The Laiterie de Montaigu Trophy at the Longines Masters in Paris was not supposed to be the highlight class of the night, and the showdown came down to two somewhat unusual suspects. Champions like Kent Farrington, Daniel Deusser and Christian Ahlmann struggled to make an impact in the five star class, bringing down bogey fences and struggling in a tricky triple down the long side. But highlight it was, as the handsome and soft spoken Lorenzo de Luca of Italy and the charismatic Abdelkebir Ouaddar of Morocco duked it out in a top two showdown separated by mere tenths of a second in the jump-off.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani designed a class with a tough time to make, several tight turns, and long gallops that favored forward horses willing to leave out a stride here or there, but could come back and tackle the massive triple near the end of the course. Only four of forty-seven starters would survive the first round with double clear scores: Lorenzo on Limestone Grey, Abdelkebir aboard Quickly de Kreisker, veteran Brit John Whitaker on Argento, and France’s Maelle Martin and Giovani de la Pomme.
The jump-off was a stunner of a show with plenty of opportunities to take risks; John Whitaker and Maelle Martin both brought down rails in the process, which ultimately left John in third with 38.49 and Maelle on a 39.39. Lorenzo and his stunning grey set the pace when came in first and lit the ground afire with their fervent but graceful clear on an incredible 34.06.
Abdelkebir was the last to enter, and he rode magnificently hard and well to put all the pressure he could on the score of Lorenzo. He tipped the timer at 34.67 seconds to take second, but still beamed with pride and delight for the uproarious crowd that gave his gutsy ride and showmanship a standing ovation.
All four finalists received a warm reception in the victory gallop, and the Parisians made it clear they appreciated the win and near win by the up and comers on Masters weekend.
Lorenzo began riding at the age of nine, and was completely hooked, despite having no family upbringing around horses. “I always loved horses, even though none of my family ride. When I eventually got one I never got off.” Lorenzo now rides at Stephex Stables in Wolvertem, Belgium. He rides in an Italian Air Force uniform as an ambassador for the Italian government.
Abdelkebir recently made his Olympic debut at the Rio Games, and had the distinct honor of being flag bearer for the nation of Morocco in the Opening Ceremonies. Abdelkebir learned to ride as a boy with the Moroccan Royal Family. “I was raised as her own son by Princess Lalla Amina of Morocco.” He started riding competitively at age 14. The King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, owns the horses Ouaddar uses for training and competitions, and is an aid during his international travel. “King Mohammed VI puts everything at my disposal to make me feel at ease. First class tickets and everything you need. I’m really lucky, I can say that I am treated like a king too.”