(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)
Staged in the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena, 50 riders, representing 15 nations, contested Friday’s feature class – the Trophée de Genève – on the second day of 2022’s edition of CHI Geneva. The stellar line-up starred no fewer than 17 of the world’s current top 20-ranked riders, including world number one, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, and fellow Swede Peder Fredricson, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender Daniel Deusser, local favourite Martin Fuchs, and previous Major winner Max Kühner, all of whom would be hoping for a spectacular finish in this 1.60m, 13-combination class in order to qualify for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.
With no obviously tricky fences standing out, at the halfway point, 12 riders out of 25 starters graduated to the jump-off after navigating the Gérard Lachat-designed course fault-free, including current Individual Olympic champion Ben Maher, the in-form American McLain Ward, and last year’s winner of the Coupe de Genève, Harry Charles with his mount Borsato. After the break, the crowd was treated to another six clear rounds and some exceptional levels of horsemanship from riders including the up-and-coming 24-year-old Gilles Thomas, a key member of Belgium’s 2022 Nations Cup Final-winning team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for CHI Geneva debutant, 23-year-old Briton Joseph Stockdale, who, after a super smooth round, picked up an agonising time fault.
Into the jump-off and it was evident early on that the shortened course was proving more of a test than the first round, with the British duo of Maher and Charles, Swedish duo of von Eckermann and Fredricson, and America duo of Kraut and Ward all accruing faults. Last year’s Rolex Grand Prix champion, Martin Fuchs and Shane Sweetnam bucked this trend, both jumping fault-free, but with the Irishman eclipsing the Swiss maestro’s time by an impressive 12.06 seconds, which appeared to be unassailable. However, the sole representative from Luxembourg, Victor Bettendorf, soon went one better than Sweetnam, beating him into second place by 0.28 seconds. With just a handful of riders left to go, Bettendorf looked to have things sewn up, but a determined Marlon Modolo Zanotelli from Brazil flew around the seven-combination jump-off over a second quicker than Bettendorf, thereby taking the victory with his superstar partner VDL Edgar M.
Thrilled with his 13-year-old chestnut gelding’s performance in both rounds, Modolo Zanotelli commented: “He was amazing – he has had such an incredible season, and this is his last show of the year. To have a victory this early in the show is definitely something incredibly special.
“I was lucky to go towards the end of the class so I could watch the rest of the riders and know what I had to do. I know my horse incredibly well now and know his strengths, which meant I could take some risks at the beginning of the course – luckily today that was enough to win.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix and when asked if he will be partnered by Edgar, Modolo Zanotelli said: “That is the plan, but I am jumping Like a Diamond in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final tomorrow so we will see how she goes and then make a final decision.”
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