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Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei win $330,000 CSIO5* 1.60m Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala

Friday, 22 March 2024
CSIO5* LLN Ocala 2024

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei, winners of the $330,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ.


Edited press release from World Equestrian Center



Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Leone Jei emerged victorious from a star-studded field to win the $330,000 CSIO5* 1.60m Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix on Thursday, March 21, at World Equestrian Center – Ocala (WEC) in Ocala, FL.

The best jumping athletes in the world have converged at WEC – Ocala to contest the four-day Longines League of Nations™ event. Thursday’s featured competition saw 49 entries come forward to try their luck over the track set by Irish course designer Alan Wade. The clock proved to be just as challenging as the course itself, with five riders clearing all the obstacles only to pick up time faults for exceeding the 80-second time allowed.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. On the podium: Steve Guerdat, Martin Fuchs and Callie Schott. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

In the end, five riders posted clear rounds to qualify for the jump-off. Kevin Staut of France opted to withdraw his mount, Beau de Laubry Z (Bisquet Balou C x Nabab de Reve), from the tiebreaker, leaving four to battle it out for victory. The packed house was treated to show jumping sport at its finest, with Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam leading off with a clear round in a time of 39.44 seconds riding RR Combella (Cornet du Lys x Indoctro).

Up next, Fuchs used the huge stride of his long-time partner, Leone Jei (Baltic VDL x Corland), to his advantage and moved into the lead. The pair’s time of 36.68 seconds would hold up to the challenge from fellow Swiss rider, Steve Guerdat, who stopped the clock in 37.54 seconds for second place riding the relatively inexperienced Albführen’s Iashin Sitte (Bamako de Muze x Tinka's Boy), while the last to go, Callie Schott representing the United States, took third with a time of 37.88 seconds aboard Garant (Warrant x Verdi TN) for owner Southern Arches LLC.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. “When you’re in a grand prix like this, you really want to win and you try your best in the jump-off,” Martin Fuchs said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Really a fantastic performance of Leone Jei tonight,” said Fuchs of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Adolfo Juri. “He jumped fantastic both rounds; he felt really good. He was really working with me, and I felt like he enjoyed both rounds a lot.”

Fuchs will also saddle up Leone Jei for the Longines League of Nations™ and is hoping a win in the Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix will lead to a great performance for the Swiss team on Saturday.

“When you’re in a grand prix like this, you really want to win and you try your best in the jump-off,” said Fuchs. “You don’t think too much about the nations’ cup yet. Leone Jei has so much experience already at this level, and I really trust that he can go fast in a jump-off like today, and then still be focused and at his best on Saturday for Team Switzerland.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. Steve Guerdat and Albführen’s Iashin Sitte placed second. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

With 2012 Olympic champion Guerdat also on Fuchs’ side, the Swiss have quickly become the odds-on favorite to win.

“It’s the very first time that this horse has seen a ring like this, that he has seen jumps like tonight, and the first time he has jumped under the lights,” said Guerdat of Albführen’s Iashin Sitte, a 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding that he owns in partnership with Hofgut Albführen GmbH. “When you walk the course, it always depends a little bit on what you’re sitting on. Knowing I had a little bit of lack of experience on my horse, I thought it was a very tough grand prix. I thought the time was maybe one or two seconds too short, so I knew it was going to be a tough ask. He responded beautifully to everything I asked him. It couldn’t have been any better, and he made me very proud tonight.”

While Schott is representing the U.S. as an individual at Longines League of Nations™ in Ocala, she made her U.S. team debut at the opening event in Abu Dhabi (UAE) in February where the Americans placed sixth.

“I think it was really exciting to be able to compete with them,” said Schott of going head-to-head against three experienced Olympic riders in the jump-off. “I feel like jumping a clear round was a major accomplishment in itself, and then it was, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’ I haven’t had that much practice in jump-offs at this level, so I just felt like I was going to try to do my best.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. Callie Schott and Garant finished third. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

As for what comes next in her partnership with Garant, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Schott noted, “Today was a big class, so we shall see. If I make the short list for the Olympics, I think we are going to try to pursue that and if not, we’re going to do the best for all of our horses and go from there.”

Melissa Brandes, Director of Ocala and Vice-President Global Equestrian Sales of Lugano Diamonds, stated, “It was an spectacular night of sport. I have been looking forward to this week for a long time. As a founding sponsor of WEC – Ocala, to see a competition like this take place here is unbelievable.”

Ocala is the only North American stop on the prestigious new Longines League of Nations™ series that sees the top 10 countries go head-to-head in team competition. There are only four events – Abu Dhabi (UAE), Ocala (USA), St. Gallen (SUI), and Rotterdam (NED) – leading up to the final in Barcelona (ESP) from October 3 to 6, 2024.


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