(Photo © Stefano Grasso / LGCT).
The current world number one Scott Brash threw down the gauntlet in Cannes with a dramatic win in the big class of the day, three seconds ahead of his nearest rival. It was a blistering start to the first day on the French Riviera which unfolded under idyllic blue skies. As the sun went down, the lights came on for the second of the CSI5*, the 1.50m Prix FFE French Tour Generali, which saw Ben Maher (GBR) take an early lead with his eleven year old gelding Aristo Z. He was soon overtaken by fellow British rider, John Whitaker (GBR) with his beautiful dark bay stallion Argento after they completed a strong clear round in 64.62s. However, both were beaten by their compatriot Scott Brash who delivered an effortlessly smooth and quick round with eleven year mare old Hello Annie, owned by Lady Pauline Kirkham and Lady Pauline Harris. Scott took the win a clear three seconds faster than second place man Julien Epaillard (FRA) with his chestnut stallion Sheriff de la Nutria LM.
Speaking about his win, Scott said: “It’s started great to Cannes and I’m really happy as Hello Annie was fantastic here tonight. She’s a really useful horse, she jumps the big classes for the first couple of days and these sorts of horses are really useful to have in your string to keep your rankings points up. It’s great to see the Brits do well – John rode a great round, as did Ben also – his horse has been off for a while so it’s good to see him back, and this result is very good for Britain. I’ll ride Hello M’Lady for the Grand Prix – I jumped her earlier today and every day this week, so fingers crossed for Saturday.”
Throughout the day, the sixth leg of the championship saw talented young riders including Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco, competing in a string of amateur competitions before the world’s best horse and rider combinations took centre stage. With 266 temporary stables set up just a stones throw from the shoreline of the Mediterranean sea, many of the most talented horse and rider combinations in the sport have descended on this classic tour destination for its 10th anniversary year. Course designer Uliano Vezzani described the ambience: “The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s a show that I really love and feel a part of because of the atmosphere during the event. We are almost at the mid point of the season and the riders are always the best. For a course designer to design in this location, and with these horses, it’s a gift. It’s very satisfying but a big commitment to be completely involved – I really love this circuit.”
Also speaking about the set up in Cannes and the sixth leg of the tour, British rider Ben Maher (GBR) said: “This round has been here a few years now, and it’s probably one of my favourites. It’s always good to come here, and it’s nice to enjoy some time during the afternoon relaxing before jumping here in the evening. It’s very dramatic under the lights and I’ve had some good times here.”
The first CSI5* class, the Prix BMW Bayern Avenue, took place as dusk fell at 19:00 with 49 riders competing in the 1.45m special two phase. Home favourite Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) set the pace early on, eleventh to start and completing a blindingly quick and accurate clear round with his chestnut mare Sydney Une Prince. His lead of three seconds was then taken by Abdulrahman Al Rajhi (KSA) who rode a beautifully calm but incredibly fast round with his gelding Chicago 84. Despite this being his first competition in Cannes, and only his second experience in the Longines Global Champions Tour championship, Abdulrahman Al Rajhi managed to complete the special two phase round in just 26.44secs, almost two seconds clear of Roger-Yves who came second and Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) who came in third with his bay gelding Vdl Groep Quatro.
Abdulrahman Al Rajhi (KSA) spoke following his win: “I’m very happy as it was the first class I rode in here in Cannes, and it is also only the second time I have competed in the Longines Global Champions Tour championship. I hope that we can win again in the next classes! I am very happy with the way my horse jumped today, he’s in good condition and is very relaxed. Sometimes he can get a little nervous, but he jumped very well today so I’m pleased.”
Among those competing on the amateur circuit this weekend, local favourite Guillaume Canet (FRA), who commented: “I would prefer to come to Cannes for this show and not the festival! Now when someone asks me if I went to Cannes my first thought is for the competition. I enjoy coming here very much, like most of the Longines Global Champions Tour rounds – it’s a great organisation and you have the chance to ride amongst the best riders in the world; it’s great.”
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Source: Longines Global Champions Tour