The final day of the Longines Global Champions Tour – Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping saw temperatures rise in a high-octane battle for the finish line, as speed merchant Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) wowed the crowd with top stallion Halifax van het Kluizebos in the CSI5* Massimo Dutti Eiffel Challenge.
Once again the grandstands were full to the brim as the sun came out to celebrate world-class show jumping, featuring seven of the top 10 riders in the world. VIPs and celebrities including Bruce and Patti Springsteen and actress Mary-Kate Olsen watched on from luxurious surroundings, with the iconic Eiffel Tower the perfect backdrop to the Parisian leg of the Tour.
Uliano Vezzani’s final course came thick and fast, featuring a tricky triple combination at the midway point, with a tall upright right by the in-gate poised to catch the very best athletes out. The final line featured water trays, with a three stride related distance the challenge for the 50 starters. Indeed it would be that combination that caught out many of the riders, with Laura Kraut (USA) and Whitney, Jérôme Guery (BEL) with Papillon Z, and Emily Moffitt (GBR) with Galip were all tripped up by the final line. The crowd groaned in despair as home star Kevin Staut (FRA) also rolled the final pole with Ayade de Septon et HDC, disappointment written all over the face of the Olympic Gold Medallist.
First to go clear was Bertram Allen (IRL) with his young 9 year old horse GK Casper, who put in an athletic display as the pair flew around the tricky course. Great Britain’s Ben Maher (GBR) seems to be on flying form, after Quilata pulled out her second clear round of the weekend, and the popular Harrie Smolders (NED) looked to be riding the crest of a wave of success, as he joined those in the jump-off.
Scott Brash (GBR) put in a strong effort with Hello Senator, the up-and-coming gelding leaping enthusiastically around the arena. The duo looked strong, until the final line knocked them off balance, with both elements down and ruling them out of contention. Last night’s winner Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Instit de Jucaso ran into trouble as they took out the front bar of the oxer, with the popular duo knocked out of the running.
The time allowed caught out a couple, with Emanuel Andrade (VEN) and Reus de la Nutria, and David Will (GER) with Monodie H added a time fault to their four faults.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) put in a spectacular round with the expressive grey gelding Cynar v. Watched on by her parents Bruce and Patti Springsteen, the American talent put in a flawless display, with the speedy combination rocketing towards a jump-off place. Hot on her heels was Italian Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Halifax van het Kluizebos, the formidable pairing one of the hot favourites for the win. Chances are the cheers would have been heard from the top of the Eiffel Tower, as home hero Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) went clear on Sydney une Prince.
So it would be a 11 rider jump-off, with Emilio Bicocchi (ITA) and Call Me, Christian Kukuk (GER) with Limonchello NT, Kamal Abdullah Bahamdan (KSA) with Lacasino, Jos Verlooy (BEL) with Apollonia 23 and Pieter Devos (BEL) with Apart joining those clear.
First to go, speed demon Bertram Allen (IRL) set a blistering pace to stop the clock in 37.20s. But Ben Maher (GBR) revved up the pace with the elastic Quilata, flying over the fences to better the Irishman’s result with a time of 36.37s – almost a full second faster.
The pressure was on the rest of the field to come, with Harrie Smolders (NED) and Zinius, and Christian Kukuk (GER) all picking up faults. Jos Verlooy (BEL) looked strong, until pushing to the finish he rolled the pole with Apollonia 23. Further drama came from Kamal Abdullah Bahamdan (KSA) with Lacasino, after the bay 9 year old gelding refused midway round the course.
The crowed cheered as Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Cynar V entered the ring, with the popular rider taking to the tough track. The grey gelding left plenty of air between his hooves and the jumps, with the duo jumping a superb double clear in a time of 40.98s, just behind the leaders.
The jump-off once again moved up a gear as F1-fast Italian Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) rocketed around the arena with Halifax van het Kluizebos. Sharp out of the fences, the lightning quick pair raced to the finish, two seconds up at one point, before flying across the line to set the new time to beat at 35.89s much to crowd’s delight.
All around the arena silence fell as Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) and Sydney une Prince put the pedal to the medal all around the course. With a tight turn back to the vertical, the crowd gasped as the pair cleared the fences, powering to the final line. It was a valient try, but not enough to topple de Luca’s time, stopping the clocks in 36.32s.
Final rider to go Pieter Devos (BEL) and Apart had all the pressure on his shoulders, but kept his cool to sped around the arena. It was a great try, but not enough for a podium position, with the duo finishing in 36.72s and fourth overall.
So the win would go to Lorenzo de Luca (ITA), with Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) in second and Ben Maher (GBR) rounding out the top three. It was a high-ocatne end to a wonderful week in Paris, which has seen three days of top sport showcased on a global stage. All eyes now look to Cascais, Estoril, where the world’s best will head to Portugal to continue with the overall LGCT Championship fight and round 9 of the 15-leg Tour.