With four French riders out of the nine qualified in the 5* Grand Prix jump-off today, there was every reason for France to be hopeful, after Nicolas Delmotte’s victory in the CSI 4* last weekend. And although France was able to count on some of the fastest riders in the world, such as Simon Delestre and Julien Epaillard, Ireland’s Denis Lynch was the winner with Cristello.

A look back on a thrilling Grand Prix and jump-off. “Tricky!” This was how Belgium’s Jérôme Guéry described the 5* Grand Prix during the course walk. And indeed it was, since after half of the forty-six combinations competing had ridden in the first round of the class, only three had managed to jump clear in the time allowed. However, the second half of the riders appeared to have found the key to overcoming the difficulties of the 1.60m course made up of thirteen fences, created by the Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani. Six of them joined the trio who had already qualified for the jump-off. Nine riders went through to this jump-off, which in the end boasted no fewer than five French riders and promised to be thrilling, considering the rapidity of the combinations competing.

Although America’s Paris Sellon, first to go in this jump-off with Cassandra, had one down on the first element of the combination, Nicolas Delmotte, the winner of last Sunday’s 4* Grand Prix in this same ring, had the first double clear round with Urvoso du Roch. He finished in 40.73 seconds and went into the lead of the provisional line-up.

However, the French rider was quickly relegated to the second place by Ireland’s Denis Lynch, riding his thirteen-year-old stallion Cristello. Although he was slower than the French rider half-way through the jump-off, thanks to two final tight turns, he finished in 39.14 seconds. Simon Delestre and Hermès Ryan set off in hot pursuit and shaved 1.49 seconds off Lynch’s time on the first part of the track, but finished in 39.32 seconds, i.e. eighteen hundredths of a second too slow to unseat the Irish rider. The same was true for Pénélope Leprévost and GFE Excalibur de la Tour Vidal, who despite being thirty hundredths of a second faster on the first part of the course, finished in 42.34 seconds. Kevin Staut was next to go with Tolède de Mescam*Harcour.

The Olympic team gold medallist’s hopes were crushed, after knocking down the first element of the double, plus the final two fences in the jump-off. But France was still in the running with a possibility of a victory for Julian Epaillard and Queeleta, last to go. Before them, the current European team gold medallist, Belgium’s Peter Devos, jumped a perfect round, in 40.90 seconds and slipped in between Delmotte and Leprévost, in the fifth position of the provisional line-up.

The second-last competitor taking part in this final, Steve Guerdat, the World number 1, had one down on the second fence and also on the second element of the double. So the victory would either be for Ireland or France. All of the French hopes were placed on the fast Julien Epaillard. With Queeleta, he managed to finish the jump-off clear. But in a time of 39.70 seconds, the combination finally wound up in the third place. After this thrilling jump-off, Denis Lynch won his first 5* Grand Prix today in Var.

Denis Lynch (IRL) : “Despite winning today, I wouldn’t say that the Grand Prix was easy: it was quite the opposite. I haven’t been riding Cristello long enough to go into Grands Prix effortlessly. Indeed, we bought him in December and then we were obliged to stop building our combination due to the lockdown, when we had got off to a good start. So we started again from scratch when we were allowed to start competing again. And I must say our most recent shows have gone really well. Last week we were unlucky in the Grand Prix of Valkenswaard where we had one down. Today I had a great feeling; I said to myself: “It’s our turn!” I’m delighted how Cristello performed in the ring! Despite everything, we’re still getting to know each other; I know he’s a very brave horse and he’s also very big (smiles). I now know that we have a good chance of winning, thanks to his big strides and his fighting spirit. It’s great to compete in these kinds of classes with him: he’s always looking for the next fence to jump, is very careful and willing. I’m really lucky to have him in my stables.”

Press release

image © Marco Villanti pour HUBSIDE JUMPING