Ranking battle tightens dramatically as Gregory Wathelet wins Grand Prix of Chantilly

18 July - The Longines Global Champions Tour championship battle intensified dramatically setting the scene for a nail biting event in London next week with Scott Brash (GBR) now just three points behind current leader Luciana Diniz.

The leadership board was shaken up after Gregory Wathelet (BEL) claimed a stunning victory in Chantilly in another incredible Grand Prix. The level of competition in the Grand Prix was phenomenal and only a few rider and horse combinations were able to pull off double clears, with just three riders going through to an electrifying jump off. The dancing dynamo of Morocco’s Abdelkebir Ouaddar and his charismatic stallion Quickly de Kreisker rode to a popular second place, and French favourite Pénélope Leprevost took third place, and her second podium of the year, with her bay stallion Vagabond de la Pomme.

The challenging big course set by Uliano Vezzani produced several dramatic upsets in the first round with John Whitaker (GBR), Patrice Delaveau (FRA) and last year’s winner Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) retiring and many of the horses spooking at the long water jump. The gappy wall caused at least five more horses to refuse, and the Longines triple combination also posed many problems, even for the most experienced of horses and riders. The fence catching out many of the top riders out was the big oxer before the treble combination, with the related distance causing issues and leaving many horses with the first part of the fence down.

As the shadows lengthened and the sun cast a golden light across the arena, Ireland’s Bertram Allen set the pace to kick off the second round with his stunning grey mare Molly Malone V, completing the course in an impressive 60.27s. With his four faults from the first round carried through, he raised the bar for the remainder of the four faulters and finished the Grand Prix in 5th place, earning yet more valuable points on his ranking battle race and continuing his form from his win in Paris. Constant Van Paesschen (BEL) also put in a strong second round, riding his chestnut stallion Citizenguard Taalex beautifully to go clear and finish in 6th. Scott Brash (GBR) once more showed his class with his Grand Prix winning mare, Hello M’Lady. Like many others, he carried four faults through from round one, following a fence down at the full 1,60m planks which was repeatedly a challenge after the fast gallop to the water.

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) set the scene once more, as the first to go double clear and laying down the gauntlet for the remainder of the field. He was soon followed by home favourite Pénélope Leprevost (FRA), who rode her ten year old bay stallion Vagabond de la Pomme intelligently to maximise his power and strength, jumping a careful round to ensure her place in the final. Last to go was another crowd pleaser as Abdelkebir Ouaddar (MAR) and Quickly de Kreisker looked determined to continue their form following their win in yesterday’s feature class, following up with a double clear and with a characteristic skip and a buck thrown in by the exuberant stallion.

With just three in the final round there was a hush as Gregory Wathelet (BEL) entered the ring. Being the first to go in the jump off he was determined to raise the bar riding a phenomenal round on Conrad de Hus in just 36.55seconds, lengthening the strides of his ten year old stallion and shaving off valuable milliseconds by taking tighter angles to the fences. The bay stallion did him proud, pulling out all the stops to ride an exceptionally careful but fast round.

Next up was Pénélope, who was looking to do the double following her win at the Cannes Grand Prix earlier this year. However the fourth fence, a huge double of verticals, proved to be her downfall after Vagabond de la Pomme clipped the second upright element behind, finishing with four faults in 37.31s.

Morocco’s Abdelkebir Ouaddar and Quickly de Kreisker were last to go and aiming for their first Grand Prix victory of the season, and second win of the weekend, keeping the audience on their toes as he galloped around the course at a sensational speed. But they had an unlucky final fence down to the groans of thousands of show jumping fans in the grandstand and the VIP hospitality lodges, leaving them in second place.

Source: LGCT Press

Photo: Stefano Grasso / LGCT