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Gregory Wathelet wins the CSI5* Longines Grand Prix of Paris with sights set on 1 million Euro Grand Slam Bonus

Sunday, 04 December 2016
CSI5* Longines Masters of Paris 2016

Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle Gregory Wathelet and Eldorado van het Vijverhof en route to victory in the Longines Grand Prix of Paris. Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle.

Gregory Wathelet went away with the top prize of 115.500 Euro in Sunday’s CSI5* Longines Grand Prix, after what turned into one of the most entertaining competitions of the 2016-season. The win provided Wathelet with the opportunity to fill up his account in an even larger scale, as he now has the chance to earn the Grand Slam Bonus of 1 million Euro.

When Max Kühner (AUT) opened the Grand Prix, he made it look deceptively easy aboard Cornet Kaluah (Cornet Obolensky x Platin) with a clear round as first to go. However, it quickly would be proved that Kühner had made it look a lot less tricky than it actually was.

Time and time again riders left the ring without succeeding producing clears. Uliano Vezzani’s thirteen-fence track was that of a master mind, and most of the riders found it hard to answer the questions asked. Faults spread out, but again and again it was the massive planks at fence no. eleven disguised in the colors of the Longines Masters of Paris-poster placed very close on an angle towards the short side that caused problems. Quite a few of the riders got a refusal here, as the horses spooked. The final line also played its part, with the horses dropping a foot in the penultimate oxer or having one of the two elements in the last open upright-upright combination down after struggling coming in on either four forward strides or five short.

It took thirteen riders to get another clear, and this time it was Niels Bruynseels (BEL) who delivered a great round on Cas de Liberte (Cracky Z x Chellano Z). A few riders later living legend John Whitaker (GBR) showed Paris how to do it, and made a demonstration on Ornellaia (For Pleasure x Calato) to join in for the jump-off.

It was a good day for Belgium, as Gregory Wathelet also joined in on the 12-year-old Belgian-bred stallion Eldorado van het Vijverhof (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Omar) with his compatriot Nicola Philippaerts following in his foot steps with another clear round on H&M Harley v. Bisschop ( Dulf van den Bisschop x Coronado) making it a total of three for his home country.

Bertram Allen (IRL) rode an exceptional round on the exuberant 9-year-old stallion Hector van d'Abdijhoeve (Cabrio van de Heffinck x Utrillo van de Heffinck), also finishing on a clean sheet as did the winner of the Longines Grand Prix of Los Angeles – in the run for the Super Grand Slam Bonus – Daniel Deusser on Equita van't Zorgvliet (Cassini I x Darco) after a very focused performance from the German rider.

With no clears yet from the home riders, the only one who could secure a French flag in the jump-off was world no. two Simon Delestre on Chesall Zimequest (Casall x Concerto II). Delestre did not disappoint, and delivering a clear round as ordered the Parisian crowds went off the hooks – making the temperature rise even further as the jump-off approached.

Again, Kühner got the honor of opening up. He got close to another clear, but came a bit too long and flat to the last upright of the shortened track and had to see it fall to the ground eventually ending fifth. Bruynseels hunted the lead, but also his run for the money came on the expense on a rail down and with a slower time than Kühner he settled in behind.

The first clear in the jump-off came from Whitaker, who perhaps was a tiny bit lucky on the third last oxer as the back rail jumped out of the cups only to land right back in – leaving the 61-year-old rider on a clean sheet and in the lead with a time of 47.35 seconds.

Following two rails down for Philippaerts, it was time for Wathelet – who quickly showed he was in it with winning ambitions. Although Eldorado van het Vijverhof is not among the flashiest of jumpers, that might just have been what earned the two the win today. Lightening fast off the ground and without spending too much time over the poles and in the air, the two saved plenty of time and got a great run to the last upright clocking in on 41.86 seconds.

As next to go, Bertram Allen really challenged Wathelet for the win but Hector van d'Abdijhoeve played a bit too much around in between on the last part of the course throwing in his trademark bucks – so when they crossed the finish line they were an agonizing 0.22 seconds behind.

Deusser could now secure the Super Grand Slam Bonus, but this time around the German rider was just not fast enough and with 43.81 seconds he had to settle for third place.

Last to go, Simon Delestre had the chance to do it for the home crowds. It started so well, and Delestre had the audience at the edge of their seats when Chesall Zimequest slammed on the breaks in the tight turn to the third last oxer shattering the hopes of a French win – and at the same time bursting Wathelet’s Grand Slam Bonus-dreams into life as the Longines Masters of Hong Kong is approaching as the next stage for the Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping.


Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © Tiffany Van Halle

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