Three days of action in the capitol of France, recapped.
For three days the world’s show jumping elite gathered in Paris to compete beneath the stunning glass dome of the Grand Palaise.
This year’s edition took place Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20 and included a program of top-flight classes to include the prestigious Saut Hermès and Grand Prix Hermès as well as classes for teams and rising young riders. The courses were designed by internationally renowned course designer Franck Rothenberger with veteran rider Michel Robert as sporting adviser.
CSI 5* : Prix du Grand Palais / Class 1: Pius Schwizer gets off to a winning start in the Prix du Grand Palais
In this first class of the CSI 5* competition (at 1.45m), the Swiss rider Pius Schwizer got off to a winning start on his 10-year-old gelding Leonard de la Ferme. The world number 24 rode the fastest of the 14 clear rounds, finishing with a time of 26’’48, less than a second ahead of the world championship silver medallist Patrice Delaveau, riding Carijno*HDC (27’’13).
“I felt really great,” said Pius Schwizer. “Leonard de la Ferme is a horse that is naturally fast over the ground and a very good jumper. He was a little nervous in the arena, but very obedient. I’m really happy! Now, the aim is to qualify for the class on Saturday, the Saut Hermès, with my second horse, Chellatus.”
The British rider Laura Renwick (37th in the world rankings) was the third to finish under 28 seconds on MHS Washington. On a course designed by the renowned German course-designer Franck Rothenberger, she finished ahead of one of the Hermès partner riders, the Swiss rider Romain Duguet on Twentytwo des Biches, who won the Grand Prix in 2015.
Pius Schwizer and Leonard de la Ferme. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Talents Hermès / Class 2: Les Talents Hermès get underway
In parallel with the CSI 5*, the Saut Hermès opens the stage of the Grand Palais’ arena up to young up-and-coming international riders during “Les Talents Hermès” classes. Today, twenty riders aged under 25 and representing ten countries rode their first class of the weekend: a course with 1.40m obstacles over two phases.
The Dutch rider Charlotte Verhagen won this opening class with flying colours on her 11-year-old gelding Abache HL. Having already competed last year, they were the only couple to ride a perfect round under 30 seconds, posting a time of 27’’53. Neither the American rider Catherine Pasmore on Z Canta, (clear round in 30’’59) nor Alexander Potthoff on Quinara 27 (clear round in 31’’39) came close to the performance of the young 23-year-old Dutch rider.
“It was an excellent course for the first day of competition,” said Charlotte Verhagen. “It wasn’t too big. I have a great horse, who was really comfortable in the arena. He was with me last year, so he knows the competition already. Riding under the glass nave is just amazing. It really is magnificent!”
The fourth and final couple with a clear round in a time of 35’’01 was Eoin McMahon on Sally 643, who just missed out on the podium.
Representing France in their first Talents Hermès, Camille Condé Ferreira, the European Champion riding Pirole de la Chatre, and Titouan Schumacher on Océane de Nantuel finished 13th and 15th respectively with one fault each.
Charlotte Verhagen and Abache HL. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Prix Hermès Sellier / Class 3: Bertram Allen makes it two in a row!
The Prix Hermès Sellier, a speed class with 1.50m obstacles, rounded off the first day of the Saut Hermès in style at the Grand Palais. Cheered on by a large crowd, Bertram Allen posted the fastest time in 50’’71. Wearing number 3 and riding his stallion Romanov, the 20-year-old young Irish star was untouchable. None of the other 33 riders managed to better his time, not even the reigning European and World Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam. \
Riding Carusso LS La Silla for the first time in CSI 5*, the Dutch rider crossed the finish line in 52’’75, just one tenth of a second ahead of Jessica Mendoza who took the last place on the podium. The 19-year-old British rider, who took part in the Talents Hermès last year, was riding her mare Spirit T.
“I’m over the moon,” said Bertram Allen. “I won this class last year with Romanov, so it looks like he enjoys the Saut Hermès! He is 18 now, but he is still performing really well. I hope he’ll but in the same kind of form for the Grand Prix Hermès on Sunday. I’m using my other horse, Quiet Easy 4, for the mixed-pairs class tomorrow evening: the Saut Hermès.”
Indeed, the Prix Hermès Sellier is a qualifying class for Saturday’s Saut Hermès (scheduled for 4:30 p.m.) which is contested by mixed pairs made up of the ten best male and ten best female riders over the first day. Since there were only 10 female riders in the Prix Hermès Sellier on Friday, they are all qualified for Saturday’s event. Now, we just have to wait for the draw to discover who their partners will be.
Bertram Allen and Romanov. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Talents HermèsCSIU25 / Class 4: A French victory in Les Talents Hermès
The Talents Hermès class at 1.45m opened proceedings on the second day of competition at the Grand Palais. Thanks to the subtleties of the course designed by Frank Rothenberger, just 8 riders made it through to the jump-off; this figure is often considered the ideal number. Moreover, seven different nationalities were involved. This included the French rider Titouan Schumacher (22 years old) on his 14-year-old mare Océane de Nantuel.
Titouan was the first rider to complete a clear round in the jump-off, with a time of 33’’9; an excellent time, thanks to an energetic performance with tight turns. Another 6 riders followed him into the arena but no-one managed to beat him. There was a particularly tense atmosphere in the paddock at the entrance to the arena when Eoin Mcmahon, the last rider of the jump-off, was getting ready go out. To win the class, he needed to do a great time, which drove him to make a fault and then be eliminated following a fall.
Titouan Schumacher was therefore the only rider to ride a double clear round; what’s more, he posted the best time of all the 8 riders in the jump-off! The perfect outcome for his first participation in the Saut Hermès.
