A capacity crowd in the Palexpo’s Geneva Arena watched on in anticipation as 10 of the world’s very best show jumpers and their equine partners battled it out for the honour to be crowned the 2022 Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion. Having qualified for this esteemed class based on November’s FEI jumping rankings, the truly international line-up comprising riders representing France, Sweden, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the USA and Brazil, would undoubtedly produce unrivalled levels of show jumping.
Just four riders managed to complete the first round of the Gerard Lachat-designed course without picking up a fault, including Thursday night’s winner of the Trophée de Genève, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli, current world number one Henrik von Eckermann, and in-form riders Simon Delestre and McLain Ward, with the Frenchman ultimately setting the fastest fault-free time of 65.90 seconds. While those with first round faults still found themselves in contention – particularly Peder Fredricson from Sweden with just one time penalty and Dutchman Harrie Smolders with one down – unfortunately, Ben Maher and Exit Remo had a night to forget after the pair accrued 31 penalties.
On to the second round and everything was to play for. First to go, Great Britain’s Ben Maher found a small consolation after he and his 13-year-old bay gelding went clear. Local hero Martin Fuchs and Conner Jei were unable to apply any pressure after accruing 12 penalties, while Julien Epaillard and McLain Ward both put one down. Swede Peder Fredricson was able to set the early pace after going clear, thereby finishing with one point; however, his teammate, the inimitable Henrik von Eckermann, went one better, thereby becoming the first rider to go double clear with his superstar gelding King Edward. The final two riders to go, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Simon Delestre, were determined to go one better still. But it wasn’t to be after the Brazilian’s mare hesitated and lowered the penultimate fence and the Frenchman, while going double clear, just couldn’t find enough pace, crossing the line over nine tenths slower than von Eckermann, who was ultimately crowned champion of the 21st edition of this revered class, much to his delight.
Thrilled after going one better than last year and achieving a bucket list goal, Henrik von Eckermann, commented, “Yes, definitely – it was one of my focuses after the World Championships when I gave King Edward a bit of a rest, and wanted to build up slowly again, and this was one of the targets, absolutely. It has been a target for many years. Like I said when we had the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in Stockholm when Daniel Deusser won it; I walked the course and spoke to Eleonora [Ottaviani] and said one day I would like to win this one, so it’s a very special moment for me.”