On home soil in front of a full Palexpo filled with fans, Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) took home the win in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. It was an outstanding performance by the Swiss rider, who with his two clear round added yet another big victory to his long list of wins. After a great start to the indoor season – with three second places from the World Cups in Oslo, Helsinki and Stuttgart – Steve gave himself an early Christmas present as the winner of this prestigious class that gave the winner 198 000 CHF. Again – like in Oslo – it was Scott Brash that was Steve’s biggest enemy against the clock, but this time around it was the world’s number one that had to settle for second while Simon Delestre ended third.
It was a truly exciting Grand Prix, where one fourth of the forty riders reached the jump-off after spectacular clears around the fourteen fence track. The first one came from the Rolex Grand Prix winners from Calgary; Pieter Devos and Candy (Nabab de Reve x Etretat), who rode a great round to move on to the jump-off. Poor Athina Onassis Miranda came up with a brilliant performance, but was unlucky to get a time fault on AD Camille Z. Her husband Doda was next in though, and kept it together to be clear on a very well jumping AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno (Baloubet du Rouet x Elanville) – before Hans-Dieter Dreher rode incredible as always to leave the ring on a clean sheet on the stunning Embassy II (Escudo I x Silvio II).
When Steve Guerdat entered the ring it felt like the roof was about to lift, and when he crossed the finish line on a clean sheet the home crowds exploded bringing the sound level to new dimensions in Palexpo. Then followed seven more riders with clear rounds; Luciana Diniz, Gerco Schröder, Simon Delestre, Scott Brash, Kevin Staut and Patrice Delaveau.
For some riders, luck was really not on their side – such as Aymeric de Ponnat on the fantastic Armitages Boy (Armitage x Feo) and Reed Kessler on Cylana (Skippy II x Darco) who both rode tremendous rounds only to have the last fence down. Aymeric de Ponnat could never the less be happy about ending up as the leading rider of the show.
With riders of such as caliber in it, the jump-off was bound to be a race against the clock. It was not until Steve came in as the fourth rider that the crowds got a clear round though – and it was the one clear round they really wanted. With a quick time at 43.26 Steve really put pressure on those to come, but didn’t look completely satisfied with his own performance as he left the ring – explaining later that the jump-off course did not completely suit Nino and that he was unsure if his lead would last to the end as he left the ring. “It was a very long wait,” he smiled at the press conference afterwards.
As Luciana Diniz had one down on Lennox (Lifestyle x Grannus), and Gerco Schröder and Simon Delestre riding London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin) and Qlassic Bois Margot (L’Arc de Triomphe x Galoubet A) respectively both were slightly slower with Simon slotting into second with a time of 44.16 seconds hope grew for Steve.
With Scott next to go though, there was a serious danger that the win could slip out of the Swiss riders’ hands. Scott did a super round, and really went for it on his win machine Hello Sanctos (Quasimodo V. Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) – and when he did a stride less than Steve from the Rolex combination to the following oxer it looked good. But, it was not to be as the clock stopped on 43.58 – fractions behind and the crowds went wild as Steve was one step closer to a win. As the two last to go, Kevin Staut had three down on the youngest horse in the jump-off – the eight year old For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC (For Pleasure x Heartbreaker) – and Patrice Deleveau saw the front rail on the b-element in the combination fall on Lacrimoso HDC (Landjunge x Cascavelle) – which made the crowds erupt in Palexpo as the win was secured for their home hero Steve who was so, so happy afterwards – proving how extremely important the victory was for him.
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