Titouan, who is based in Normandy, has been working for several years with the former rider and coach of the French team, Gilles Bertran de Balanda.
“Last year, I took part in the European Championship for Young Riders with Paradis Latin, who injured himself. So, I decided to compete with Océane here and this win proves it was a wise choice. The Saut Hermès is a unique event, which is just perfect from a rider’s point of view. So winning here tastes really sweet!”
Titouan Schumacher finished ahead of the German rider Michael Viehweg on Avalon 308 (4 points and 35’’15), and the English rider Millie Allen, who was third on Balou Star (4 points and 37’’44). Tomorrow, the twenty couples will take to the arena again at 11:50 for the third and final class of Les Talents Hermès; this class will involve teams of two riders of the same nationality.
Titouan Schumacher and Océane de Nantuel. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
CSI 5* Prix GL Events / Class 5: Kevin Staut gives France its second win of the day
The 5th class of the Saut Hermès was a table A class against the clock with jump-off. In order to have a hope of winning, the riders needed to complete a clear round over 1.50-metre jumps in the best possible time.
The French rider Kevin Staut quickly took the lead in the class. He went out fourth on his ten-year-old mare Ayade de Septon*HDC, a little horse measuring just 1.59m. When they rode a clear round in a very quick time of 55’’74, a win already looked on the cards.
Another twenty riders followed Kevin Staut before the American rider Jack Towell on New York completed a clear round, but three seconds slower than the Frenchman. They took second place ahead of the Swiss rider Pius Schwizer, who was third on Léonard de la Ferme in 58’’23.
Afterwards, Kevin Staut spoke to us about his win the win in the Prix GL events: “When I came off the course, I knew it would be difficult for my rivals to do a faster round. I managed to keep to the number of strides I wanted, and always maintain forward momentum. I’m really pleased with Ayade, because she is really constant at this level. Last week, she won a major class at S’Hertogebosh. This is only my second win at the Saut Hermès, a competition which just seems to get better and better each year in terms of the atmosphere. There is a really good public; they are enthusiastic and lively; the support was already amazing yesterday.”
Kevin Staut and Ayade de Septon*HDC. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
CSI 5* Le Saut Hermès / Class 6 16:30: Anna-Julia Kontio and Romain Duguet win Le Saut Hermès
Le Saut Hermès is a very original class involving mixed-pair teams, made up of a male and a female rider. The pairs are decided by draw and the teams compete in a class over two rounds. The ranking is established by adding the scores over the two rounds, with the time of the second round used to separate teams if they finish with the same overall score.
Two pairs managed to ride clear rounds in the first round: The British rider Jessica Mendosa and the French rider Roger-Yves Bost, as well as the Finnish rider Anna-Julia Kontio and the Swiss rider Romain Duguet, a Hermès partner rider. In the second round, Roger-Yves Bost and Record d’Oréal unfortunately knocked a bar off meaning that he and his team-mate Jessica Mendosa finished 4th in the final rankings.
However, Anna-Julia Kontio (24 years old), riding the French horse Pacific des Essarts, and Romain Duguet, riding Twentytwo des Biches, managed to hold firm to the end! Nonetheless, there was enormous pressure on the Swiss rider’s shoulders since he was the last rider out and needed to complete a clear round for his “duo” to win the class.
Romain Duguet, who was born in France, is one of Hermès’ partner riders. “I love this competition at the Grand Palais and I am lucky enough to have great horses to ride here. On top of that, the luck of the draw gave me a fantastic team-mate in Anna-Julia! Twentytwo des Biches is only nine years old and is still learning, but she is constant and performs well. I’m really pleased with her.”
Romain will ride the same mare in tomorrow’s Grand Prix Hermès, to try win the class for the second year in a row, although he was riding a more experienced horse last year. “Obviously, it will be harder for Twentytwo tomorrow, but we’ll give it our best shot!”
Lucy Davis (USA) and Kevin Staut (FRA) finished second with one fault and a time of 76’’22, with the British rider Laura Renwick and the German rider Daniel Deusser in third place, also with 4 points and a time of 76’’92.
Anna-Julia Kontio and Pacific des Essarts. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Romain Duguet and Twentytwo des Biches. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Prix de la Ville de Paris CSI 5* / Class 7: Romain Duguet makes it two wins in two days
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 2nd on Guess 6, just 19 hundredths of a second behind Romain Duguet. The German rider Hans-Dieter Dreher took 3rd place.
This afternoon, Romain Duguet will attempt to win the Grand Prix Hermès for the second year in a row. As the French saying goes: “Jamais deux sans trois “ (or “Everything comes in threes”)!
Romain Duguet and Otello du Soleil. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Les Talents Hermès CSIU25-A / Class 8: Two English prodigies win Les Talents Hermès
The third and final class of Les Talents Hermès — a competition reserved for riders under 25 years old — involved teams of two riders competing over two rounds. Ten different countries took part in the competition.
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 managed clear rounds 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 into 4th place, behind they United States and the Netherlands, who both scored 8 points but posted better times than Ireland.
Millie Allen (18 years old) and Emma O’Dwyer (20 years old) 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!”
Millie Allen and Emma O’Dwyer. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Grand Prix Hermès CSI 5* / Class 9: Abdelkebir Ouaddar, on the road to the Olympic Games
Having recently obtained his qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, the Moroccan rider 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. Taking to the arena as the 16th and final couple in the jump-off, the Moroccan rider 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. There were 16 riders who made it through to the jump-off, some really great riders! 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 2 from Scotland was second on Hello Forever, more than two seconds behind Abdelkebir Ouaddar (38’’78). The German rider 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.
Abdelkebir Ouaddar and Quickly de Kreisker. © Frédéric Chehut / Hermès
Congratulations to all the winners. Go jumping!