French star Pénélope Leprevost thrilled the home crowd with a turbo-charged patriotic victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Cannes tonight. Pénélope's army of young fans were ecstatic as she powered across the finish line in an eye-popping 36.86, almost a full second ahead of Swedish champion Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on the extraordinary 16 year old stallion Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I). In the overall championship race Luciana Diniz has dramatically extended her lead in the ranking after finishing third on Fit For Fun.
The exhilarating first round began against a backdrop of all the glamour and expectation Cannes evokes. With packed grandstands full of visitors from around the world the stage was set for the first rider Jerome Hurel (FRA) who gace the spectators a spectacular start to the Grand Prix with a clear round.
Jerome was quickly followed by Jessica Springsteen (USA) and her mare Lisona (Obos Quality x Porsch), who rode a beautiful round to take the second clear of the evening. However, despite the initially successful start, many riders were soon caught out by the technical up to height course, and the battle intensified to win the 300,000 euro prize. Jessica was joined by Ben Maher (GBR), Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and ranking leader Luciana Diniz (POR). With silence so intense you could hear a pin drop, Kevin Staut (FRA) took centre stage with his bay mare Elky van het Indihof (Toulon x Thunder van de Zuuthoeve). As the grandstands held their breath, Kevin rode a powerfully quick round to come home clear and in pole position. With Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) and Ratina d'la Rousserie (Quaprice Boimargot Quincy x Apache d’Ardriers*HN) also riding clear, there would be three French riders competing in second round of the first of their home Grand Prix this season.
The second round saw further intense battle as the top 18 riders battled for a place in the jump-off. The challenging but fair 1.60m course saw just six combinations achieve a clear round, four of them double clear and ready for a jump-off.
First to go was Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and his bay mare VDL Groep Arera C (Indoctro x Voltaire), finished the jump-off on a clean sheet and with the time 39.97. Next to go was last year's runner-up, Luciana Diniz (POR) and her chestnut mare Fit For Fun 13 (For Pleasure x Fabriano). Luciana raised the bar further by doing clear round and the time being two seconds faster than Maikel. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) was third to go and was able to tighten the turns further, shaving off tenths of a second on Luciana's time.
Finally, home favourite Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) and Ratina d'la Rousserie entered the ring to the cheer of the crowd. With baited breath the crowd watched as Pénélope rode a phenomenal clear round to cross the finish line at 36.86 seconds, beating Rolf by almost a full second and taking home the second Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in her career.
"Ratina is a 10 year-old, freshly arrived at the top level. It’s her fourth Grand Prix, and she went double clear last week in Saint Tropez. She was not supposed to come to the Longines Global Champions Tour of Cannes but we had to change our plans and I decided to bring her with me here. It would have been a shame not to take her! It’s the first time I tried to be really quick with Ratina. She is quite hot so I usually try to calm things down with her and ride her quietly, but this has broken all that careful work," Penelope told the press after the class.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson was very pleased with his second place; "Going to the last fence I had to wait a little bit but still I’m super happy with my 2nd place today here. Pénélope deserved to win today - it was a very good jump-off as everybody just got faster and faster. Casall has been showing a very consistent level in this Longines Global Champions Tour and I’m very satisfied having a horse like him."
"I am very happy to be here, I thank you and congratulations to all the organisers and to Jan once more for this great Longines Global Champions Tour. As I’ve said, I’m very happy, I came here and I saw all these pictures in the whole city of me and I was like oh my gosh, is that pressure or is that good? So I decided to say this is great, I feel great, and I hope I can share this message with everyone to ride with fun and be happy," Luciana stated after her third place.
Jan Tops, President and Founder of the Longines Global Champions Tour: "You sometimes think things can’t go better but then you see this jump-off, it’s amazing to have everyone going better and better. If you love the sport then you want to see it like this. And of course, our course builder, we must not forget Uliano [Vezzani], who is a genius all the time, I always say he knows exactly how to get the right number and he did it again. I and also riders and owners, we appreciate this very much. These horses are very rare and to keep jumping these big tracks you need a really good course builder and he makes sure that the best one wins and he doesn’t over jump them. Also the way he makes the combinations and the timings I think it’s special, it’s a real feeling and I think he needs big recognition for that.
"Of course I want to thank my partner Francois [Bourey], for the 10th year, who had the trust to start from the beginning for this adventure. We changed the whole sport from the good to the better and he was the big one who believed from the beginning and I want to thank him again for everything."
Source: Press release LGCT.
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