France's Simon Delestre hit the accelerator to take the CSI5* feature class win on day one of the debut Longines Global Champions Tour of Rome in an exhilarating jump off at the iconic new venue on the championship circuit. The Flying Frenchman finished almost a second ahead of home rider Emanuele Gaudiano, who was fired up by the cheers of the local crowd. Great Britain’s John Whitaker took third place and looked on strong form for the competitions ahead.
As the sun set against a stunning Italian skyline, 53 starters from 24 different countries took centre stage in front of enthusiastic fans who enjoyed free access to the unique event in the heart of Rome and spectators will be given free tickets to see the top-level sport throughout the weekend as Longines Global Champions Tour continues to bring show jumping to dynamic capital cities and to a wider audience.
The dramatic Stadio de Marmi arena, surrounded by 59 classical marble statues, was a unique stage for the best riders and horses in the sport as leg 12 of 15 events in the tour got underway.
With the time allowed relatively tight, Uliano Vezzani’s course encouraged a faster pace around the large purpose built sand arena posing a few challenges for many of the world’s best combinations. Several decided to take a more cautious route to avoid faults but ended up picking up time penalties. The penultimate line, in particular, caused several of the top riders to falter, as the short four strides to a double of verticals proved tricky in this forward paced course.
A total of 11 riders went clear and through to the second round setting the scene for a real test of speed in the jump off.
Germany's Christian Ahlmann was the first to set the pace, with a flying round and taking a stride out to the last to come home in an impressive 38.90s. Home favourite Emanuele Gaudiano was next in, saw what he had to do and raised the bar higher still with an impressive round. He galloped to each fence with his incredible 10 year old dark bay gelding Admara 2 (Padinus x Murano), and with a flyer of a stride to the last he crossed the line in 38.69s.
As the battle intensified Simon Delestre was fractions quicker throughout the course with the long striding Chesall (Casall x Concerto II), his 10 year old chestnut gelding, and with a powerful gallop to the last he went into the lead in 37.55s to take the win followed by Gaudiano, Whitaker and Ahlmann.
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