a go, and ten managed to clear the first round thirteen fence course. As the eighteen best were invited back for the second round, those riders who were clear were joined by three on one time penalty and five with four faults – and much to the crowds' joy all the French riders but one moved on to round two.
Only five riders managed to keep a clean sheet the second time around as well, and it was a very strong group that headed for the jump-off: Home hero Kevin Staut on For Joy van't Zorgvliet HDC (For Pleasure x Heartbreaker), his compatriot and world no. two Simon Delestre on Qlassic Bois Margot (l''Arc de Triomphe x Galoubet A), world no. three Christian Ahlmann on Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor), double European and World Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam on Carusso LS La Silla (Portofino 46 x Joost) as well as living legend John Whitaker on Argento (Arko III x Gasper).
Kevin Staut opened up against the clock aboard Haras Des Coudrettes' 11-year-old gelding. The French rider did a clear round, but without too much risk – still putting pressure on those to come with a time of 36.96 seconds. Still, the door was left open, and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann seized the opportunity on the 16-year-old stallion Taloubet Z to push the time down to 36.26 seconds.
Simon Delestre hunted Ahlmann’s time, but found himself fractions behind when crossing the finish line in 36.33 seconds setlling in between Ahlmann and Staut. Dubbeldam gave it a real go, but paid the bill and ended up on eight faults and eventually fifth.
John Whitaker was the last one to enter the ring. The soon-to-be 61-year-old is a rider more than familiar with such pressure situations, and fresh from his Nations Cup win in Rome last weekend John seemed to be more than up for another challenge. The living legend showed everybody how it should be done, shaving the time down to 36.17 seconds snatching the 132 000 Euro win aboard the 14-year-old stallion Argento leaving Ahlmann to second and Delestre to third.
Source: Press release from LAOHS // Pictures © Marco Villanti and Filippo Gabutti/LAOHS
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