11 December 2016, Geneva, Switzerland – In December the world of international show jumping turns its attention to the last equestrian Major of the year, CHI Geneva. Staged over four days, a record 42,000 spectators cheered on the world’s best riders with the excitement drawing to a close on Sunday 11 December with the climax of the competition, the Rolex Grand Prix.
The tension in the Palexpo Arena was justifiably high with Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash amongst the starters, entering the competition as the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The stakes were especially high for Brash who had already written his name into the history books having completed this extraordinary feat at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015.
Home favourite, Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, brought a further dimension of emotion to the event having announced that the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva would be the last competitive appearance for his prize horse, Nino des Buissonnets. However, fortune favoured Brazilian rider Pedro Veniss and his brilliant stallion Quabri de L’Isle, who produced an astonishingly quick jump-off time to reign victorious as the 2016 Rolex Grand Prix winner.
The start list saw 40 of the sport’s finest riders challenging for one of the most revered competitions on the international circuit and course designer Gérard Lachat made full use of the world’s largest indoor equestrian arena, challenging these elite athletes in every corner and at every jumping effort. The vast obstacles tested the riders to their limits, and only 16 combinations conquered the first round of the course faultlessly, taking them through to the jump-off. Swiss national hero Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, and world number one Christian Ahlmann were amongst those to advance through to the second round, heightening the excitement of the competition.
ROLEX GRAND PRIX JUMP-OFF
The crowds were kept on the edge of their seats as each combination tackled the shortened course, dramatically cutting corners to produce as fast a time as possible. The eventual Rolex Grand Prix winner, Veniss, was fourth to go and set an exceptionally tough time to beat of just 38.96 seconds. Despite valiant efforts from all challengers, it seemed no one could cut any more time off Veniss’ impressive round. It was left to the last two riders, Rolex Testimonees Kevin Staut and Scott Brash, to challenge one of equestrian sport’s most prized trophies. Staut produced an outstanding round of elegance and precision, stopping the clock after 40.04 seconds, but this was not enough to knock Veniss from pole position. The crowd hushed as the current Rolex Grand Slam live contender entered the arena and waited with baited breath for the outcome. Cheering Brash through to the last fence, the clock stopped at a time of 39.41 seconds, four hundredths of a second slower than Veniss and placing the combination into third, respectively. First and third place were separated by just 0.4 of a second, highlighting the importance of accuracy and precision timing at the very top of the sport.
After a tense and dramatic competition came to a close, a delighted Veniss spoke of his victory, “I am so happy; it is a dream come true to win the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva. Quabri jumped fantastically in the first round and so I thought, we can go for it in the jump-off. I really tried like never before and pushed to go fast. Quabri responded perfectly.
“I will work really hard ahead of CHIO Aachen , thinking ahead to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, but for now, I want to give this victory to my family and all of the people who are behind me.”
NINO DES BUISSONNETS’ RETIREMENT
Sunday 11 December was especially emotional for Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, who placed twelfth in the Rolex Grand Prix, which was to be the final competition for Nino des Buissonnets ahead of a well-deserved retirement.
“The farewell was so special; it was so intense, powerful, so emotional. It was much more than I expected. The stadium was full, everyone stayed after the Rolex Grand Prix and I am very grateful to all of the public and the show, for that. It will always remain in my heart.”
Team Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, Stephan de Freitas Barcha, Yuri Mansur and Pedro Veniss, led by Chef d’Equipe Caio Carvalho. (Dirk Caremans/FEI)
Barcelona (ESP), 25 September 2016 – It seemed almost like poetic justice when Team Brazil reigned supreme in the Longines Challenge Cup to bring the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 Final to a close at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP). Squeezed out of a medal position at the Olympic Games on their home turf in Rio de Janeiro last month where they finished a very creditable fifth, they missed qualifying for last night’s Furusiyya Final competition by just a single second, but Sunday produced a gritty performance to take some well-earned glory at last.
They won through despite elimination for second-line rider Stephan de Freitas Barcha who took a spectacular fall late on the track, and the hero of the hour was Pedro Veniss who produced the only clear round of the entire competition when last into the ring with the fabulous stallion Quabri de L’Isle.
