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Steve Guerdat takes his third title in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final at CHI Geneva: "Even though every win is special, every win here is even more special"

Saturday, 09 December 2023
CHI Geneva 2023

Photo © Mackenzie Clark “It is like a love story, really,” Guerdat said about his emotional connection to CHI Geneva after having won his third Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final – this time with Venard de Cerisy. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.


Text © World of Showjumping




Switzerland’s national treasure Steve Guerdat and the 14-year-old gelding Venard de Cerisy (Open Up Semilly x Djalisco du Guet, bred by Laurent & Gabrielle Vincent) won the 2023 Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in front of a fully packed Palexpo at CHI Geneva on Friday night. 

“It is like a love story, really,” Guerdat told World of Showjumping about his emotional connection to the traditional venue at CHI Geneva. “For all these years, I keep coming back and I have been very lucky to have had a lot of success here. My family and friends are here, and even though every win is special, every win here is even more special.” 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final 2023-podium: Henrik von Eckermann, Steve Guerdat and Kent Farrington. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

The first-round track set by Gérard Lachat (SUI) and Louis Konickx (NED) counted 12 obstacles and 15 efforts, challenging the exceptional starting field of the very best horse-and-rider-combinations in the world with its delicate lines. In the first part of the course, the approach to the massive liverpool oxer at fence four – directly out of the corner – followed by a forward four or a holding five strides to fence five, before a line of six strides to an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination waited at fence six, proved tricky. As did the right-handed bended line at the end, from the bush-filled oxer at ten followed by seven strides to the penultimate oxer before a final vertical on five or six strides, which caught out a few pairs as well. 

First out, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz (Kannan x Cruising, bred by Patrick Connolly) made it all look like a walk in the park though, posting a picture-perfect clear as the pathfinders. Harrie Smolders (NED) and Monaco N.O.P. (Cassini II x Contender, bred by Ralf Leutja) had their dreams shattered right at the second fence, picking up two more poles later on in the course, leaving the usually ultra-consistent pair with twelve faults. Austria’s Max Kühner and EIC Up Too Jacco Blue (Chacco-Blue x VDL Douglas, bred by Mark Sherry) matched Smolder’s score, while France’s Simon Delestre and the feisty Dexter Fontenis Z (Diarado x Voltaire Pref, bred by S-Ky Horses S.C.R.I.) ended on eight penalties after a pole fell on fence four as well in the middle of the triple combination. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy won the 2023-edition of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on home soil at CHI Geneva. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

France’s Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre (Baloubet du Rouet x Diamant de Semilly, bred by Sylvain Pitois) – the individual bronze medallists from this summer’s FEI Jumping European Championship in Milan, Italy – got penalized at 6c, leaving Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz as the only clear halfway in round one. But then came the current world number four and 2012 Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat (SUI) aboard Venard de Cerisy (Open Up Semilly x Djalisco du Guet, bred by M. Laurent Vincent and Mlle Gabrielle Vincen) – and lifted up the roof at Palexpo when delivering the second clear of the night. 

Guerdat’s compatriot Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Conner Jei (Connor x Cosimo, bred by Gerhard Stamer) picked up eight faults, while Kent Farrington (USA) and the 9-year-old Greya (Colestus x Contender, bred by Wilfried Sandmann) had an unfortunate four faults when the vertical in the middle of the triple combination at 6b fell to the floor. The current world number two, Great Britain’s reigning Olympic Champion Ben Maher and Faltic HB (Baltic VDL x Concorde, bred by H.A. Brinkmann) got in trouble at the triple combination as well, finishing the first round with eight faults, while the current world number one, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and his double World Champion and Olympic team champion King Edward (Edward 28 x Feo, bred by Wim Impens) delivered the third clear of the night, moving onto round two in the runner-up position. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. World no. one Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward finished second. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

For the second round, course designers Konickx and Lachat cleared up the technicalities and opened up space for speed, and seven pairs ended up delivering a clear. With Guerdat, von Eckermann and Sweetnam left to go, Kent Farrington and Greya had been the fastest with a time of 54.80. So as Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy posted the first double clear of the evening, it exploded at Palexpo with the home crowds going wild for their hero – and when von Eckermann picked up four faults and Sweetnam eight, Guerdat could celebrate his third Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final victory with his beloved Swiss fans. While last year’s winner von Eckermann had to settle for the runner-up spot this time around, Farrington concluded the podium in third in front of Delestre in fourth and Fuchs in fifth. 

“I had the advantage that there were not so many clears in the first round so I could see a few before me, but on the other hand, I was the first of the clears to come back, so I did not have to think so much but go as fast as I could,” Guerdat explained about his thoughts ahead of the deciding second round. “Everything went as planned in the second round and I could go nearly as fast as I wanted to. I missed a little bit my turn to the third last jump and then I had to add a stride to the next one, so there I left the door a little bit open and I was a little bit nervous watching the last two. All in all, I am very happy with the performance and my horse jumped really well in both rounds. This was a very nice way to win this class for the third time,” Guerdat, who won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in 2010 with Jalisca Solier and in 2018 with Alamo, said. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Kent Farrington and Greya took the third place. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“The first round felt great, the second round I have not analysed the video yet, but my feeling was that I was a bit close out of the turn,” the second placed von Eckermann – who was defending his 2022-title – said. “Otherwise, King Edward did an amazing job as always, so I am really pleased with him. Now, Steve has won this three times and I have been second three times; I would have rather been winning but I won it last year, so somewhere inside I am happy, and looking forward to Sunday now.” 

“It is always big, for a course builder it is a difficult class to build for, because you are building for the best in the world,” third placed Farrington – who has won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on two previous occasions, in 2015 with Voyeur and in 2019 with Austria 2 – said about the course in round one. “They have to go kind of full dimension on that, and I thought it was an excellent course. I prefer that there are not so many clear rounds so that it is not just a speed class in the end; I think it was excellent.”

“I got Greya when she was four and it has been a fun process watching her develop through the years,” Farrington continued to speak about his talented horse. “I am very proud to have her jump at this level today. These are the biggest jumps she has seen so far, and I am thrilled with her performance.” 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "I think our sport has to be really thankful for what they do," Guerdat said about the support from Rolex. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“I think this is great for our sport,” Farrington said about the concept of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final. “I think it is a great achievement to even be in the top ten in the world, and to have a special class at the end of the year – a super competition, big prize money, an amazing crowd – is a great way to celebrate top athletes and top horses in our sport.” 

“Rolex has been changing our sport for many years now,” Guerdat filled in. “With their help, I believe the sport is growing in the right direction and I think our sport has to be really thankful for what they do.” 



9.12.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of and Mackenzie Clark. If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

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