With three riders from the top fifteen on the Longines Ranking at start, Sunday’s CSI3* 1.50m Grand Prix presented by CHG concluded the third and last week of Autumn MET II 2021 with spectacular sport. After a jump-off between 13 horse-and-rider combinations, it was the French master of faster Julien Epaillard on the 9-year-old mare Cheyenne d’Auge who took home the win.
Thirteen pairs out of the 54 participants cleared the first-round track set by Christian Wiegand (GER), but only five of them could keep the fences intact in the jump-off and produce a double clear result. Rebecca Conway (USA) on Con Coleur (Contendro I x Couleur Rubin) delivered the first double clear of the class with a time of 47.35 in the jump-off, but was soon overtaken by Julien Epaillard (FRA) on Cheyenne d’Auge (Guarana Champeix x Diamant de Semilly), who stopped the clock on 44.39 – a time that no one after him could match. Cameron Hanley (IRL) on ESI Toulouse (SIEC Livello x Quasimodo van de Molendreef) got close and took the runner-up position with a time of 45.21, while Fernando Martinez Sommer (MEX) on Cor Bakker (Colandro x Quattro) placed third and Conway fourth. Harold Megahey (IRL) on Kingston (Ustinov x Insider) took the fifth spot with a double clear in 49.39 seconds.
Epaillard thought the Grand Prix was difficult enough, and to win with a horse that is from his own breeding program made it special. “Cheyenne is home bred, I started to ride her this year, before this my rider produced her,” Epaillard explained. “She has a lot of blood, and she always jumps good, but she has been very difficult to ride. Now, the rideability is a little bit better, and she has already won many 1.45m classes. I think she is a very competitive mare, maybe not for the very highest classes, but it is nice to have a naturally fast horse like her. I am happy to breed horses like this! It is always special to win with a home bred horse, even though she is not the first Grand Prix winner we have.”
“I like to come to Oliva, it is a nice place for the horses”, Epaillard said. “I come back in January with a group of good 8-year-olds. It is great to jump here, it is easy to make a good program for the horses. I am always happy to return.”
For Ireland’s Cameron Hanley the runner-up position marked a great comeback to the show ring as the Irish rider was forced to stop riding for six months after an injury he sustained at the beginning of the year. “Now we are back, and that is what I came to this tour for; to build up the horse again,” Hanley said. “That’s why I am so happy about the result today, it all finished just as I wanted.”
“I thought the course was big and difficult, the time allowed was fair, so there were enough clear rounds,” Hanley said about today’s course. “I think the course building has been excellent all the time during the tour; a big compliment to the course builders.”
“Julien is just incredible,” Hanley said about today’s winner. “I just went as fast as I could go and tried to execute my plan.”
Hanley’s ride Toulouse is an Irish bred horse by Livello, a stallion that Hanley rode to a 4th place finish at the 2009 European Championships. “I have owned Toulouse since he was four. I love this horse; we have a very good connection. I know him really well and he knows me. It makes it all the sweeter to get a good result with a horse you’ve spend so long time with.”
Speaking about the venue at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour, Hanley said: “It is just stunning. I have gone more into the direction of training and teaching and my student Clara Hallundbaek was also clear in the Grand Prix today. I get just as much of a buzz watching her do well as I do myself. Here at the MET, the showground is designed so well. To be able to get from ring to ring easily to help students, it is really practical. It is just a great place to come to, I always look forward to returning here.”
The tour now takes a week off before returning with its third and last part, the Autumn MET III 2021 which kicks off on November 23rd.