Initially cancelled on Friday night due to extreme weather conditions but then rescheduled to Sunday following consultation with all the chefs d’equipe, the competition was open to the 10 teams that finished ninth to 18th in Thursday’s first round. And such was the enthusiasm to compete that Rio 2016 Olympic team gold medallist, Penelope Leprevost, who headed home to France when the class was called off on Friday, did a quick turnaround to get back to Barcelona for Sunday’s event. It was not a great week for the newly-crowned Olympic champions who had to settle for equal-fourth with the host nation at the end of the day, but, very much in keeping with the fundamental ethos of the Furusiyya series which is designed to encourage the engagement and development of countries right across the globe, there was a truly international look to the podium with Team Qatar lining up second ahead of Colombia in third.
Santiago Varela’s course was no walk in the park, the series of roll-backs consuming valuable time while several fences, including the vertical topped by planks that followed the triple combination, the open water and the line through the penultimate double to the final oxer, all proved highly influential. By the halfway stage of this single-round class it was impossible to know how it was going to play out, but it was already clear that the French were not living up to expectations, and when Roger Yves Bost’s Rio gold-medal-winning ride, Sydney Une Prince, tried to take on the penultimate double in one stride instead of two with obvious consequences then French chances were finally dashed. Not even the single time fault posted by Leprevost and her lovely mare Flora de Mariposa could rectify the situation sufficiently as her team completed on 21 faults.
The Spanish finished on level pegging, Manuel Fernandez Saro (U Watch) picking up five faults and both Gerardo Mendez Mieres (Cassino DC) and Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo) collecting eight, allowing the 12 posted by Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (Gribouille du Lys) to be the discount. So when their rivals for that single place available in Europe Division next season, Team Austria, completed with 29 on the board then the host nation had something to celebrate as they can now look forward to testing their mettle with the best on the European circuit in 2017.
Out in front
In the closing stages it was the Colombians who were out in front, carrying the single time fault collected by pathfinder Roberto Teran Tafur (Brilliant du Rouet), 13 from Rene Lopez (Con Dios lll) and just four from anchorman Carlos Enrique Lopez Lisarazo (Admara Z) whose only error was at the second fence. Third-line rider Andres Penalosa retired with Cisco S Zidane late on the track, but as it turned out their final tally of 18 faults would keep the Colombians well in the frame.
As the last-line riders took their turn it seemed the final two teams on the startlist might each complete on a 12-fault total leading to a jump-off. The first two Qatari team-members, Hamad Al Attiyah (Appagino 2) and Sheikh Ali Al Thani (First Devision), each collected eight faults but Ali Al Rumaihi (Gunder) lowered only the very last so if Bassem Mohammed (Dejavu) could jump clear then one eight-faulter could be dropped for a 12-fault finishing score. However, a mistake at the delicate vertical that followed the triple combination added four more for a final total of 16, so last-line Brazilian, Pedro Veniss, had a fence in hand as he entered the ring.
De Freitas Barcha’s elimination meant the 2016 Olympic host country’s team had to carry the four picked up by opener Rodrigo Pessoa (Citizenguard Cadjanine Z) and the double-errors, at the oxer at five and the first element of the triple combination at fence six, posted by Yuri Mansur (Babylotte) so they already had 12 faults on the board. With no room for a fence error if his team was to take the win, Veniss headed out knowing exactly what he had to do. And he did it with consummate ease, his handsome 12-year-old stallion maintaining a lovely rhythm and remaining rideable every step of the way to a crisp, clean clear to clinch victory and the lion’s share of the €300,000 in prizemoney.
There was a bonus of €50,000 on offer to riders that could succeed in producing clear rounds on Thursday and again Sunday, and Veniss was the only one who managed to do that. He was delighted with his horse – “He’s unbelievable, and he’s my very friend!” the 33-year-old rider said.
The fact that he was the only one to make it around the course without penalty certainly set him apart from the rest. “It was up to 1.60m and it was difficult enough but I was a bit surprised, to be honest,” said course designer Varela.
Former Olympic and World champion, Rodrigo Pessoa, talked about his team’s path to Sunday’s success. “We were disappointed on Thursday to miss the final (which took place last night and was won by Germany) by just one second, but then we got our thoughts together and approached this competition with a lot of will to do well and to come out on top. A win is always good so we are happy to be here. We were confident we would have good result. On paper France was the strongest team in the group, Qatar as well – we thought they would be close – but in any competition you never know, and France didn’t have good day. Qatar had some good rounds but it was a tough competition and with just one round anything can happen. We also had some misadventures during the day, but in the end we got lucky to come out on top!” he said.
