Hubside Jumping: Gregory Wathelet triuphes at Grimaud

Photo ©Sportfot (Grégory Wathelet & Edesa's Basantos).jpg

It was the Belgian national anthem which resounded in the Var sky this Sunday at Grimaud, Grégory Wathelet, riding Edesa's Basantos, won the 4* Grand Prix at the Hubside Fall Tour. Over a 1.55m track the Belgian rider rode two perfect rounds demonstating proof yet again of his talent. Earlier, France’s Julien Epaillard came under the spotlight with Cheyenne d'Auge, with whom he won the 1.45m CSI 2* Grand Prix.

Franco-Belgian podiums in Grimaud!

With a CSI 4* on the programme, the Grimaud château as a backdrop and a bright sunny day, the afternoon's sport had everything going for it. A course of 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts awaited the 43 riders and their horses at the start of this Sunday’s Grand Prix.  Designed with skill by Frenchman Grégory Bodo, the course looked tricky and selective right from the outset. “At Grimaud, you have to bring horses both technically and mentally ready,” explained one of the World's best course designers. “I was able to watch the horses and riders over the first days and I must say that they all were jumping well. I’d built some tricky courses but not necessarily very big ones. I was inspired by this to design today's. It is built in three parts, the first part is quite technical with obstacles that arrive quickly, then very open in the middle before getting tighter at the end. It's a real 4* test, following the FEI recommendations as it's a qualifying event for next year's World Championships.” No less than that!

Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano, n°3 on the start-list, was the first to jump clear with Nikolaj de Music. Thirteen others followed him triggering the clear round jingle: Portugal’s Luis Ferreira, Germany’s Kendra Claricia Brinkop, France’s Paul Delforge, (already winner a little earlier in the 1.40m CSI2* in front of of Jos Verlooy and Pénélope Leprévost), Philippe Rozier, Simon Delestre, Nicolas Delmotte, Harold Boisset and Kevin Staut, Morgan Bordat, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, Zoé Conter and Grégory Wathelet and finally, the Syrian Amre Hamcho. Fourteen through to the jump-off and all aiming for that single place on the top step of the podium. It was going to be necessary to play your every card in order to hope to win, and this to the great pleasure of the public, delighted to witness a great battle in this Côte d'Azur arena.

Third to enter the ring, Germany’s Kendra Claricia Brinkop rode an impressive round in 38''19, propelling her into the lead. The final outcome of this Grand Prix came when it was the turn of her neighbour, Belgium’s team bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Grégory Wathelet, riding Edesa's Basantos, a 15 year old KWPN gelding. Last rider to go in the jump-off he crossed the finishing line 54 hundredths of a second faster (37'65), taking victory to a huge applause from spectators.“Edesa's is a horse I don't usually ride” explained the winner of the day. “He belongs to one of my students, I’ve just got him for a few shows. The main goal was to get him going again, I just wanted to do a Grand Prix so that he’ll really be ready for when his owner gets him back. He's an experienced horse who's used to this height, he always behaves very well. I knew the jump-off was going to be close, there were a lot of us and the first to go especially (Kendra Claricia Brinkop) was very fast. But I saw the possibility of taking a stride off at the last jump. No one else before me did it, the distance did strike me as being very long, but he has a huge stride so I did it and that's where we made the difference. The first round was a good 4* level, tricky but still approachable, especially for young riders and horses for whom these classes are a stepping stone to 5* classes. I'm remaining here next week so hope to do a repeat performance, even if it's with a different horse.” Kendra Claricia Brinkop, associated with Kastelle Memo, an 11 year old bay mare, already 4th in Friday's 1.50m Grand Prix, was hopeful right to the end that she’d done enough but finally had to be satisfied with second place. A 100% Belgian podium as Jos Verlooy completed the top trio with Luciano van het Geinsteinde.

The best French performance was by Philippe Rozier with his grey Le Coultre de Muze who, despite encouragements from the crowds, finished at the foot of the podium.

The CSI 2*  took place in the Grimaud arena before the major CSI 4*class. With 56 starters and 11 going through to the jump-off, the course drawn by the course designer did its job well. If a strong French delegation was present in the second round with, in particular, Julien Epaillard, Pénélope Leprévost, Simon Delestre, Jeanne Sadran and Paul Delforge, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands could also count on some of their top names with, respectively, Grégory Wathelet, Kendra Claricia Brinkop and Jur Vrieling. The latter held the lead for a long moment, but fell victim to Julien Epaillard who lived up to his reputation as being one of the fastest riders on the circuit. Riding the incredible Cheyenne d'Auge, he rode a perfect and fast round that was applauded by all as he landed after clearing the last fence, the planks in the Hubside colours.  “2 classes, 2 victories, we can say her weekend was successful”, smiled the rider from Normandy. “I'm delighted with her, she's keeps getting better day by day. What’s really interesting is that after a jump-off like Friday’s, where I’d asked a lot of her, today she managed to jump a Grand Prix again with the same freshness and the same enthusiasm. She’s very consistent and very competitive. ” The Dutchman wasn’t far from winning. “Next time, try beating me by just one second,” Jur Vrieling told the Frenchman. And for good reason! With his grey Km Chalcedon he finished in second place, 3 seconds behind his rival. Paul Delforge, already a winner earlier in the day, was third on Allblack de Gressoux.   

Earlier in the day the sun had barely risen over Grimaud when Noa Verel pocketed yet a new victory. This time piloting her mare Urbane de Ribaudière, the French rider won the 1.30m CSI1* speed class, by being, once again, the fastest of the 21 riders on the start list. Behind her,  Belgium’s Dimme d'Haese was 2nd with Empress Eh Z and the France’s Laura Rozier on Rafale d'Hyverniere was 3rd.

Horses and riders won’t be leaving the Hubside Jumping Grimaud - Golfe de St Tropez site for  long, because next week competition is set to resume again, this time for Grimaud’s last CSI 5* of the year!

Hubside Jumping Grimaud Press | Photo ©Sportfot (Grégory Wathelet & Edesa's Basantos)

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