The beautiful city of Geneva once again welcomed the world’s most talented horse-and-rider combinations to what is often considered to be the best indoor equestrian show in the world, the CHI Geneva. The show, which hosts the final Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping major of the calendar year began yesterday, with today, signalling the first day of international 5* competition.
In total, 48 combinations started in the feature class of the day, the coveted 1.60m Trophée De Genève. The competition also provided the first chance for riders to secure their place in the pinnacle event of the show, the Rolex Grand Prix. As is often the case at the CHI Geneva, the field was truly star-studded and included the current Olympic, World, and European individual Champions of Ben Maher, Henrik von Eckermann, and Steve Guerdat.
First to canter into the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena was Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam riding the chestnut gelding, Cjoxx Z. The duo produced a faultless jumping round, however, picked up an agonising time fault. It was fourth to go, the in-form Vitor Bettendorf, winner of two of today’s classes, who produced the first clear round – next to jump, Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer secured a jump-off after a super performance much to the delight of the home crowd. At the halfway point there were eight clear rounds, with faults coming throughout the masterfully designed course.
After a short break, the crowd was treated to another seven clear rounds and some exceptional levels of horsemanship from riders including Kent Farrington, who triumphed in this class two years ago, Germany’s Christian Kukuk, and Switzerland’s Elian Baumann. However, there was also heartbreak for the Swiss crowds as fan favourites, Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs, the current live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, both finished with faults and did not proceed in the second round.
In total 15 riders graduated to the jump-off after navigating the Gérard Lachat-designed course fault-free, and entered the arena in the same order as the first round. It was first in, Luxemburg’s Bettendorf who set the standard with a clear in the time of 38.63 seconds, however, the lead changed a number of times in what was an exceptional jump-off. World Under-25 No.1 Harry Charles looked like he may claim his first victory at this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva with a time of 37.08 seconds, however fellow Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, set the crowd alight and crossed the finish 2.31 seconds faster than Charles. The remaining five horses that followed could not set the pace matched by the American and his exceptional mare, Toulayna, and he took home the Trophée De Genève for the second time in three years.
Thrilled with his nine-year-old bay mare’s performance, Farrington commented: “I am really excited about my horse – I bought two young ones here with me this week – they are developing so well and so I am thrilled with her performance. My tactic in the jump-off was to try to win – I wanted to give my horse a good experience – but it is one of the biggest shows in the world, so I came to compete.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, the American rider followed on: “I am excited after tonight, but tomorrow is a new day and there is still a long way to go – but I am really looking forward to it.”
Toulayna’s groom Denise Moriarty continued: “I am so proud, she is always game – she does whatever we ask her to do, and does it extremely well. Even at nine years of age, she is a super reliable horse, and we are very excited about the future. She travelled really well over from America, she is very relaxed in general apart from when she is in the ring.”
Start lists and results here.