Pedro Veniss BRA: “I’m very happy; it’s been an amazing weekend here and the sport also was amazing!”
Stephan de Freitas Barcha BRA, talking about how he was feeling following his dramatic fall from Landpeter do Feroleto: “I have a little bit of muscle pain but nothing really. As I was falling I looked up and I was looking into my horse’s face! I think I was lucky but I’m okay!”
Santiago Varela, course designer, talking about how the arena recovered after Friday night’s torrential rainfall: “I said don’t worry about that; this happens all the time and we can’t do anything about weather conditions! I think arena was perfect!”
Rodrigo Pessoa BRA, when asked if success makes up for not having not been selected for his country’s team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: “It’s not enough; nothing will be enough, but it is water under the bridge; it is behind us, and the focus now is to be really competitive and I’m really pleased with my mare. She was good, just a small mistake but keen to do good and a win is a win. For the team to compete in the big final (last night’s Furusiyya Final) would have been better, but the consolation is also okay and I will keep working to keep going strong!”
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Roger-Yves Bost and Quod’Coeur de la Loge. Photos by Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Calgary, AB – Day two of the 2016 ‘Masters’ Tournament CSIO5* got underway on Thursday with two feature competitions in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows. The ATCO Founders Classic 1.50m was the first competition of the day with a win for Pedro Veniss (BRA) and For Felicila. The CANA Cup 1.60m wrapped up the afternoon with victory for Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) and Quod’Coeur de la Loge.
The ‘Masters’ Tournament runs September 7-11, 2016, featuring the best horses and riders in the world competing at Spruce Meadows. Highlights include Friday’s Mercedes-Benz Evening of the Horse, which hosts the exciting ATCO Six Bar competition; the BMO Nations’ Cup on Saturday, with teams from around the world competing for top honors; and Sunday’s CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, with a staggering $2 million in prize money up for grabs in this year’s competition.
The course designer in the International Ring for ‘Masters’ competition this week is Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios. In Thursday’s feature CANA Cup 1.60m, Palacios saw 58 entries over his first round course, with eight moving on to the jump-off. Rio Olympic Team Gold Medalist Roger-Yves Bost jumped to victory with a naturally fast jump-off round in 41.24 seconds riding Quod’Coeur de la Loge.
For the second day in a row, The Netherlands’ Frank Schuttert took second place honors with Handelshuis Schuttert’s Winchester HS. The pair finished close behind in 41.54 seconds. Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya guided AM Horses SL’s Arrayan to third place honors with his time of 42.02 seconds.
Speaking of Quod’Coeur de la Loge, a 12-year-old Selle Francais stallion (Ideal de la Loge x Tenor de la Cour), Bost stated, “I think this is the third time this horse has come to Calgary. He knows the place and he likes the grass arena. I rode his father here – Ideal de la Loge – I went to Nations’ Cup with the father and I hope he does the same. He jumped very well today for the two rounds and I am very happy.”
Commenting on his jump-off, Bost detailed, “I needed to start good because the double was not so easy and after that I could just gallop. He has a big stride. I started with him when he was five years old. When I go to the jump-off I know right away that he is going to be good.
“He jumped really well in the first round,” Bost added. “It was not so easy; the time allowed was really short today. You needed to gallop a little bit, but it was good. When you win it is always good.”
Bost plans to jump Quod’Coeur de la Loge again in Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, as well as in Sunday’s $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex.
Schuttert, after two top placings in a row with his mount Winchester HS, plans to give his horse two days off now before jumping Sunday’s Grand Prix. Speaking of Thursday’s round and how it compared to his finish on Wednesday, Schuttert noted, “My plan was a little bit the same as yesterday. I wanted to be fast for sure to end up in the front of the class. He is a naturally fast horse and he turns quick, so I rode the same jump-off as I did yesterday, and I am very happy that I was second again.”
Commenting on Winchester, Schuttert added, “He has a little bit his own style. He has a lot of character. As soon as he comes into the ring he always fights for me and wants to do a good job. He has all the scope you could want and I think the most important thing is that he always wants to go for the clear round.”
Third place finisher Sergio Alvarez Moya has only had his mount Arrayan for six months and was very happy with his finish on Thursday.
