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Epaillard with an extra gear in the first round of the Agria FEI Jumping World Championship

Wednesday, 10 August 2022
ECCO FEI World Championships 2022

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ France's Julien Epaillard and Caracole de La Roque delivered a fantastic round on the opening day of the Agria FEI Jumping World Championship, and lead the way individually. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

French speed specialist Julien Epaillard was unbeatable in Wednesday’s first round of the Agria FEI Jumping World Championship in Herning, Denmark, taking the command on the opening day aboard the 10-year-old mare Caracole de La Roque (Zandor Z x Kannan).

Dutch mastermind Louis Konickx had built a fourteen-fence course for the first round of the championship, and it had all the ingredients to keep the spectators at the edge of their seats through the four hours of jumping. “It is a great course,” German multi-medallist Ludger Beerbaum said to World of Showjumping. “It’s asking all the questions; it’s long, it’s a lot of jumps, it’s going forwards, it’s turns and what is really nice is that it does not suit only one particular type of horse. Many times, you have more a speed course character, or more a Table A course character, but I think this is a nice mixture – you have to have all the skills to be able to go decent fast and end up in the first 25%.”

Judged as a Table C, and set at 1.55m, the riders who wanted to be in the top would have to take plenty of risk between and over the seventeen efforts of the course – but eventually it was the smoothest rounds that were also the fastest. Faults spread out, but it was the three combinations that caused the most trouble – with poles falling over and over at 5ab (vertical-oxer), 8ab (oxer-vertical) and 12ab (triple bar-vertical). Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat had the quickest round of the day in 78.97 seconds, but was one of many that fell victim to the combination at 12ab and had to see a rail on the upright hit the ground – which dropped him down to sit 13th overnight. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “My mare was super today, she does not have so much experience as she is only ten, but she is so good in her head," Epaillard said about Caracole de La Roque. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

While today’s round was exciting, it was also relatively undramatic all the way until Kevin Staut and Scuderia 1918 Viking d’la Rousserie (Quaprice Bois Margot x Apache d'Adriers) entered to anchor the French team. Coming out of the combination at 5ab, the gelding hit the front rail of the oxer and in an attempt to avoid the pole further he unseated his rider in the air – causing Staut to fly off and hit the ground. Luckily, both horse and rider left the ring on all feet, and with strong performances from Staut’s three teammates, the French were left relatively unharmed on the overnight standings to sit second behind the Swedes in pole position.

For a long time, it was Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga van het Dingeshof (Cardento x Tornedo FCS) who held the lead, after setting the time to beat to 81.02 seconds as fourth to go of the 103 starters. It was not until Julien Epaillard entered the Stutteri Ask Stadium as start no. 67 that Philippaerts’ time was bettered, but it was worth the wait for the spectators as the French rider put in an extra gear. Doing an incredible run down to the open water, and then not once touching the brakes for the rest of the course, Epaillard brought the time down to a spectacular 79.08 seconds. 

“My mare was super today, she does not have so much experience as she is only ten, but she is so good in her head: She is not spooky, she is with me directly on the first day. I am very happy with her,” French championship debutant Epaillard said. “It was a strong start for our first championship, which feels nice. However, it will be a long week and I hope she will be fit enough to deal with it – but I believe in her; her mentality is great.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson finished second today for Great Britain, and are only 0.23 behind Epaillard on the overall standings after the first round in Herning. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Even with the very best in the world on the remains of start list, it looked like it would be very hard to beat Epaillard’s time for those to come. Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and the wonderful 10-year-old gelding Leone Jei (Baltic VDL x Corland) came close though, making light work of Louis Konickx’s course with a beautiful round in a time of 79.79 seconds – slotting into runner-up position behind the French rider. “I had a great round today with Leone Jei, he felt really good. I had a nice plan after the course walk and I stuck to that plan even after watching the other riders. It is always great when a plan works out!” Fuchs smiled after his round – with good reason. 

Not even Swedish world no. one Henrik von Eckermann and his Olympic team champion King Edward (Edward x Feo) stood a chance against Epaillard today and slotted into third when the clock stopped at 80.23 seconds. “My round was as I planned, just from two to three I was not happy with the turn, I had to hold down a bit and probably – I did not watch the video yet – I did too many strides there. I had to slow down and that took a bit time,” Von Eckermann said. “Otherwise, he jumped fantastic.”

Reflecting on being a favourite for the individual title, the Swedish ace said: “I do my thing; I know my horse and he is fantastic. I focus on that and take it day by day. There are so many good ones here, so we will see.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ In third: Switzerland's Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Entering the ring as part of the last group of the class, Great Britain’s Scott Brash – a former world no. one as well as an Olympic team champion – also gave it a good shot with Hello Jefferson (Cooper vd Heffinck x Irco Mena) and delivered a beautiful as well as quick round to push in as the new runner-up with a time of 79.54 seconds, dropping Fuchs to third and Von Eckermann to fourth. “I’m absolutely delighted with Jefferson’s performance,” Brash said. “It has taken years to get our partnership together and I feel like we have sort of been knocking on the door many times. Lately, he has had some amazing rounds, he jumped amazing in Aachen and it feels like he is bringing that form through to the championships here. It feels great after day one, there is a lot of jumping to be done but I am delighted with our round today – I hope we can keep it up. I have great memories from being here in Herning, Sanctos was amazing here, winning team gold and individual bronze [at the 2013 Europeans]. It is a fantastic stadium to ride in, I am happy to be back.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Peder Fredricson and H&M All In were best of the Swedes, and sit fourth overnight individually, but lead the way on the team standings. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Today’s championship opener was not over until the last rider had left the ring though. Swedish anchor rider Peder Fredricson and his 16-year-old multi-medallist H&M All In (Kashmir van’t Schuttershof x Andiamo Z) know how to put their competitors under pressure and as usual the two were lightning fast. Nevertheless, they could not catch Epaillard today and had to settle for fourth with their time of 79.88 seconds – pushing their compatriot Von Eckermann down to fifth. 

Moving into the second round of competition in Herning on Thursday, it’s tight on top individually with Epaillard leading the way on a score of zero, followed by Brash on 0.23, Fuchs on 0.36, Fredricson on 0.40 and Von Eckermann on 0.58. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ World no. one Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward sit fifth individually, and lead the way with the Swedes on the team standings. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The teams are also breathing each other in the neck as they enter the second of their three rounds; the Swedes – favourites for the gold medal – lead the way on a total score of 3.69, with strong performances from Peder Fredricson, Von Eckermann as well as Jens Fredricson on Markan Cosmopolit (Cohiba x Calido I) making it possible to discharge Malin Baryard-Johnsson’s 7.77 penalties with H&M Indiana (Kashmir van’t Schuttershof x Animo’s Hallo).

France sits second overnight on a score of 5.44 with Julien Epaillard, Gregory Cottard on Bibici (Norman Pre Noir x Nelfo du Mesnil) as well as Simon Delestre on Cayman Jolly Jumper (Hickstead x Quaprice Bois Margot) delivering the three best performances of the day, leaving Staut as their drop-score. It’s not far down to Belgium on 5.49, who looked incredibly strong today with fantastic performances from Nicola Philippaerts, Jos Verlooy on Igor (Emerald x Nabab de Reve), Jerome Guery on Quel Homme de Hus (Quidam de Revel x Candillo) and Gregory Wathelet on Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo) – the latter having the drop score of 2.52. Great Britain sits fourth on a score of 6.66, and Switzerland fifth on 6.83. 

 

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