More than 4000 spectators gave a standing ovation this afternoon to Morroco’s Abdelkebir Ouaddar and his charismatic Quickly de Kreisker who won the prestigious final show jumping class of the weekend: the Grand Prix Hermès. The sound of the Moroccan national anthem filled the air of the Grand Palais to close the seventh Saut Hermès. Earlier in the day, the Swiss rider Romain Duguet, who had already won Le Saut Hermès mixed-pairs class with the Finnish rider Anna-Julia Kontio on Saturday, had taken the top spot on the podium in the Prix de la Ville de Paris (1.50m).
In the Nations Cup, reserved for riders in Les Talents Hermès (under 25 years old), Great Britain took first place thanks to Millie Allen and Emma O’Dwyer.
The Prix de la Ville de Paris, a class in two phases with 1.50m obstacles, was the first highlight on Sunday’s programme. The lead changed hands several times, with the riders adjusting their trajectories down to the last inch in order to take faster approach options in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Then, Romain Duguet, the Hermès partner rider wearing number 15, rode an unassailable clear round in a time of 30.65.
It was the Swiss rider’s second win at the Grand Palais this year, following his victory on his other horse Twentytwo des Biches in Le Saut Hermès on Saturday evening.
This Sunday, Romain was riding his faithful Otello du Soleil: “He’s a horse that will always hold a special place in my heart. I rode him in my first Nations Cups and four-star Grand Prix. He’s 14 years old now, so I ride him in classes that are a bit less demanding. He is still very consistent and gives his all.”
The 29-year old Emanuele Gaudiano – the only Italian rider present at the Grand Palais this year – was second on Guess 6, just 19/100ths of a second behind Romain Duguet.
The third and final class of Les Talents Hermès involved teams of two competing over two rounds. Ten different countries took part, including James Arkins and Sarah Beale from Australia. At the end of the first round, only two teams had managed to ride double clear rounds: Ireland (Eoin Mcmahon – Michael Duffy) and Great Britain (Millie Allen – Emma O’Dwyer).
France had a score of 9 points, following the refusal of Titouan Schumacher’s mare (who had won Saturday’s class) and a fault by Camille Condé Ferreira on Pirole de la Chatre.
In the second round, the two English riders both went clear again, finishing the class with no faults. Ireland still had the opportunity to win as the team’s last rider Michael Duffy went out. However, the pressure was undoubtedly too much and two bars fell during his round, pushing the team down to fourth, behind the United States and the Netherlands, who both scored 8 points but posted better times than Ireland.
Millie Allen (18) and Emma O’Dwyer (20) are two young riders who already have an impressive record. Millie was the individual and team gold medallist at the 2012 Pony European Championships and a dual silver medallist in 2013. In 2015, she won two bronze medals at the Junior European Championships on the horse she rode today in Les Talents Hermès, Balou Star. “It’s just unbelievable to win in such an amazing place. It was the first time Emma and I had teamed up together. I can’t find the words to express how happy I am! Now, my dream is to come back and win the five-star Grand Prix of the Saut Hermès!”
James Arkins had three down over the testing course. He posted on his Facebook page that he was still very happy with his horse, the NZ-bred Rosthwaite Vigilante II (by Voltaire II). “Robbie jumped great today, still a little impressed with the atmosphere.” He went on to say, “It was an awesome class, such strong young riders here.”
Having recently obtained his qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, the Moroccan Abdelkebir Ouaddar seems to have grown wings. Riding his faithful 12-year-old stallion Quickly de Kreisker, the world number 44 managed the pressure of the event right through to the last jump, and was the only one to cross the finish line in less than 37 seconds (36.40). “My horse had already given me a wonderful gift by helping me qualify for the Olympic Games. Today, he gave me so much again by winning the Grand Prix Hermès, in front of this great public that gave me all their support! Today, I would like say a very special thanks to the French public and the King of Morocco, because it is thanks to him that I have the opportunity to do the most wonderful sport in the world. I’m just over the moon; this shows that my horse can do anything, and maybe even win a medal at the Olympic Games.”
Abdelkebir Ouaddar is the first Moroccan rider to win a class at the Saut Hermès, and he finished ahead of some of the world’s top riders. Scott Brash, the world number two from Scotland was second on Hello Forever, more than two seconds behind. Germany’s Christian Ahlmann came third on Epleaser van’t Heike. Pénélope Leprévost, the only French rider qualified for the jump-off, finished 11th on her mare Nice Stéphanie.