Last weekend, the Hubside Jumping on the French Riviera came to a close with the Star-Spangled Banner being played in the Haras des Grillons de Grimaud’s big ring, honouring Jessica Springsteen’s victory in the 4* Grand Prix. An additional star and few days later, her fellow countryman Kent Farrington, the current World number five, won with the aptly-named Gazelle, in a magnificent jump-off.
The many spectators present for this second 5* Grand Prix of the 2021 season of Hubside Jumping had to contend with light rain and moderate winds. However, this didn’t dissuade the 38 riders who had entered this last class to take part in the final showdown. Germany’s Angelique Rüsen on Arac du Seigneur was the first to tackle the course of France’s Cédric Longis and had the first clear round. So was the Parisian region’s course designer’s track a piece of cake?
With time faults and jumping faults here and there, maybe it wasn’t quite as easy as it seemed … until the tenth competitor went into the Haras des Grillons’ huge ring and jumped clear, guaranteeing that there would be a jump-off.
And what a fantastic week Marie Demonte, the rider from South West France, had in Grimaud. The rider and her horses only had six poles down on the 19 rounds ridden on the French Riviera since Thursday (jump-offs included). In the CSI 5* Grand Prix, Marie chose Vega de la Roche, whose list of wins doesn’t yet feature THE victory that will make the difference.
The second French combination who managed to qualify for the jump-off, Mathieu Billot and Quel Filou 13, shortlisted to represent France in a few weeks in Tokyo, jumped the 13 fences (and 16 efforts) with remarkable ease. Belgium’s François Mathy Jr. with the Selle Français Uno de la Roque, and Switzerland’s Bryan Balsiger on Twentytwo des Biches, a mare also from the same French studbook, sailed round the course and also qualified for the jumpoff.
The lady riders were in great form in this 5* Grand Prix of Grimaud: the sixth rider qualified for the jump-off, Italy’s Giulia Martinengo Marquet, with Elzas, finished two very successful weeks on the French Riviera with this Grand Prix.
After Ireland’s Michael Duffy, was clear with Zilton SI Z; Nicolas Delmotte with Ilex VP, who has also been shortlisted to represent France in Tokyo, America’s Beezie Madden on Garant, the best lady rider in the World rankings (11th), Julien Epaillard, the best French rider in the rankings (12th) with Usual Suspect d’Auge, the former World number one, France’s Simon Delestre with Berlux Z, America’s Kent Farrington, World number five, on Gazelle all qualified for the jump-off, which boasted 12 riders in total.
It’s a well-known fact that it’s better to be among the last riders to go in the jump-off than be the opening one. This cost the first two riders, Germany’s Angelica Rûsen and France’s Marie Demonte dearly and each had one pole down. Mathieu Billot and Quel Filou 13 were the first double clear, but in a time which seemed beatable. Belgium’s François Mathy Jr didn’t improve on Billot’s performance and had one down. But Bryan Balsiger, the Swiss show jumping prodigy, was successful and was faster by sixty hundredths of a second with Twentytwo des Biches. Italy’s Giulia Martinengo Marquet had a minor fall in the jump-off, but neither she or Elzas, her eleven-year-old gelding, were hurt.
The second group of jump-off riders had the French Riviera spectators on the edge of their seats. While Balsinger was the rider to beat, Ireland’s Michael Duffy also jumped double clear but was slightly slower. Nicolas Delmotte went into the lead provisionally; America’s Beezie Madden and France’s Simon Delestre were also clear but didn’t improve on the leading time.
The main threats for Delmotte were represented by the last two riders: Julien Epaillard, who yesterday was unsure about entering the 5* Grand Prix, shaved one-and-a-half seconds off the time of his fellow countryman. Had the die been cast?
America’s Kent Farrington set off in the jump-off like a rocket: in the stands the public knew that if he jumped clear he would win this 5* Grand Prix. His performance lived up to expectations; in his first-ever participation in the Hubside Jumping, the current Olympic team silver medallist and winner of the prestigious Grand Prix of Aachen in 2019 won the class.
“It’s always great to win a 5* Grand Prix like this one here near Saint-Tropez, for my first participation in the Hubside Jumping,” said Farrington. “Maybe Sadri Fegaier could organize shows in the United States as I regularly win at his European shows (Kent and Gazelle have already won the HUBSIDE JUMPING de Valence’s Grand Prix twice, which Sadri Fegaier also organizes). More seriously, I would especially like to thank Sadri Fegaier and his team: we went through a difficult period and we need people like him, enthusiasts who do so much for our sport. I take my hat off to him for building a complex like this for horses and the sport, and for organizing such great shows.
“I went last in the jump-off and Julien Epaillard was in the lead. He is renowned for going really fast, even in the States. So I had to give it my all! I really focused on Gazelle’s natural speed, and I was extremely careful: for example, a double in the jump-off can be dangerous at these speeds; additionally, I was really careful on the last oxer, I helped Gazelle and in particular on these two parts of the course, that could have been difficult for her. Next week I am going to stay here to rest and then I will be competing in Windsor and we’ll see after that depending on how my horses are.”
The Hubside Jumping Grimaud-Gulf of Saint-Tropez’s next event will be from July 1-4 with a CSI 4*, 2* and 1* show.
Full results here.