It was a very appropriate win in Sunday’s Grand Prix Hermès, as Romain Duguet – one of the luxury brand’s partner riders – went to the top. The victory in this prestigious class was the Swiss rider’s biggest to date, and it came on the 11 year old Kannan-mare Quorida de Treho – with Duguet’s family ringside to witness his perfect performances.
It was a tough track that was set by Frank Rothenberger in the sun filled ring in the beautiful Grand Palais. Twelve fences waited, and they were huge and wide – especially the triple combination that was the penultimate challenge coming on a right turning line from an oxer on six or seven strides with a vertical and then two huge oxers waiting. Several of the horses struggled here, taking one of the back poles on the b- or c-element or jumping with so much power that that the air went out of them and they had the final vertical down. Some riders were really unlucky, remaining clear to the very last upright – but then having to see it fall such as Billy Twomey, Kevin Staut and Martin Fuchs.
The first clear was set by Edwina Tops-Alexander who rode a tremendous round on Lintea Tequila (Campbell x Corrado II), making the course look easy. The Australian rider was followed by seven more combinations to the jump-off: Christian Ahlmann who really has found the tone with Epleaser van’t Heike (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve), Steve Guerdat on the super talented 9 year old Corbinian (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot), home rider Philippe Rozier on Rahotep de Toscane (Quidam de Revel x Laudanum) who made the glass roof lift when he went clear to wild roars from the audience, Amy Gramham who continued her fantastic weekend on Bella Baloubet (Baloubet du Rouet x Landadel), last year’s winner Marcus Ehning on Cornado NRW (Cornet Obolensky x Acobat), then Romain Duguet on Quorida de Treho and finally Gregory Wathelet who also produced a fantastic round on Oh d’Eole (Kannan x Papillon Rouge).
The jump-off track was cut down to nine jumps, with options for many tight turns and a run from the penultimate to the final oxer. The penultimate oxer was the heart breaker for Edwina and Christian, as the back pole fell for Tops-Alexander and the front pole for Ahlmann. The following rider would set the first double clear; Steve Guerdat. The Swiss rider did not get the best turn into the combination though, and it definitely looked possible to beat his time of 40.42 seconds.
Following Philippe Rozier – who unfortunately had to see a pole fall too at the second vertical – Amy Graham entered the ring. The Australian rider has had a fabulous show, and showed her confidence was on top for this final showdown. Going all in, Graham’s round was really something – but in the turn to the penultimate oxer she almost parted ways with Bella Baloubet who started on a left turn rather than a right turn. Graham kept her focus though and raced down the final line stopping the clock on 40.31 being celebrated by the crowds for her efforts.
Last year’s winning pair – Marcus and Cornado NRW – had to see a rail hit the ground this time around, and left the door open for the two last riders.
Romain Duguet seized the moment, and a spectacular round on the wonderful chestnut-mare brought everybody to the edge of their seats as they almost flew the jumps. A good turn to the penultimate oxer and then a perfect run to the final fence gave Duguet the lead, as he shaved the time down to 38.99 seconds – being celebrated by the Parisian crowd that always contributes with an amazing atmosphere. For Duguet it was only Gregory Wathelet that could stand in the way of a triumph, but it was to be the Swiss rider’s special moment as the Belgian rider lowered a fence – leaving Duguet on top, Graham in second and Guerdat in third.
"It is really fantastic to win here today, and even more so as a Hermès partner rider. This is my first win in a five star Grand Prix, and doing it here makes it even better. However, I didn't feel any more pressure than at another event. My mare really jumped amazingly; when she is on form, she is truly exceptional," Duguet said after his win.
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