The Emirates Gold Cup promised to be a thrilling sports night, a preview of tomorrow’s Longines Grand Prix. The fans weren’t disappointed. At the end of a spectacular second round, the French riders proved they were on top of their game, striking as champions, and led the field of competitors into the prize giving ceremony. It was a proud tricolor podium sweep to close out the second-to-last day of the Longines Masters of Los Angeles. What more could we expect?
The class started in a “piano, piano” way, just like course designer Uliano Vezzani, the Maestro, loves to say. The Italian knew how to turn up the heat, create tension and install doubt. Spectators held their breath many times, frozen, but lived for every rider’s round. Then, a sigh of relief came when Simon Delestre, ranked No. 3 in the world, crossed the finish line without a fault. The class had started! Seven other riders would also complete a clear-round, but the “winning round” class would take the top 10 riders from the first round, and, with a clean slate, have them complete a new course. At that point anything was possible and every competitor had the chance to win it all. American Jessica Springsteen was up first. The U.S. rider rode atop of Tiger Lily, a little rocket who earned her a seat in the leader’s chair for majority of the winning round. As Patrice Delaveau and Marco Kutscher eventually joined her on the leader’s podium, things got hot really fast and the atmosphere exploded in the stands. Julien Epaillard was up, then Simon Delestre, and finally Kevin Staut – the last three riders to enter the arena battled it out. In the end, the win went to the last pair, Staut and Elky van het Indihof HDC with a time of 35.52 seconds.
Yet, the Rio Olympic champion was surprised by the results. “I knew my mare was really fast, but Chesall is still the fastest horse in the whole world,” said Staut. “I had just witnessed Jessica’s round which was really fast, and then I saw that Julien had beat the clock by less than a second. At the entrance of the arena, Simon had ended his round but I didn’t see his time. So when I heard the music and the crowd cheer after mine, I was really surprised. Elky is simply fantastic.” Normandy’s rider was also pleased to share his victory with his fellow teammates. “Three French on the podium – it’s wonderful! We hope to do the same tomorrow!”
But the competition’s stakes will be higher for the Longines Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. Marco Kutscher, ranked 6th tonight, teased the French about the sweep. “Next year we won’t invite you – that’s it,” he joked. On our side, we hope the atmosphere will be as electric as it was tonight. In the meantime, let’s enjoy a glass of champagne, the music in the Prestige Village, and with that, “Vive la France!”
Source and Photo by longinesmasters.com