Running until February 25th, Spring MET II 2018 has the honour to welcome some of the world’s very best riders: Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA), Scott Brash (GBR), Nicola Philippaerts (BEL), Pius Schwizer (SUI), Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and Alberto Zorzi (ITA) were just some of the big names lined up for today’s Grand Prix held in the beautiful Oliva Nova grass ring under the February sun. It was another world-class rider that stole the show however, as Julien Epaillard on his home-bred Diamant de Semilly-son Safari d’Auge outclassed his competitors with a lightning fast jump-off.
59 horse-and-rider combinations lined up for the 1,45m Grand Prix counting for the Longines Ranking. The track was set by course designer Stefan Wirth (GER), and consisted of 13 obstacles and 16 efforts and was cleared by no less than 21 of the competing pairs.
The large number of riders in the jump-off meant several risks needed to be taken, and half of them had to see one or more poles fall to the ground – but it also gave the audience a thrilling class to watch.
“The Grand Prix was nice and with several good riders. There were a lot of clears, but the course was fair and good. In the jump-off – against so many riders – I tried to do my best to be the fastest one without getting faults and today it worked out for me,” a happy Epaillard said after his win.
Hendrik Denutte (BEL) was the first one to clear the shortened course riding Don Flamenco Vd Kranenburg (Flamenco Desemilly x Kannan) in 39,88 seconds, and he held on to the lead for quite a while. It was not until start no. 14 – Thierry Rozier (FRA) with Venezia d’Ecaussinnes (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Lys de Darmen) – that Denutte was overtaken. However, Rozier’s lead was short-lived as Epaillard – winner of several Grand Prix classes in Oliva on previous occasions – was next to go, shaving off two seconds on Rozier’s time.
“Safari D Auge has been super this weekend. He won the ranking class the first day, but the second day I made a big mistake and got the last fence down. But the horse is in a really good form,” Epaillard explained. One of the very last riders in the jump-off was Stephex Stables’ Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) with De Flipper (Flipper d’Elle x Emilion). De Luca did a great round with his new ride, and took over the second place pushing Rozier down to third. Constant van Paesschen (BEL) – another rider that has won a lot in Oliva before – finished fourth riding Veneur D Isigny (Diamant de Semilly x For Pleasure) while fifth place went to Aldrick Cheronnet (FRA) with Uris de La Roque (Capital x Quick Star).
“De Flipper is a new horse for me, and it is a very good horse. Stephan (Conter) gave him to me the week before we went here, so the first two weeks I was playing a little bit around in the small classes and this was our first Grand Prix together. We started off quite well, and I hope for a good future with him,” De Luca said after taking the runner-up position.
Julien Epaillard, who has been coming to Oliva for several years praised the event: “It is super here! We have good weather, and everything is perfect for us to make a good job. The ground is perfect, the stabling is perfect and the organization tries its very best for the horses and riders. I really love to come here!”
Lorenzo De Luca also enjoys his time in the sun: “For me it is super here in Oliva. I have eight horses with me – seven young horses and then Armitage Boy – and all of them really enjoy it here. Just to be able to go to the beach and to have two super sand rings with great surface – probably the best surface there is – and then a really good grass ring. We are all happy to be here, and to give the horses some good experience. After our stay here in Oliva, we hope that our horses are ready for the summer season.”
Photo credit © Hervé Bonnaud / 1clicphoto.com.