In one of the most spectacular legs of the Longines Global Champions Tour – Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping – Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ASK put on a superb performance to beat leading French riders, world number two Simon Delestre (FRA) and world number four Pénélope Leprevost (FRA), in a five-way jump-off.
The competition is held in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne, and its VIP lodge was packed with international guests, including Bruce Springsteen, whose daughter Jessica was competing.
The LGCT Ranking battle has tightened dramatically since Rolf-Göran’s win, and he is now just nine points away from long-term leader Christian Ahlmann (GER) who has 209 points overall. There is a nail-biting nine points between the top three, with Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) now on 197.
The first round kicked off in brilliant sunshine, and Uliano Vezzani’s course provided a true test for the top combinations. Many of the fences were set at the maximum 1.60m.
First to go clear was third starter Georgina Bloomberg (USA) with her stunning mare Lilli. Jessica Springsteen, Mathieu Billot (FRA) and Bassem Hassan Mohammad (QAT) followed suit, but it was young German talent Philip Houston who was the initial pace-setter, fourteenth to go, and clear in an impressive 75.96s with his grey 13-year old gelding Loewenherz.
The heavens opened as Lauren Hough (USA) entered the ring with Ohlala, and heavy rain persisted for the next few riders. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with VDL Groep Arera C, Pius Schwizer (SUI) with PSG Future, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) with Chaman, Laura Renwick (GBR) with Bingtang II and France’s Kevin Staut with For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC were all caught out, clipping poles and eliminating themselves from the second round.
In all, 14 horses jumped clear, with the top 18 going through to round two. Philip Houston and Loewenherz 81, Frenchman Harold Boisset with Quolita Z, Edwina Tops-Alexander and Caretina de Joter, Jane Richard Philips of Switzerland with Dieudonne de Guldenboom, Jessica Springsteen with Cynar V, Scott Brash with Ursula XII, Cedric Angot of France with Saxo de la Cour, Georgina Bloomberg with Lilli, Abdelkebir Ouaddar from Morocco with Quickly de Kreisker, Simon Delestre with Hermes Ryan, fellow French riders Mathieu Billot with Shiva d’Amaury and Pénélope Leprevost with Vagabond de la Pomme, Bassem Hassan Mohammed of Qatar with Dejavu and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson with Casall ASK all went into round two clear.
Joining them were Daniel Bluman of Colombia with Apardi, Harrie Smolders with Don VHP Z and Leopold van Asten with VDL Groep Zidane N.O.P., both from the Netherlands, and Kevin Staut of France with For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC, all through on four faults.
The second round was big but very jumpable, and the all-weather surface held up beautifully as the sun returned. The French had been on form all weekend, winning every class, and maintained their streak of success with three double clears in round two for a jump-off with Scott Brash, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Bassem Hassan Mohammad.
First to go, Bassem Hassan Mohammed again jumped clear, setting the benchmark at 41.33s. Next out, Pénélope Leprevost smashed his time with Vagabond de la Pomme, crossing the line in a spectacular 39.12s. Simon Delestre set off at a blistering pace with Hermes Ryan, the smaller dark chestnut gelding racing to the fences and finishing with an unbelievably quick gallop to the last. They pipped Pénélope, home in 39.02s as the crowd roared in approval.
Last to enter were Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and the formidable 17-year-old stallion Casall ASK. Simon’s time looked impossible to beat, but Rolf carefully managed Casall’s enthusiasm, allowing his bigger strides to eat up the ground and riding at unbelievable angles to shave off valuable time. They came home in 38.50s, half a second ahead of the flying Frenchman.
Casall ASK is surely one of the most consistent Grand Prix horse there’s ever been – this his third podium finish this year and, remarkably, his seventh career Grand Prix win on the Tour, where he’s amassed over 1.5million euros in prize money so far.
The Tour now heads south and to Estoril in Portugal and, with just five legs remaining, riders are very aware that every point counts.
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris gold medal winner: “Casall is 17 years old now, so this could be his last season – every show I can go to with him and win a class like a GCT class is very special. It was a fantastic crowd and they stayed in the rain.”
Simon Delestre, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris (silver): “Ryan is very fast and from the very beginning I set out to jump fast. In the end Rolf beat me on the really tight turn he did on the vertcal but I was very pleased with tonight and it’s just before Rio so it’s a good result.”
Pénélope Leprevost, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris (bronze): “I was second to go and I did my best. I was just behind Simon and I am happy tonight.”
Christian Ahlmann, LGCT Ranking Leader: “I tried my best. Caribis Z is a very young horse. I hope next week to go a step further. It is getting closer and closer. It is getting really tight now. I need to get the reins a bit shorter and get some more points.”
In earlier competitions, the French had been very dominant. It was a spectacular French victory in the CSI5* Prix Renault Talisman, as Simon Delestre and his brilliant chestnut gelding Chesall stormed around to win. An international field of 33 riders competed, with 12 jumping clear in the 1.45/1.55m speed class. Hot on the flying Frenchman’s heels was Brazil’s Marlon Módolo Zanotelli with Madame Butterfly, closely followed by compatriot Pedro Veniss with AD Argos, who finished just tenths of a second away.
Harold Boisset of France took his second placing of the weekend with T’Obetty du Domaine, coming home in fourth place, and Great Britain’s John Whitaker with the impressive Lord of Arabia was fifth. But it was Simon who kept the dream alive, galloping the course and guiding the effortlessly agile Chesall to top honors.
The spectacular Six Bar competition attracted 14 riders, with only six remaining for round four as dusk fell: Frenchmen Mathieu Billot (Saphir Des Chayottes) and Julien Epaillard (Usual Suspect d’Auge), Pedro Veniss of Brazil (Rissoa d’Ag Bois Margot), Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Tin Tin), David Will of Germany (Lacidos) and Britain’s Laura Renwick (Heliodor Hybris). However, darkening clouds caused the light to fade too much, and all six elected to finish as equal winners. The final height reached was 2.05m.