After a Nations Cup that did not go quite according to plan for the usual clear round-machine that is Paul Estermann and Castlefield Eclipse (Obos Quality x Furisto), the Swiss rider bounced back on Sunday afternoon to win the Longines Grand Prix in St. Gallen. The win came in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, who in contrast to last year's event in St. Gallen not only could watch the Grand Prix – but also celebrate a home win in beautiful sunshine. Runner-up was Sergio Alvarez Moya riding Zipper (Apple Juice x Concorde) – a pair that has showed great form at the Swiss event. Third place went to another home rider; Fabio Crotta on Rubina VII.
The first round thirteen fence track saw fifteen riders go clear. It was a big 1.60 track that waited for the 48 combinations in the class, and it was especially the line from the oxer at eight to the huge open water at nine to the vertical at ten that claimed victims, with the poles before and after the water falling frequently and three horses refusing to jump the water. A few horses also ran out of petrol towards the end and had a pole in the penultimate combination down. Worst it went for Daniel Neilson and Varo M (Pierrot x Weinfürst) who suffered a frightening fall through the b-element of the combination after a misunderstanding. Luckily both Dan and Varo got back on their feet and left the ring seemingly unhurt.
The second round had no less than four Swiss, three French and three Spanish riders in it – in addition to two from Belgium, one from Italy, one from the US and one from Sweden. Janika Sprunger unfortunately just missed out to compete together with her compatriots Fabio Crotta, Paul Estermann, Romain Duguet and Pius Schwizer as she recorded a single time penalty in the first round on a very well jumping Aris CMS (Nassau x Amethist).
The shortened track consisted of eight fences and included a combination – a part of the former triple – halfway. After the first fence a short turn back to an oxer waited, before a long stretch could be used to gallop to another oxer. A turn back to a vertical followed, then the combination before three fences with two stretches were left.
The first double clear came from Frederic David on Equador van't Roosakker (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin), in a steady time of 51.72 seconds. Then followed home rider Fabio Crotta, who aboard the Swiss-bred Rubina VIII went all in from the beginning producing a quick and clear round to take over the lead on 47.06 seconds. After two down for Paola Amilibia and one for Kevin Staut, the next clear came from Olivier Philippaerts who yet again produced a breath taking clear round on the lovely Cabrio van de Heffinck (Cassini I x Calato). Olivier was fractions behind at 47.08 though, and the Belgian rider slotted into second. Then followed Massimiliano Ferrario on Loro Piana Acamar (Acobat I x Bayardo), who did another great clear to go in behind Olivier on the score board. Lauren Hough and Timothee Aunciaume both had a fence down each – the latter rider being very unlucky as the Kannan-son Paddock du Plesis HN clipped the final vertical with his hind legs.
Paul Estermann was next in the ring and used the 12 year old Irish bred mare's big canter to his advantage, covering huge amounts of ground on the many open stretches. Cheered on by the home crowds Estermann took all the risk racing down to the final vertical crossing the finish line on 44.68 – shaving off over two seconds on Crotta's time.
After two down for Gonzalo Anon Suarez, Spain's last rider in the jump-off Sergio Alvarez Moya rode yet another terrific clear round on Zipper. Moya – who together with the 10 year old gelding had one of two double clears in Friday's Nations Cup – was just fractions slower than Estermann, slotting into second and pushing Crotta down to third. The last riders, Ludo Philippaerts, Emma Emanuelsson, Romain Duguet and Pius Schwizer all had rails down in the attempt to catch Estermann – who could celebrate a fantastic win on home soil in St. Gallen.
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