The Gucci Grand Prix went to Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Tamino (Numero Uno x Farmer) after an extremely fast jump-off in Paris. With not a seat left, and the French cheering every rider on – it was a class that gave goose bumps from beginning to end and also some moments where eyes had to be closed as horses and riders were faced with Conrad Homfeld’s demanding and difficult thirteen fence track.
The class had a dramatic start to it, as Marlon Zanotelli retired after having a refusal in the triple combination – while Jose Larocca fell off at the triple’s b-element and his horse Royal Power went flying off without the bridle. Luckily all went well with horse and rider, and they walked out on all feet in the end. None of the next seven riders left the course intact, although a few were really unlucky with having one fence down.
The first clear came from the well riding Swiss rider Janika Sprunger. Janika produced a lovely clear round on the bouncy Palloubet D Hallong (Baloubet du Rouet x Muguet de Manoir). Then eleven more riders entered the beautiful ring, but none succeeded in going clear – the course was extremely challenging with twists and turns everywhere as well as a difficult line from an oxer at six to the Longines combination at 7a and b before it got even worse towards the end with a huge oxer out of the corner by the entrance followed by a line to the 12abc triple combination with an oxer, followed by two strides to a vertical and one stride to an oxer. Most of the faults appeared in these two parts of the course.
The second clear came from Friday’s winner Alvaro de Miranda, who produced a beautiful clear on AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno – also a Baloubet du Rouet-offspring. The 12 year old gelding jumped fantastic, benefiting from being saved from yesterday’s jump-off. One rider later Denis Lynch went clear, after working hard around the track on the powerhouse Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Nonstop x Jus de Pomme).
More faults followed, and especially unlucky was Edwina Tops-Alexander who was clear until the final oxer but came in on a huge flying stride seeing Guccio (Quick Star x Cantus) taking the back pole down. Marc Houtzager was next in on Tamino, and although the Dutch rider had a bit of a hairy moment on the oxer at fence four the round was great and the pair crossed the finish line on a clean sheet.
Last year’s winner Penelope Leprevost on Mylord Carthago *HN (Carthago x Jalisco B) rode a beautiful clear – and the roof lifted in the arena as the home crowds celebrated the stylish riders’ beautiful ride. Eurocommerce London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin) also jumped fabulously under Gerco Schröder’s guidance, and the super pair did a clear round. The last clear of the day came from crowd favorite Bosty, who joined the jump-off on the fantastic Nippon d’Elle (Scherif d’Elle).
The jump-off was bound to be fast with riders of this caliber in it. Janika opened up and put pressure on the rest with a clear round on 42.24 seconds. The time was immediately shaved down to 41.37 seconds by Doda and Bogeno, who got a super turn to the oxer that was the fifth fence and took out strides wherever they could. Denis Lynch left his breaks by the entrance and used Abbervail’s huge canter to his advantage – covering a lot of ground in one stride, getting a super turn to two of the fences midway stopping the clock on 39.69 and taking over the lead.
Marc Houtzager was next, and steered Tamino around the course with super presision – getting a perfect turn to the Gucci vertical that was the sixth jump and to the penultimate vertical shaving off 0.13 seconds on Denis’ time! It definetly looked hard to beat. Both Penelope and Gerco gave it their all going flat out, but as they both came flying in a little far off the final oxer it fell. Penelope´s time was the best of the day though after a fantastic performance! When Bosty had the third fence down, Dutch victory was a fact and Marc could celebrate his win in front of the fantastic crowds in Paris.
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