The first week of competition at the Spring MET 2022 in Oliva Nova, Spain, concluded on Sunday with the CSI2* 1.45m Grand Prix presented by Dammann Reitplatz- u. Sportplatzbau GmbH and there were no surprises when French rider Julien Epaillard took yet another win aboard Solero MS (Silvio I x Espri). Epaillard also won Thursday and Friday’s Grand Prix qualifiers, continuing his winning streak from 2021.
A total of 13 horse-and-rider combinations from the starting field of 62 cleared the first-round track and joined the deciding jump-off over a shortened course. Gudrun Patteet (BEL) on Sea Coast Donna Z (Diamant de Semilly x C Indoctro), Olivier Robert (FRA) on Careca Ls Elite (Carusso La Silla x Rebozo La Silla), Koen Vereecke (BEL) on Arioso du Bois (Rock’N Roll Semilly x Qredo de Paulstra), Giulia Martinengo Marquet (ITA) on Claristo 3 (Clarimo x Heraldik xx), Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Albführen’s Maddox (Cohiba 1198 x Maraton) and Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) on Miro (Diamant de Semilly x Kannan) got company from Robin Muhr (ISR) on Stawita PS (Stakkatol x Lawito), Julien Epaillard (FRA) on Solero MS, Niels Bruynseels (BEL) on Diornella-D (Diamant de Semilly x For Pleasure), Katrin Eckermann (GER) on Tiamo Z (Otangelo x Grand Canyon), Virginie Thonon (BEL) on High Tech Vy de Septon (Del Piero P&B x Chellano Z), Emilio Bicocchi (ITA) on Sevillana Del Terricio (Catoki x Baloubet du Rouet) and Jérôme Guery (BEL) on Napoli vh Nederassenthof (President x Quasimodo Z).
First to go in the jump-off, Gudrun Patteet set the standard and stopped the clock on 39.69 seconds – but was soon overtaken by Koen Vereecke with a time of 38.27. However, Steve Guerdat – former world number one and team gold medallist from last summer’s European Championships – effortlessly piloted Maddox around the track in 35.92 seconds, taking over the lead and putting all the pressure on those to come after him.
With a time of 38.08, Muhr slotted in between Guerdat and Vereecke, but then came Julien Epaillard – ranked number 12 in the world and known for his incredibly fast riding. Solero MS did not hesitate when Epaillard put the gelding into top gear, and the pair stopped the clock on 34.57 seconds – taking home the win and pushing Guerdat down to second, Muhr to third, Vereecke to fourth and Philippaerts to fifth place.
“I really liked the course today, it was delicate. When I have a chance, of course I try to win – so I did my best in the jump-off to beat Steve. My horse is very careful so it is easy to go fast with him. We did seven strides from one to two, and to the double nine strides,” Epaillard said, speaking of his round.
“Solero is sixteen now, but he is still super competitive,” Epaillard said about his winning mount. “He has been successful with other riders prior to me, he is a super nice horse. I have been riding him for about a year now, I am just trying to keep him happy and sound so that he can have a long career.”
“I keep returning to Oliva because I love it here,” Epaillard – who is one of the regular faces at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour – said about the venue. “We have great quality facilities here to get the horses going.”
The Spring MET 2022 runs in four parts from January to April, gathering some of the world’s very best horses and riders under the Spanish sun. For more information, visit metoliva.com.