“He has improved a lot in the last few months,” Moya stated. “He was a bit difficult to ride and not too easy to control in the first few shows. Definitely this ring suits him very well – he likes big fields and big jumps. Once I get into the jump-off, he is naturally fast. I probably lost the jump-off from one to two – I could have done one less stride – but the left side he does not turn as well as the right. Everything was tight, but Bost and Frank are very fast riders and they have naturally fast horses, so I am happy. It was a positive result.”
While Bost’s strategy for the weekend is to jump the Nations’ Cup with his horse prior to Sunday’s Grand Prix, and Schuttert will rest his mount until Sunday, Moya has different plans. He will jump Arrayan in Friday night’s ATCO Six Bar competition with hopes that it will be good training for Sunday’s major event.
“On Sunday that is going to be the biggest class I have ever jumped with him, and I am thinking the six bar could be a good exercise for him before the grand prix,” Moya explained. “It makes the horses think, and it is good when they understand that they have to stay quiet between jumps, and use their bodies. Normally he always thinks forward and it is hard for him to sit, so I think the six-bar could be good for him and we could maybe get a good result. Then I will give him a day off on Saturday and try our best on Sunday. I am very happy with how he jumped today. He always tries his best. I think the better the control gets for sure he is going to get faster and he will be able to jump everything.”
Moya is competing at Spruce Meadows for the first time and shared his impression of the competition, stating, “I don’t think any rider that comes to Spruce Meadows doesn’t say that it is unbelievable. The facilities are well organized and everything is just amazing. It is for sure one of the best shows in the world.”
Pedro Veniss Wins ATCO Founders Classic
The ATCO Founders Classic 1.50m was the first competition held in the International Ring on Thursday with a win for Brazil’s Pedro Veniss aboard Hermann Theiss’s For Felicila. Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) set the track for 52 first-round starters, with 11 advancing to the jump-off, and six double clear rounds. Veniss and the 11-year-old Hanoverian mare (For Pleasure x Espri) clocked the winning time of 42.53 seconds.
USA’s Andrew Ramsay took second and fourth place honors, finishing in the runner up position with The Doodle Group’s Cocq a Doodle in a time of 43.05 seconds, and placing fourth aboard The Stranger Group’s Stranger 30 in 43.70 seconds. Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt jumped into third place with his time of 43.57 seconds riding Catokia 2. Olivier Robert took the fifth place prize for France riding Quenelle du Py through the timers in 43.80 seconds. Nigel Coupe jumped the final double clear round in 44.22 seconds to place sixth aboard John O’Halloran’s Jubilee III for Great Britain.
Veniss began riding For Felicila in January this year and described his winning mount as a lovely horse, adding, “She is really fast in the jump-off and she was very good today.”
He continued, “The first round was good. The time was a bit tight, but she jumped great. Then in the jump-off, I tried to go as fast as I could, and she was amazing. She has a really big canter, so I think I did fewer strides than the others to the last jump for sure, and maybe from one to two also.”
Veniss traveled to Spruce Meadows for the first time in 2015 when he was a part of the winning team for Brazil in the BMO Nations’ Cup and also placed third in the $1.5 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, aboard his top mount Quabri de l’Isle. The pair also recently jumped for Brazil at the Olympic Games on home soil in Rio.
“The grand prix is the goal. The prize money is really high, so we have the best riders in the world, but I think I have a really good horse that loves that ring,” Veniss noted. “He jumped beautiful here last year and was very good in the Olympic Games, and he jumped very good today, so he feels ready.”
While Quabri de l’Isle takes on the major tracks in Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup and Sunday’s $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, this weekend, Veniss will jump For Felicila again in Saturday’s Suncor Winning Round competition.
His win with the mare on Thursday not only secured his qualification for the grand prix, but was also his first individual win ever at Spruce Meadows.
“This is my first win here, so I am very happy,” Veniss acknowledged. “This is a top show. I came here for the first time last year and we won the Nations’ Cup and I was third in the Grand Prix, and every week I have been thinking about coming back to Spruce Meadows.”
The ‘Masters’ Tournament continues on Friday with competition in the International Ring featured during the Mercedes-Benz Evening of the Horse beginning at 5 p.m. Competition highlights the Friends of the Meadows Cup 1.60m followed by the exciting ATCO Six Bar competition. The night will be capped off by a performance by the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) and a Symphony of Fireworks.