Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
It was an evening where France reigned supreme, as Julien Epaillard (FRA) took top honours in the opening Mercedes-Benz CSI5* competition at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Cascais. Mirroring his nation’s success in the 2016 Euros, the Frenchman rode a stunning class with Quatrin de la Roque LM, wiping the floor with the opposition and clearing the field by a phenomenal three seconds to win the 1.45m two phase competition.
40 international riders took to the picture perfect grass arena for the opening class of the three day show jumping fiesta, with top horses and riders flexing their muscles for the first time ahead of Saturday’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix. As the dusky light faded, the floodlights came on as the world’s best took to the welcoming arena to compete in the Mercedes-Benz class.
Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) and H&M Henna de Goedereede were the first to set the pace, powering around the second speed phase of the class in a time of 39.44s and setting the time to beat. Their time was soon topped by young talent Gonzalo Añón Suarez (ESP) and AD Amigo B, with the pair shaving off yet more time but turning tighter to the full height jumps. Hot on his heels was Daniel Bluman (COL) with Believe, and the pair stormed to the top of the timesheets after they stopped the clock at an impressive 36.15s, two tenths of a second faster than Gonzalo’s time.
Daniel took second place, with Gonzalo in third overall. Jane Richard Philips (SUI) rode a precision-perfect round with the fiery Foica van den Bisschop to cross the line in a close 37.64s, showing the calibre of show jumping to be high during this opening day of action and the 2nd – 4th positions split by just tenths of a second.
But it was one of the final riders to go, Julien Epaillard (FRA), and the 12 year old bay gelding Quatrin de la Roque LM who stole the show, wiping the floor with the rest of the field after taking some phenomenal turns and galloping across the distances to make up valuable time. The duo stopped the clock in the second phase at 32.86s, three seconds faster than Daniel’s time and impressing early on in this weekend’s action. The pair stood stock still and proud as the French national anthem rang out, not for the first time this evening, and collected the lion’s share of the first day’s prize purse.