Two of the sports’ most experienced riders, and one of the youngest and most talented riders in the class ended on top of the Grand Prix Hermès in Paris today. Ludger Beerbaum on Chaman (Baloubet du Rouet x I Love You) and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson aboard Quintero La Silla (Quantum x Chamonix) were only split up at the very end by the super stylish 18 year old Reed Kessler on Cylana (Skippy II Darco), whose next challenge will be the World Cup Finals in Gotheburg where she yet again will compete against Rolf. The sport showed itself from its best side in sunny Paris today, and few shows can match the stunning location in the Grand Palais.
The 38 rider class saw no less than fourteen riders go clear around the thirteen fence track. The fences came fast out of the corners in the ring at Grand Palais, and the course included a triple combination half way at 7a, b and c followed by a line to a vertical at fence eight – while the final fence was a plank that caught a few of the riders such the very unlucky Malin Baryard-Johnsson who had a great round on H&M Tornesch (Lux Z x Libero H). The jump-off was reduced to eight fences, and also included a combination. There were two long stretches were the riders could speed up, but apart that it was about tight twists and turns.
As it was not hot enough already as the sun shone through the glass roof in the Grand Palais, the temperature rose even more as the jump-off got its start. The French crowds know how to make a good atmosphere, and were on their toes throughout the second part of the Grand Prix. The two first in the jump-off – Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and the impressive Bella Donna 66 (Baldini II x Calido I) as well as Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Quintero La Silla (Quantum x Chamonix) – were both clear, but it was Rolf who took the lead after producing a super clear. Quintero twisted over the plank, but left it intact and with a good gallop down to the final oxer the clock stopped at 39.26 seconds.
The six next riders all had one or more down; Pilar Cordon had to see the last fence fall aboard Nuage Bleu (Fildor de Largival x Odjak du Trens), while Kent Farrington’s ride Uceko (Celano x Koriander) hit the plank. Hans-Dieter Dreher was really unlucky as he after a great performance saw the final oxer go down – and Marco Kutscher, Penelope Leprevost and Sergio Alvarez Moya also had to see faults on the score board as they left the ring.
Then it was time for the veteran Ludger Beerbaum and the 14 year old KWPN-stallion Chaman. Ludger made a picture perfect round, making it all look easy as he steered Chaman around to a clear – not making a single mistake or once loosing rhythm and balance. The time was as good as 38.33 seconds, and the German rider shaved off 0.92 seconds on Rolf’s time. Marcus Ehning was not as lucky as Copin van de Broy (Darco x Brownboy) slammed on the breaks on the planks, so that Marcus fell off – he didn’t let go though and managed to pull the stallion to a halt. Then came Gerco who had two down on Seoul (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Lancer II), Janika Sprunger who had the penultimate vertical down riding Palloubet d’Hallong (Baloubet du Rouet x Muguet du Manoir) – while Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso 3 HDC (Landjunge x Cascavelle) had three down.
Last to go – and the youngest rider in the class – Reed Kessler is never scared of a challenge though. After a weekend with no luck on her side, Reed put Cylana in a determined top gear and produced yet another fantastic clear while the audience cheered her on as she raced to the final oxer. It was almost good enough to take home the win; she was 0.20 seconds shy of Ludger’s time – pushing into second and leaving Rolf to third. The US riders brought the crowds to their feet, and made sure this amazing show got a fabulous final performance.
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