Martin Fuchs and Chaplin. (FEI/Christophe Taniére)
“My horse gave me his all today – he has such a big heart,” said Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs after winning the second leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2021/2022 Western European League in Lyon, France partnering the 14-year-old stallion Chaplin. Spectators were treated to a real edge-of-the-seat thriller, with an 11-horse jump-off that saw Brazil’s Eduardo De Menezes finish second with H5 Chaganus, while Austria’s Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P pipped Britain’s Holly Smith and Denver for third place.
With seven of the top ten athletes in the world bidding for precious qualifying points for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2021/2022 Final in Leipzig, Germany next April, this leg of the series was never going to be easily won. Out of ten French contenders, only Edward Levy made the cut into the jump-off in which Argentina’s Jose Maria Larocca and Finn Lente, who could have lulled everyone into a false sense of security with their effortless pathfinding run first time out, led the way once again.
French course designer, Grégory Bodo, set them another clever track and when the Argentinian duo left two the on floor, Britain’s Smith and Denver lowered the final vertical and Switzerland’s Bryan Balsiger and AK’s Courage had three fences down, then the door was still wide open. So when De Menezes stepped in with a brilliant clear with his 13-year-old stallion, he shot right out in front.
The Brazilian had produced the smoothest of smooth first rounds and again cruised home to set the target in the fast time of 35.14 seconds. When last weekend’s winners, young Dutchman Kevin Jochems and Turbo Z, hit the very first fence, Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Cristello collected eight faults and world number two, Germany’s Daniel Deusser riding the brilliant mare Killer Queen VDM, hit the first element of the double at the halfway stage on the course, then De Menezes was still in the lead.
Max Kühner and his 11-year-old gelding Elektric Blue P made no mistake when fourth-last to go, slotting temporarily into runner-up spot when breaking the beam in 35.87 seconds. Then Fuchs and Chaplin set off like a whirlwind, and even though several of the fences didn’t come up as the pair would have liked, they stormed through the finish in 34.50 seconds to take over at the top of the order.
He couldn’t be sure he had it in the bag, because compatriot and defending Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion, Steve Guerdat, was following him into the ring with Victorio des Frotards. But when this pair lowered both the first element of the double and the final fence and Frenchman Levy’s mare, Rebeca LS, had one down, then the story was all about the formidable Fuchs who was celebrating his third consecutive Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ victory in Lyon.
He gave all the credit to the big-striding Chaplin who, as Fuchs explained, is so keen to do his job well that he can sometimes get a little “over-motivated.” Organising their ride down the line from the penultimate vertical to the final oxer was a case in point, but Fuchs said, “He’s such a fast and careful horse, that in a jump-off I know I can beat anyone – and the best in the world were in that jump-off!
“I didn’t get a great shot to fence two and I felt I had to take all the risks over the rest of course. He’s a real fighter so it’s not always easy to have the smoothest round with him, because he gets so aggressive and excited and wants to do well, so I try to stay quiet on top. With him it’s a thin line between too much excitement and being too careful,” he explained.
Eduardo Pereira De Menezes was delighted with his second-place result with H5 Chaganus, the horse that carried him to team gold at the Pan-American Games in 2019. It seems the 41-year-old rider keeps a cool head under pressure.
“In a jump-off like this you have to concentrate on yourself, and not on the rest of the riders, when you have such great riders against you. I also had an extra stride (to the second fence). I saw the previous one but didn’t risk it. My horse has a big stride and two lines on the course came up too easy, so I knew I was a little too slow,” he said.
Third-placed Kühner said, “The course was demanding but good, and great to ride. The course designer did a good job.” He felt in retrospect he might have taken out a few strides in the jump-off and been better placed, but that “qualifying for the Final is definitely an aim and I will not put all the pressure on my top horses. I want to bring new horses to the top of the sport.”
The host nation’s Edward Levy slotted into sixth with his single second-round error, and that leaves him lying eleventh on the league table going into the next round in Verona, Italy next weekend. So he was well pleased with his result too.
“The crowd gave me wings today!” he said. “It was amazing and the sport was great. This show has brought us back to normal life and it is great to be back in the ring with the grandstands full again,” he added.
Meanwhile, winning rider Fuchs was feeling on top of the world as he celebrated his third consecutive win at the French fixture, and a big moment on the home front. “It is really amazing to win a Grand Prix three times in a row, and to do it here in Lyon is even better! All the riders want to come here and bring their best horses. I’m so happy tonight! With Clooney coming back home last week and Chaplin, his stable-mate, winning today, it’s just amazing,” he said.
It was the great grey Clooney who carried him to victory on both previous occasions in Lyon in 2018 and 2019. Clooney also carried him to individual silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018, to the individual European title in 2019, to European team bronze in 2015 and 2017, and to runner-up spot behind compatriot Guerdat at the last Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg in 2019. The pair was an extraordinary partnership, but the horse was injured in a freak fall in his paddock in August. However, he has made an amazing recovery and after a period of rehabilitation at a clinic in Zurich is settling into happy retirement after some worrying months for Fuchs and his tight-knit team.
“He’s going out to grass and behaving well; he’s very happy to be back in his old stable surrounded by his friends and we are all so happy to have him home. He’s had such a great reaction from people all around the world who love him, and that has helped us all get through this,” Fuchs said.
So no wonder he’s feeling good, and after this success, he’s looking forward to the rest of the Western European League season – and very proud of Chaplin who is also owned by Clooney’s owner, Luigi Baleri. “I’m going to Verona next week and then Madrid,” the Swiss star said.
by Louise Parkes
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
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