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Martin Fuchs makes a dream come true to win the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva

Sunday, 15 December 2019
CHI Geneva 2019

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Martin Fuchs and Clooney 51 won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



Martin Fuchs (SUI) made a dream come true on Sunday afternoon, when winning the CHF 1,200,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva with his faithful partner Clooney 51 (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo). In front of a packed Palexpo, the 27-year-old Swiss rider turned a lifelong ambition into reality – beating world no. one Steve Guerdat (SUI) and taking his first ever victory in this prestigious Grand Prix competition. 

“It’s a huge win, my first Rolex Grand Prix victory. Then, here in front of the home crowd in Geneva – it makes it even more special. Actually, so far I have not been very lucky or very successful at the Rolex Majors, so it makes it even more special today to be on top and secure this win,” Fuchs commented. 

Eleven of the forty riders in this demanding Grand Prix made it to the jump-off after producing clears over the first-round track set by Gerard Lachat and Louis Konickx. It was a long course waiting for the horses and riders, with fourteen fences that included two doubles and a triple combination – the latter causing a lot of problems. The last element of the Rolex triple – a skinny yellow plank – fell again and again, as did the following upright – a tall and narrow gate – placed on a tight left rollback turn past the ingate. Some riders also fell victims of the time allowed, such as Penelope Leprevost (FRA) and Beat Mändli (SUI) who both missed out on the jump-off after recording a single penalty. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping The top three: Martin Fuchs, Scott Brash and Jerome Guery. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

It was Ireland’s hugely talented 20-year-old Michael Pender (IRL) who set the first clear of the Grand Prix, aboard HHS Burnchurch (Heritage Fortunus x Cavalier Royale). Ten more riders joined in, and much to the appreciation of the home crowds three of them were Swiss – world no. one Steve Guerdat on Albführen’s Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento), world no. two and reigning European Champions Martin Fuchs and Clooney 51 as well as young gun Bryan Balsiger on Clouzot de Lassus (Ugano Sitte x Tenor Manciais). Belgium and Ireland came strong in force too, with Jerome Guery (BEL) on Quel Homme du Hus (Quidam de Revel x Candillo), Pieter Devos (BEL) on Espoir (Surcouf d’Elle x Laudanum xx) and Jos Verlooy (BEL) on Igor (Emerald van’t Ruytershof x Nabab de Reve) all going clear while joining their compatriot Pender were Mark McAuley (IRL) on Vivaldi du Theil (Quaprice Bois Margot x For Pleasure) and Darragh Kenny (IRL) on Balou de Reverton (Cornet Obolensky x Continue). Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) on VDL Edgar M (Arezzo VDL x Marlon) and Scott Brash (GBR) on Hello Senator (Carambole x Indoctro) completed the jump-off. 

First to return against the clock was Pender who this time around had to see two poles fall to the ground – but who nevertheless can travel home from Geneva with his suitcase full of experience after an exceptional weekend. McAuley had no luck either, and had a brick on the wall coming off.

Delivering the first clear was Guery, who went very fast over the three first jumps – going on five strides to the wall. When he crossed the finish line, the clock stopped at 39.07 seconds. Switzerland’s first hope in the jump-off was Balsiger, and the 22-year-old rider delivered a great clear round but was 0.90 seconds shy off Guery’s leading time. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Runners-up: Scott Brash and Hello Senator. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The roof in Palexpo nearly lifted as Fuchs entered the ring as next to go. Just like Guery, he went on five strides to the wall and kept on moving as quick as he could – catching up on the leading time on the last stretch where he urged Clooney on towards the final upright. As Fuchs crossed the finish line, the crowds exploded – he had taken off 0.47 seconds on Guery’s time. 

Zanotelli could not catch up with Fuchs and Guery, and slotted in behind the two riders with the third clear of the jump-off. Devos went all in from the beginning, and raced down the last line – however the risk proved costly, despite being an incredible 1.09 seconds faster than Fuchs the top rail on the final upright fell. 

Expectations were high for Guerdat, who has won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva on no less than three occasions. This time around, the world no. one was not fast enough however and he went in behind Fuchs, Guery and Zanotelli. While Verlooy also was clear, he was too slow too – slotting in behind the top four. 

As a previous winner of the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, Brash seemed hungry to repeat himself and came very, very close. However, a couple of checks on the very last line proved expensive as only 0.05 seconds separated him from Fuchs as the finish was crossed. The only man left to threaten Fuchs was Kenny, who has had a fabulous 2019. He set off ambitiously, but unfortunately for the Irish rider the front pole on the Grand Slam oxer fell to the ground – leaving the victory with the host nation and an elevated Fuchs who could celebrate with family and friends. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping All smiles: Martin Fuchs and Clooney celebrate their win in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It takes a great partnership, a lot of work and a lot of time,” Fuchs explained about the foundations of his success. “Clooney is now 13, I also got older with him. I learned a lot over the years, I have tried to stay cooler and calmer to give him the confidence and to let him do his job.”

With Scott Brash only 0.05 seconds away from victory, the British rider explained his jump-off round in detail. “I had a plan, I thought the horse jumped fantastic the first half of the course,” Brash commented. “To the second from last, the white oxer, I did not really get the stride I wanted there – I ended up with twelve strides around the corner and it was eleven there and I think that is where I lost it. But, I’m delighted with the horse – he jumped fantastic and I could not be happier with him.”

Guery was also pleased with his afternoon in Geneva, and said: “I knew my horse is not the fastest, but he has a huge stride so I used that. In a big arena like this, I can really use his gallop. I tried to go as fast as I could and honestly, it was not possible to go much faster than what I did today in order to stay clear. I am really happy, it is my first Rolex Grand Slam podium!”

As the new live contender in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Fuchs has his plans ready: “Clooney will now get a two-months break, and then do a small show to prepare for the next Major at The Dutch Masters,” said the happy winner – who now is in the run for the Grand Slam Bonus of 500,000 Euros if he can make it a consecutive victory in Den Bosch. 


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