Poland's Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski galloped to victory in the Fixdesign Grand Prix at the second edition of CSIO San Marino Arezzo in Italy on Sunday (21/09).
In a thrilling 15-horse jump-off against the clock, the 36-year-old rider and his talented but feisty horse, aptly named Crazy Quick, clinched pole position with a heart-stopping last-to-go round.
Venezuela's Andres Rodriguez looked to have set a tough target when taking the lead with Caballito with just four horse-and-riders combinations left to run. But while they broke the beam in 37.77 seconds, the pair were a little careful to the final oxer, while Skrzyczynski simply threw caution to the wind.
Only five horse-and-rider combinations jumped clear second time out, and the first of these was the pathfinder over the new course, Italy's Bruno Chimirri with the handsome 13-year-old gelding Luca who stopped the clock on 41.09 seconds. Their time always looked beatable however, and Sweden's Linda Heed shaved more than two seconds off that with the 13-year-old mare Bee Wonderful when sixth into the ring.
Her advantage didn't last long however, as Finland's Anna-Julia Kontio and her elegant grey gelding, Fardon, re-set the target in 38.06 seconds which held until Rodriguez set off at a blistering pace. A member of the Venezuelan team that lined up fifth in Friday's Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, Rodriguez produced a lovely measured round, and his face broke into a huge smile as crossed the line for the second time.
But course designer, Uliano Vezzani, had set them another interesting challenge. Starting out once again over a triple bar, riders then turned right-handed to a new vertical before swinging left to the second two elements of the former triple combination. Then it was on to the oxer at fence 10 which was followed on a four-stride distance by skinny planks before approaching the final line of two fences off a right-hand turn. The third fence from the first-round track was still standing, and riders had the choice of either curving inside that or losing a lot of time by going around it on the approach to the second-last fence.
However the inside bend left them with little preparation for the penultimate vertical which was followed by the big Fixdesign oxer at the end of the course.
Time and again the penultimate vertical fell, and Friday's Nations Cup hero, Italy's Piergiorgio Bucci, ran into big trouble here with Casallo Z who produced a critical double-clear to help secure that important team victory. Turning sharply after the planks, Bucci allowed the horse to drift much too far left, and Casallo Z was very honest indeed when still attempting to clear the poles for just four faults.
Skrzyczynski made a mistake much earlier on the course, arriving on a very bad stride to the new vertical at fence two. But Crazy Quick is nothing if not a tryer, and he wriggled his way over without touching a pole before galloping on around the rest of the track. Buzzed up with excitement, the chestnut was clearly well in touch coming down the last line, and Skrzyczynski just let him gallop all the way to shave 0.09 seconds off Rodriguez's target.
“This is my second time to come to Arezzo, my first visit was eight years ago, and I'm very happy!”, said the Polish rider afterwards. He knows he as a special horse in Crazy Quick. “He is only nine years old and he is quite a difficult horse. He has a lot of blood and not everyone can get along with him but I love him very much!” Skkrzyczynski added.
He admitted that the second-round course really piled on the pressure. “Andres' time was very tight and I got into a lot of trouble at the second fence and had a very bad jump, but thanks to my horse we stayed clear! I know Uliano's style of course-building very well, he leaves long distances between one jump and the next and that asks for good control of the horse by the rider” said the man who always has to balance the need for control with Crazy Quick's natural over-exuberance.
He thoroughly enjoyed the experience of competing at this week's CSIO San Marino Arezzo. “We very much like Arezzo Equestrian Centre because you can jump in different arenas at the show, on both grass and sand, and you can bring horses who are at different levels and give them all something to do” he said. And he has high hopes that Poland will build a stronger team before next year's event.
As he enjoyed a glass of champagne afterwards in the company of the Organising Committee and the President of San Marino Equestrian Federation, Antonio Lazzaro Volpinari, the new Fixdesign Grand Prix champion said that Poland intends to bring a stronger team for next year's Nations Cup. By then however, Italy will be back in Division 1 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ European series due to last Friday's historic victory.
As the curtains came down on CSIO San Marino Arezzo 2014, Italian show jumping faces an exciting future filled with possibilities as the country returns to the elite level of team sport once again and looks forward to qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and beyond. The special show in the heart of the beautiful Tuscan countryside, with its close links to the memory of operatic superstar Luciano Pavarotti and to the tiny Republic of San Marino, has played a pivotal role in making that future happen.