Video: French get off to speedy start at Longines Masters of Paris

Credit : Scoopdyga

Saturday 02 December - 16h33 | Ian Clayton

Video: French get off to speedy start at Longines Masters of Paris

With cries of ‘Allez!’ raining down from the packed crowd and prominent figures in the Show Jumping world looking on from an elegant lamp-lit grandstand, Frenchmen Julien Epaillard and Kevin Staut topped a field of 27 of the world’s best riders in Friday evening’s €100,000 Longines Speed Challenge, the first big CSI5* class of this year's Longines Masters of Paris. The highest finish by a North American rider was Canada’s Eric Lamaze, in 16th place, outside the prize money. 

 - Video: French get off to speedy start at Longines Masters of Paris

After De Luca's ride with Limestone Grey

For a full video replay of the speed class courtesy of eem.tv, follow this link. Registration is free. In Show Jumping, these classes — where rails down are penalized by seconds added on — are among the most exciting and anticipated showdowns of a competition, as the world-class pairs go for broke on the tight course. In short, there are a lot of obstacles coming up very quickly for the horses, in a tight space — and very little margin for the slightest error or hesitation.

Unfortunately for World No.11 Steve Guerdat, that proved to be the case Friday night for his 9-year-old chestnut gelding, Urzo d’Iso. The pair were barrelling through the Louis Konickx-designed course when Urzo suddenly pulled up at an oxer, visibly surprised by the obstacle as if caught short. As the camera zoomed in on Guerdat’s face after the refusal, his disappointment was palpable. The Swiss rider signalled his withdrawal to the public, offering his mount a reassuring pat. 

All the other pairs finished the course, with Epaillard — already a winner of a Longines Speed Challenge in Hong Kong — and his 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding Cristallo A LM racing to a time of 60.99 seconds (58.99 with added time for a fault) to take home 33,000. And as he and Staut looked on from the leaders’ podium, it all came down to the last to go, World No.4 Lorenzo De Luca on the formidable Limestone Grey. But while the Italian rode clear, his time of 63.53 s had him behind the two home nation riders (nevertheless leaving him with a paycheque of 15,000 euros), with defending Paris title holder Staut taking home 20,000 for his result of 61.65 s.

The top American in Paris Friday night was Andrew Kocher with Artemise du Houssoit in 19th, with a time of 72.02 seconds (68.02 with penalty time added on). Reed Kessler (Christy 3), Lauren Hough (Ohlala), and Laura Kraut (Confu) were 21st, 22nd and 23rd respectively. Full results are here. 

Sitting on the Longines leaders’ podium, Epaillard jokingly wiped the sweat from the brow of his cap and clasped hands with his compatriot runner-up after De Luca crossed the finish line. “It’s a nice victory today — my horse was amazing,” he said. “It’s an amazing atmosphere here. I was a bit lucky because I had one down, but my horse is super-fast and it was a great, great victory today!”

For his part, Staut made reference to the contrast between the atmosphere inside the exhibition centre and the chilly temperatures outside:  “It’s hot out there… The energy from the crowd is palpable. You can’t help but be carried away by their enthusiasm. I didn’t plan to go so fast, I didn’t feel ready but in the end, I couldn’t help myself. Ayade de Septon* HDC revelled in the atmosphere too.” And talking about Epaillard’s explosive result, De Luca was humble: “I knew there was no way of beating him. You have to be realistic. Still, I went as fast as I could and I’m delighted with a podium spot.” Watch the full replay here. 

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