Traditionally, the Grand Prix Longines of La Baule brings the Jumping International de France to a close.
The public made the right decision by arriving early to ensure that they could take advantage of every moment of this exceptional sporting occasion.
The 49 rider and horse combinations that took part in the class all had the same objective: to jump clear and go through to the jump-off. The first rider in the arena, the Netherlands’ Leon Thijssen, managed to achieve this.
Poland’s Igor Kawiak and Neufdecoeur Tardonne, and Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) and Allerdings followed suite shortly after.
The Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze (CAN), the winner last year with Hickstead, also qualified with Derly Chin de Muze, as did Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Nasa, Grégory Wathelet (BEL) and Euphony Cadjanine Z, Ben Maher (GBR) and Tripple X, Jens Fredricson (SWE) and Lunatic. Three other great champions obtained their place in the jump-off: Pius Schwizer (SUI) and Carlina IV, Philippe Le Jeune (BEL) and Vigo d’Arsouilles, Nick Skelton (GBR) and Carlo 273. Ireland’s Niall Talbot was the last rider to jump clear with Nicos de la Cense.
But not all the riders competing in the class were successful on the course designed by Frédéric Cottier, starting with those representing France. Kevin Staut and Nangaye de Kergane got off to a good start, but with one down on the last obstacle, his hopes of a place on the podium were dashed. Pénélope Leprevost and Topinambour experienced the same misfortune. As a result, none of the French rider and horse combinations managed to qualify for the jump-off. As ever, the jump-off was spectacular and aroused the enthusiasm of the many spectators present in La Baule, who witnessed the victory of Great Britain’s Nick Skelton with his energetic Carlo 273. Belgium’s Philippe Le Jeune, the current World Champion, finished 2nd with his loyal Vigo d’Arsouilles STX, ahead of Ben Maher (GBR) and Tripple X.
What they had to say:
Nick Skelton: "Naturally I am delighted to have won the Grand Prix of La Baule! I was lucky when the draw to determine the starting order took place as I was not one of the first riders in the arena. I watched Philippe Le Jeune’s round and I followed in his footsteps, until I reached the vertical and then I stepped up the pace. Obviously the Olympic Games are very important, but I am not putting myself under any pressure. I will compete week after week and we will see. I am fortunate to have two very good horses (Big Star and Carlo 273) which are performing really well.“
Philippe Le Jeune: "Carlo is more dynamic and sprightly than Vigo which takes bigger strides. When other horses advance and make six strides, Vigo makes six with me holding him back. It was his second show of the season as he has just finished five months standing at stud and I am really pleased with him. I think that he must be the best horse at the competition as he jumped clear all weekend. I am not going to overdo things with him as he needs to get back into top shape. I am really focused on an Olympic victory for us.”