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Donatello d’Auge and Epaillard set Amsterdam ablaze

Sunday, 29 January 2023
CSI5*-W Jumping Amsterdam 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Julien Epaillard won the 12th leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League presented by EuroParcs at CSI5*-W Jumping Amsterdam 2023 with his home-bred Donatello d’Auge. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Text © World of Showjumping



Julien Epaillard – the French master of faster – and Donatello d’Auge proved to be unbeatable in the 12th leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League presented by EuroParcs at CSI5*-W Jumping Amsterdam 2023.

In an electric jump-off, Epaillard and his homebred 10-year-old gelding were the quickest with the French rider taking his third World Cup win of the 2022/2023 season – the two others came in Lyon and Madrid with Caracole de La Roque – and with his victory, he now has a comfortable lead on the WEL standings with a total of 92 points. 

A total of 36 horse-and-rider-combinations were at start at the 12th leg of the Western European League, including the top four on the standings prior to today’s competition; Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, Julien Epaillard and Kevin Staut from France as well as Germany’s Daniel Deusser. 

The 1.60m track set by Quintin Maertens (NED) and Louis Konickx (NED) demanded full control, with an open five strides from fence two to three followed by a holding line between fences four, five and six – before the cliffhanger of the day waited, the vertical-oxer combination at 8ab. While the distance from the previous oxer to the a-element was an open five, the plank as a front pole on the a-element demanded sharpness; and it was this plank that kept falling again and again. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Julien Epaillard and Donatello d’Auge on their way to victory in Amsterdam. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

As the pathfinder of the class, Alain Jufer (SUI) and Dante MM (Diarado x Luxius) made it all look like a walk in the park, posting a beautiful clear as the first pair out. The 22-year-old Jodie Hall McAteer (GBR) and Salt’n Peppa (Stolzenberg x Escudo I) produced the second clear of the day, followed by Yuri Mansur (BRA) and Vitiki (Valentino x For Expo), Jur Vrieling (NED) and Fiumicino van de Kalevallei (Plot Blue x Nabab de Reve), Victoria Gulliksen (NOR) and Equine America Papa Roach (Perigueux x Zeus), Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Donatello d’Auge (Jarnac x Hello Pierville) as well as Daniel Deusser (GER) and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z (Otangelo x Mr. Blue) as well as Edouard Schmitz (SUI) aboard Quno (Quo Vados I x Cashandcarry) – making it a jump-off between eight pairs, an exciting mix of some of the most experienced riders on the circuit going against young, rising talents. 

In the jump-off, there weren’t many options; except the lines from one to two and the penultimate vertical to the last oxer, it was all about quick turns. First out, Jufer set the standard by jumping clear in 44.79. While Hall McAteer ran into trouble at the combination, Mansur took over the lead from Jufer when the clock stopped on 44.42 for the Brazilian rider. Vrieling had one down in 43.37, followed by Gulliksen who went for a steady strategy to post a beautiful clear in 46.91 – good enough to eventually finish fifth and secure some precious points in her quest to secure a ticket to the final in Omaha. 

Then came Epaillard, and as usual the French rider went all in. Blazing around the shortened course, he crossed the finish line in 42.04 taking over the lead and pushing Mansur down to second. While Deusser had a misunderstanding at the second fence, there was only Switzerland’s rising star Schmitz standing in the way of a French victory. Even though his half-round time matched that of Epaillard’s to the point, Schmitz had to settle for the runner-position with a time of 43.44. Slotting in between Epaillard and Mansur, the Swiss talent pushed Jufer to fourth and Gulliksen fifth. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Switzerland's super-talent Edouard Schmitz and Quno finished second. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It is always a pleasure, especially with this horse – he is our own breeding,” Epaillard smiled after his victory, when asked if winning is starting to get boring. “I have two wins with Caracole, but Donatello has been having one down, being close; he had one down in Mechelen, one down in Basel. However, I have had the feeling that he is getting more consistent, and this weekend I prepared a bit differently and jumped two small classes. On the first day, he is a bit tense, and I think smaller classes work well for him as preparation. Today, he was relaxed in the ring and very easy to ride. I was a bit a lucky in the double in the first round, but Donatello was amazing in the jump-off.” 

Speaking about his strategy for the jump-off, Epaillard said: “After me, I had Daniel and Edouard, who are fast, and even though my horse is fast, he has a small stride. One to two was a normal eleven – for a horse with a normal stride – but for us it was really going. So, I tried to go very fast, wait a little bit in the end to get a good turn. To the double of oxers, I saw the first distance and my horse’s response was perfect – and I think I won time in that moment. After that, I had to wait and see! It was an amazing weekend, it is always nice to come here; Amsterdam is a special show and one of my favourites,” he said about the event that during the weekend attracted an audience of approximately 55,000 people. 

“I am obviously very happy with my second place; this is all very new to me and to be a part of jump-offs like today feels like an honour,” second placed Schmitz said. “It is true, that it is a bit frustrating when you give it your all, you look up and you are a second-and-a half, not only zero point one, behind. It only shows what it takes to win at this level, and it motivates me to work harder to beat the old man next time.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Yuri Mansur and his wonderful Vitiki finished third. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Speaking about the double at fence eight, Schmitz said: “I think for me today it only worked because of luck. I think those who watched my course, the plank really rolled over there and I was lucky enough that it stayed in the cups. That was really the joker – the cliffhanger – for everyone today. It is horse sport; sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, and you don’t always get an explanation for everything. Today it worked out for me. There are not many events like this, where the audience roars for everyone,” he continued to speak about the show. “It makes horse sport just that much more special, when you have all these emotions when you finished a course and that is mostly because of the atmosphere. I think we can thank everybody involved in making this event happen, from the organizers, the course builders to of course the fellow riders who rode in the class and in the jump-off. It takes a village to make great horse sport happen and I am very glad to have been a part of it today.” 

However, it was the third placed Mansur who maybe was the happiest man of the day. “Everything with this horse is very emotional for me, because of his history, which most of the people know,” he said about his horse Vitiki – who sustained an injury that nearly ended his career back in 2018. “Every round with him I enjoy, he is special for me. With Vitiki, it has been a long process and we had many clears last year, but we couldn’t go fast. Now it starts to go more to the right direction, so I have to trust in him being ready. I tried to go as fast as I can, but I cannot look to him (Epaillard) as an example and risk as much as he can, not yet – maybe next time.”

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League now moves on to its 13th and penultimate leg of the season, taking place in Bordeaux, France, next week, where it of course is Julien Epaillard who will be the biggest favourite for the win. 

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