CSI5*-W Verona: Big build-up to tomorrow’s Longines FEI World Cup

CSI5*-W Verona: Big build-up to tomorrow’s Longines FEI World Cup

Simon Delestre / Catch me T. Photos (c) Stefano Grasso.

There’s a crackle of excitement in the air at Jumping Verona in the lead-up to tomorrow’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier, the third leg of the 2017/2018 Western European League from which just 18 riders will qualify for the much-anticipated Longines 2018 Final. It’s been a spectacular week of sport at the Italian fixture so far, with sensational performances from the world’s top riders and a very successful challenge from the host nation.

After today’s back-to-back double of wins, Simon Delestre is one of the strong favourites to clinch those precious 20 maximum Longines qualifying points because, as the 36-year-old Frenchman said this evening, “It’s always easier to do well when you are in good spirits!

Yesterday I was a bit flat because I had one fence down three times even though the horses were jumping super – today was a different story, so you never know!” And of course Delestre’s Verona record is really impressive. He won the Longines FEI World Cup™ leg here in 2015 and was only just pipped by Egypt’s Abdel Said last year. He has been saving his top ride, the 12-year-old Hermes Ryan, especially for tomorrow’s class and together they are the most formidable partnership.

The 40-strong competition startlist is headed up by British legend John Whitaker with his new ride Comme Il Faut, a 10-year-old not to be confused with a horse of the same name competed by Germany’s Marcus Ehning. Fortunately three-time FEI World Cup champion Ehning has chosen Funky Fred as his ride in Verona, and he will be 27th to enter the ring.

World no. 4 Lorenzo de Luca with Halifax van het Kluizebos and world no. 13 Alberto Zorzi with Fair Light van T Heike will be strong contenders for the host nation, but one they may all have to fear is Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels who has been on flying form over the last two days and who has kept his top mare, Cas de Liberte, under wraps so that she will be fresh and ready for tomorrow’s contest.

Last to go in the first round will be 2014 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, and the man who topped the opening Western European League leg in Oslo, Norway just a few weeks ago, Daniel Deusser from Germany with the 10-year-old SX Hidalgo VG. But don’t discount Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander. She will be riding the 10-year-old mare California, and, just a few short months since giving birth to her daughter, Chloe, she is fit and riding as superbly as ever. And if she should come out on top she will be making a little bit of history as only the second lady rider to win the Italian qualifier of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series.

The only woman to have reigned supreme to date is Lesley McNaught Maendli (SUI) who steered Dulf to success in Bologna back in 1999.



Simon Delestre / Chesall Zimequest


Simon Delestre made it two-in-a-row with an extraordinary victory partnering his 12-year-old chestnut gelding Chesall Zimequest in the Franco Tucci Jump-Off at Jumping Verona this evening. In a nail-biting second round the French pair were third to go, and the crowd could only hold their breath as it seemed they had put the result beyond doubt when racing through the timers in 42.24 seconds. However it was edge-of-the-seat stuff as the last three contenders challenged them with everything they had.

Italian course designer, Uliano Vezzani, increased the degree of difficulty in this class and only six qualified for the second round. Austria’s Max Kuhner led the way against the clock but picked up a time fault with Alfa Jordan, so when The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten jumped clear with Salomon he posted the first target in 45.66 seconds. But Delestre’s genius for riding at speed is second to none, and Chesall was like a cruise missile as the daring duo weaved their way around the course to shave more than three seconds off that.

It wasn’t the quickest time however, yesterday’s winners Niels Bruynseels and Gancia de Muze roaring through the finish in 41.75 seconds but leaving the oxer, three from home, on the floor for four faults. Then Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat set hearts fluttering with a super-tight turnback to the second fence which, however, didn’t pay off when Cayetana hit the next. Last in, the 2014 FEI World Cup™ Jumping champions Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Cornet d’Amour, tried the same route, but they also paid the price with a fence down so it was time for Delestre to start celebrating once again.

“Chesall made a fantastic job today like he can do!” the Frenchman said. “He is amazing, he is one of the most winning horses in 5-Stars for the last two years, he was second here last year in the World Cup Grand Prix and he won the Grand Prix in Rome a few months ago. He has had so many wins that I can’t tell you, but he is really a special horse and it’s something special to ride him!” he said.

Talking about his decision to go the longer route to the second fence he explained, “Chesall has a big gallop, for him it was safer because when I ask him to cut a bit too short he can sometimes be a little bit scared, so this was more secure for him. But he has a really huge canter so I can keep going and I can take the fence with the first distance because he is so careful so I really don’t lose time when I go the longer way around!”


It was the French national anthem that played out across Jumping Verona this afternoon when speed ace, Simon Delestre, scorched to victory in the Antonio Carraro Speed event. Last to go he demoted Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Dollar Girl to second place while the Netherlands’ Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Bylou finished third.

Delestre is always dangerous against the clock, but today he was partnering a relatively new ride, the nine-year-old mare Catch Me T which he only started competing about a month ago. And despite their relatively short time together they cruised home without looking under the slightest pressure to take the win. The future is looking good for this pair.

“She’s a new horse for me, I got her from Oleksandr Onyschenko (Ukraine) – I have a good partnership with Oleksandr now. This mare is very nice, I don’t know her as well as some other horses I ride, but she was very good today, she was really playing with me in the ring – she is careful and a very, very interesting horse” Delestre said.

Even though he went like the wind he wasn’t quite sure if he was fast enough to beat Spain’s Alvarez Aznar, who broke the beam in 60.09 seconds when 16th of the 41 starters and who held the lead until the very end. “I knew I was fast but I didn’t know how quick this mare could be. She has a big stride but you never know until it’s done!” Delestre said after squeezing ahead to take pole position by just over half a second.

The rider who won team silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, France and who was individual bronze medallist at the European Championships in Aachen, Germany the following year has a special feeling about competing in Verona. It’s almost like a home from home for him.

“The first time I came here was 1993 with a pony – I think I was just 12 years old – I enjoy this show a lot! Two years ago I won the Grand Prix with Ryan, and last year I was second in the Grand Prix with Chesall Zimequest so I’m hoping for a good Grand Prix again this year!” he said. And which horse will he ride in tomorrow’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier?

“That will be my best horse, Ryan. He had one fence down yesterday, he was a bit fresh but he jumped well – he’s ready!”, said the Frenchman.

Full results HERE


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