Show jumping: Epaillard exceeds his own expectations
Frenchman Julien Epaillard took even himself by surprise when galloping to victory with Quatrin de la Roque at the penultimate leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Western European League on home ground in Bordeaux, France. “I didn’t come here with big expectations,” said the delighted 39-year-old from Normandy, after out-pacing and out-jumping the stellar field of 39 in a marathon jump-off against the clock.
Runner-up spot went to 40-year-old Dutchman Leopold van Asten with VDL Groep Zidane while reigning European Young Rider champion, 21-year-old Guido Klatte from Germany, clinched third with Qinghai and Ireland’s Denis Lynch lined up fourth with All Star.
It seems that even the top course designers are astonished by the ability of the horses and riders on the indoor circuit this winter, as 19 managed to complete Uliano Vezzani’s first-round track without incident. “What can I say? It’s a big arena and the horses jumped great – that’s the sport!” shrugged the Italian.
It was Rio Olympian, Leopold van Asten, who set the jump-off target, second out and clear in 37.71, and although Frenchman Aldrick Cheronnet (Tanael des Bonnes) and Germany’s Markus Brinkmann (Pikeur Dylon) were also fault-free it wasn’t until Giodo Klatte took his turn that the Dutchman’s time looked vulnerable. Guido steered a shorter route, cutting inside the first fence after tackling the double at the halfway point, and stopped the clock at 38.09. Two horses later, Julien and his 13-year-old Selle Français gelding did the same to break the beam in what would turn out to be the winning time of 35.92.
Denis Lynch was never likely to beat the target time with his massive, personality-packed 14-year-old stallion, but 38.41 was plenty good enough for fourth, and a lot of top contenders left poles on the floor.
“Things have not been going great for me, and after La Coruna (early December) I felt my horse was tired, so I gave him a little break” said Julien Epaillard as his win began to sink in. “We started again in Oliva (ESP) and came here, but I was only really preparing for the Grand Prix tomorrow, I wasn’t expecting this to happen!”
Gothenburg in Sweden will host the last leg of the Western European League in three weeks’ time.
Results: 1, Quatrin de la Roque LM (Julien Epaillard) FRA 0/0 35.92; 2, VDL Groep Zidane NOP (Leopold van Asten) NED 0/0 37.71; 3, Qinghai (Guido Klatte) GER 0/0 38.09; 4, All Star (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 38.41; 5, Pikeur Dylon (Markus Brinkmann) Ger 0/0 39.71; 6, Tandel des Bonnes (Aldrick Cheronnet) FRA 0/0 42.38; 7, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 0/4 36.37; 8, Rokefeller de Pleville Bois Margot (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) ESP 0/4 36.87; 9, Forlap (Gregory Wathelet) BEL 0/4 37.25; 10, Soleil de Cornu CH (Julien Gonin) FRA 0/4 37.86; 11, Chardonnay (Max Kuhner) AUT 0/4 43.18; 12, Armitages Boy (Lorenzo de Luca) ITA 0/4 47.31; 13, Lintea Tequila (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/8 37.50; 14, Big Red (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/8 37.61; 15, Fair Light van’t Heike (Alberto Zorzi) ITA 0/8 39.99; 16, Cornet D’Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/8 42.86; 17, Ursula (Scott Brash) GBR 0/8 43.68; 18. Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/12 40.40; 19, Kiamon (Timothee Anciaume) FRA 0/16.
Driving: Boyd is the best in Bordeaux
The Aussie ace, Boyd Exell, has won the eighth leg of the FEI World Cup Driving in Bordeaux after an exciting battle with his Dutch opponents Koos de Ronde and IJsbrand Chardon. The three friends and arch-rivals all have great memories of this arena, as each of them has won the Western League final here at least once. This year’s final takes place in Gothenburg.
It was Boyd’s third win for World Cup points this season, which puts him at the top of the standings before the World Final in Nebraska.
Course designer Jeroen Houterman (NED) had laid out a very challenging track, which according to some was the best course of the season so far.
Koos de Ronde was the first man out for the Winning Round, which took place over a shortened course and in which the drivers started from scratch. He drove an blisteringly fast and clear round which put the pressure on Ijsbrand and Boyd: “The last two shows I had the feeling that luck was not on my side, but here it all came together for me. I had a very good feeling, especially because I drove faster than IJsbrand this time. I knew it was a difficult course in which it was easy to have a knock-down, but I really went for it and all went okay. I will most likely use the four horses I used today in the Final in Gothenburg as well; I definitely feel I have a chance for a podium place with this four-in-hand, they feel very good.”
Reigning World Cup Champion IJsbrand Chardon was the next driver out, but made an error of judgement by taking a too-short turn in the first obstacle. It went well, but, paradoxically, the longer route would have been faster: “It was more difficult than I thought. Instead of winning two to three seconds, I lost them. I wanted to force Boyd to take the same route, but it didn’t turn out like that. It was a gamble and I lost it, but that is okay.”
Boyd, just back from a short holiday after Leipzig, attacked the course and came out nearly three seconds faster than Koos: “I like a tougher course and this one suited me well. It gave us the chance to use our power and to show the technical skills of our team. I decided not to take any risks because the positioning in the Final does count. I am now the last driver to go into the arena in the first competition in Gothenburg later this month, which is important. My horses’ fitness is getting better and I am not afraid that they will become too fit.”
Edouard Simonet (BEL) put in an excellent performance, driving his team of Arabo Friesians clear and smooth through the course, and finished in fourth place. Georg von Stein (GER) finished fifth, which qualified him for the Final. Wild card drivers Benjamin Aillaud (FRA) and Sébastien Mourier (FRA) claimed sixth and seventh.
Results FEI World Cup Driving, Bordeaux (FRA), 5 February 2017:
Boyd Exell (AUS) 124,68
Koos de Ronde (NED) 127,77
IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 128,21
Edouard Simonet (BEL) 143,62
Georg von Stein (GER) 153,91
Benjamin Aillaud (FRA) 160,38
Sébastien Mourier (FRA) 175,68