The crowd held their breath as the elegant competition horse glided over high fences, manoeuvred by the talented rider, missing the poles by a hair. The 12th edition of the International Jumping Monte-Carlo is welcomed to the Principality of Monaco from the 23rd to the 25th of June on the Port Hercules. This competition is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco and is organized Under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II and the Presidency of Honour H.R.H. Princess of Hanover. It welcomes the top show jumpers in the world to compete in prestigious locations for unprecedented prize money, ranging from 2,000 to 300,000 €.
The competition took off to a great start, promising for a brilliant rest of the competition for the eager public, who arrived in large numbers to admire some of the best riders in the world. The organizers themselves commented on the unique characteristics of the location, “nestled between the super yachts and the Formula 1 pit lane, the Monaco edition of our 15-event Championship plays host to a very special event”, noted Jan Tops, the President of Longines Global Champions Tour.
There is no doubt that the Monaco stage, effectively the half stage of the season, is the most glamorous step in the competition that runs through Shanghai, Madrid, Berlin and Doha to name just a few. Diane Fissore, President of the Jumping International of Monte-Carlo, spoke of the competition: “Since its creation over 20 years ago, the event is characterised by a constant evolution. It knows how to change to continue to seduce and surprise, whilst maintaining its origins of excellence”.
World-class riders descended upon the Monegasque field for the Friday’s main competition, the first round of the Global Champions League presented by Massimo Dutti, with obstacles reaching an impressive height of 1.55m. The participants were of ranging levels, including some of the best in the field such as John Whitaker and Alberto Zorzi, made up of 48 couples and 18 teams – the couples in each team worked together to maintain a perfect score in each round. The aim of the game was precision and speed, as riders had to glide over each obstacle under a specific time limit. Olympic medallist Roger-Yves Boost for Shanghai Swans commented on his feelings before the challenge, “It is a beautiful stage, a big challenge on the first day is always difficult but it’ll go well as the horse seems to be calm and ready”. The track, created by top course designer Luc Musette, was an interesting one but was not overly challenging; 20 riders qualified for the next step and 11 couples left with no faults. Gregory Wathelet from Vienna Eagles took the crown, completing the track perfectly in a rapid 30.72 seconds!
Attending the event, whether you are an equestrian lover or not, gives you a true appreciation for the skill and precision it takes to perfectly execute a graceful jump. The jumping fences vary in size but are all impressively tall; it is unbelievable that the horses are able to tackle the height and width of each fence. The public marvelled at the grace and precision from the horse and rider: American Jaime Matteo commented on the competition: “They are such magnificent, graceful and strong animals, and have an intricate relationship with their riders”. The synchronization between the creature and the rider is amazing to witness, the subtle reign pulling and noises that direct the horse accordingly. Marine Ackermann from Monaco agrees, “It was a spectacular and amazing experience to see the best international riders and horses on the famous Monaco harbour. Congratulations to Diane Fissore for organising such a great event!”.
The crown jewel of the Monaco Jumping International is the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix that took place on Saturday evening. With fences reaching heights of 1.60m, the “thrilling show of technical and mental stamina” took centre stage. The course was highly compact and demanded great control and mastery from the riders and their horses, as it leaves no room for error and misstep, requiring supreme concentration and actually mirroring the thrilling Formula 1 Grand Prix. The competitors were placed under extreme pressure.
Italy’s Alberto Zorzi played the ace inMonaco with a spectacular Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix de Prince du Monaco Presented by Sapindawin. Speaking after tonight’s win a modest Zorzi said he was “so happy with the result” and his horse had been “a super jumper”, but he admitted he had known between fences one and two that he had it, after taking one less stride.
Christian Ahlmann, 2nd place: “Today I’m very surprised I must say, we already had a good season but I have a very young horse here, when she did her first five-star Grand Prix I didn’t expect very much.
Kevin Staut, 3rd place: “It is always nice to compete here, because there are so many French supporters, but I wasn’t prepared for quite so many Italian ones! I am really happy with the result for sure.
The Grand Prix took place in the presence of Princess Caroline of Hannover, alongside her daughter, Honorary President, Charlotte Casiraghi. The high profile event attracted global business leaders and philanthropists including Bill Gates and his wife Melinda who were at the event to support their daughter Jennifer who competed in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix Presented by Sapinda and the Global Champions League Paris Panthers’ team. Marta Ortega and her father Anuncio were among VIP guests who included Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti who watched their daughter Jessica take part in the world class competitions. Fans lined the street lining the arena to cheer on the athletes as the incredible spectacle of top-level show jumping unfolded in the arena on the edge of the world famous yacht harbour. There were stars from other sports including two-times Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen and Australian champion jockey Michelle Payne.
Jan Tops, Longines Global Champions Tour : “This year we have the new formula, we only have 25 riders in the Grand Prix. This year everyone comes in with zero points, so it is easier to follow. Today was tough class and only two clear in the jump off.”
Over jumps between 1.45m and 1.50m high, the Casino de Monte-Carlo Trophy brought the 5*CSI to an end. Tactics, attempts and strategies, finally another three riders collected a ticket for a potential victory. Denis Lynch, despite a good time, didn’t manage to avoid faulting with his powerful RMF Bella Baloubet. Egyptian Abdel Saïd on a bouncing Hope van Scherpen Donder left no stone unturned in his quest for victory, tightening the corners and crossing the finishing line clear in a time of 32.68 sec. Next to go, Kent Farrington, rode a fantastic jump-off that had the crowd sitting on the edge of their seats, his mount Creedance, demonstrating cat-like agility over the poles. He finally finished second, with a time of 33.37 sec. Kevin Staut, found himself in the third place on Ayade de Septon*HDC, the same position that he held the previous evening in the Grand Prix du Prince. Abdel Saïd brilliantly mastered this class that carried total prize money of 92,000 euros.
The Tour now gallops to Paris, where the iconic Eiffel Tower will play host to round eight of the electric 2017 Championship season.