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Guerdat goes into the history books with a 2nd title in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final

Friday, 07 December 2018
CHI Geneva 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. Steve Guerdat and Alamo celebrating their win in the 2018 Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in Geneva. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Eight years after his last title in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, Steve Guerdat (SUI) did it again in Geneva – this time riding the 10-year-old gelding Alamo (Ukato x Equador). With this victory, Guerdat joined Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) in the history books as one of four riders that have managed to win this prestigious final twice over its eighteen-year long life. 

The first round of tonight’s Top 10 Final got a dramatic opening, as Ben Maher (GBR) and Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet) had a misunderstanding coming into the Rolex triple combination – with the British rider having to pull out ahead of the c-element. Luckily, both horse and rider were unharmed and on the second try the chestnut gelding jumped the treble beautiful. However, a total of nineteen penalties put the two out of contention. 

As next to go, Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and Gancia de Muze (Malito de Reve x Nimmerdor) made it look like a walk in the park to produce the first clear. The Belgian rider soon got company from home hero Martin Fuchs (SUI) on Clooney 51 (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo), in-form Daniel Deusser (GER) on Tobago Z (Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve x Mr Blue), the super couple of McLain Ward (USA) on Clinta (Clinton x Lord Pezi), and then Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) on Castello 194 (Cristallo 7 x Lifestyle), Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Alamo and Harrie Smolders (NED) on Don VHP Z N.O.P. (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire). Peder Fredricson (SWE) on H&M Christian K (Namelus R x Calvados / Sable Rose) and Marcus Ehning (GER) on Funky Fred (For Pleasure x Pilot) both had to see a pole fall, finishing on four faults in the first round.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. The podium: Steve Guerdat (1st), Henrik von Eckermann (2nd) and McLain Ward (3rd). Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

These nine came back for round two, while Maher naturally decided to pass and save his wonderful horse for another day. First to go, Fredricson produced a clear in a time of 43.63 – which looked possible to improve. Two Germans tried their luck next, with mixed fortunes. Ehning had to see the last vertical fall to the ground, while Deusser took the lead after a fast round – bringing the time down to 41.53. On the question if it would be enough, Deusser answered “I don’t think so.” Which would turn out to be right. 

Because as next to go was Switzerland’s darling Steve Guerdat, and he was just about to give everything for his fantastic home crowd. Putting Alamo in top gear from the beginning, Guerdat perfected the tight turns and from the third last to the penultimate fence he was the first one to take the number of strides down to nine and then just rolled on to the final upright to cross the finish line in an incredible 39.75 seconds. It looked nearly impossible to beat, and so it would be.

Following a clear from Fuchs, Von Eckermann gave it a good shot but was still behind in 40.44 settling into second. Ward’s powerhouse Clinta was next in the ring, but lost a bit time in the air with her spectacular jumps – going into third after the clock stopped on 40.51 seconds. 

Two big threats remained as Guerdat watched anxiously from the side line. First, world no. one Harrie Smolders on Don VHP Z and then the incredibly fast Gancia de Muze with Niels Bruynseels in the saddle. However, luck was not on either's side. Don VHP Z took a brick down on the wall, while Gancia de Muze and Bruynseels had a bit of a misunderstanding in the take-off on the vertical half way – popularly leaving the victory with home hero Guerdat who got a proper celebration from the Geneva-crowds for once again writing history in Palexpo. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. Steve Guerdat with Alamo. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“I was quite nervous waiting, but it was worth waiting for,” Guerdat said. “I am very happy tonight.”

“I had a good feeling on him today,” Guerdat said about Alamo. “The first round was very nice, he gave me a very good feeling. He was listening and nice to ride. So, I decided in the jump-off to really give it a go. We have been second a few times this year in good classes, but I really wanted to try and win tonight and everything went well. The horse responded beautifully to what I asked him in the jump-off. He was amazing, and I am very proud of him.”

The two other podium participants – Von Eckermann and Ward – both admitted that they were in for a tough task when trying to catch Guerdat. “It was not too much of a tactic, it was just trying to get over it as fast as possible,” smiled Von Eckermann when talking about attempting to match Guerdat’s time – still pleased with his second place. “I was lucky, I had a rub on two fences,” said the Swedish rider. 

“When I saw Steve go, perhaps the one thing that Henrik’s and mine horse have is that we maybe could leave a stride out somewhere,” Ward commented. “But, Steve did the minimum of numbers and then I knew it would be an uphill battle. But, it’s not in my nature not to try. You are going to go in and squeeze an inch here and an inch there. I’m thrilled with my horse though, she goes a bit too high to be honest but I will take that problem for another day,” smiled the 2018 Team World Champion. 


Text and photo © World of Showjumping

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