The second week of the 2021 Autumn MET III in Oliva Nova, Spain, concluded with Sunday’s CSI3* 1.50m Grand Prix presented by CHG where Great Britain’s Matthew Sampson and Geneve R took home the win after a thrilling jump-off.
The first-round track set by the Spanish course designer Javier Trenor counted 13 obstacles and 16 efforts. Only seven pairs out of the 60 horse-and-rider combinations that had qualified managed to clear it, joining the deciding jump-off and the first to deliver was number one to go – James Smith (GBR) on Simply Splendid (Ustinov x Cavalier). Smith was joined by Matthew Sampson (GBR) on Geneve R (Eldorado Vd Zeshoek x Berlin), Harold Boisset (FRA) on T’Obetty du Domaine (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Diams du Grasset), Daniel Meech (NZL) on Hi-5 (Nabab de Reve x Carthago Z), Thiago Ribas Da Costa (BRA) on Kassandra van’T Heike (Epleaser van’T Heike x Grandeur), Sören Pedersen (DEN) on Chico Z (Clinton I x Quantum) and Mathieu Noirot (FRA) on Vista du Grasset (Centino du Ry x Crown Z).
While Smith opened the jump-off with one down, Sampson was second to go and took advantage of Geneve R’s huge canter – managing the inside turn to the penultimate vertical perfectly to cross the finish line in 39.88 seconds. His round put just enough pressure on those to follow; even though both Boisset and Noirot were quicker, each had a pole down. In the end it was Thiago Ribas Da Costa on Kassandra van’T Heike that got the closest, taking the runner-up position with a time of 40.05, while 41.08 secured Sören Pedersen on Chico Z the third place. Daniel Meech on Hi-5 placed fourth, while Noirot had to settle for fifth with the quickest round of the day – but with four faults.
“From the first five to go today, there were three clear rounds, so I thought there would be a lot more,” the happy winner said about today’s first-round track. “But then, in the end, we were only seven, so it proved to be quite a difficult, careful course. I think Javier Trenor builds fantastic: Any time you jump his courses, you never have to worry that the courses are too unjumpable, but he always gets a good amount of clears and faults on every fence – so all credit to him.”
“It proved to be a bit all around, but the line in the middle across the arena was a lot more difficult than it looked,” Sampson said when asked what he thought was the most challenging part of the first round. “Also, the combination maybe wasn’t the biggest part of the course, but it rode very careful. The last line to the final fence was a bit of a forward six and then a steady five to a square oxer – so the challenges were all around, really.”
Having produced Geneve R to top level himself, Sampson knows his horse well – and used that knowledge to win. “I know he has got a really big stride, but he is probably not so fast naturally – so I just tried to use his stride to his advantage and hoped that it would put some pressure on the faster horses, maybe causing them to make a mistake,” he explained about his tactic for the jump-off. “Luckily, it paid off, so it was good.”
According to Sampson, Geneve R is the king of the yard at home. “He is just a great horse,” Sampson said affectionately. “He is a 10-year-old by Eldorado. I bought him when he was seven, from England where he was produced until then. I have produced him myself since and this year, he has stepped onto the bigger level. He is a big character, he plays around a lot. He is unbelievably careful and wants to win.”
Gevene R did his first five-star Grand Prix this year at Spruce Meadows, where the pair was placed. Today’s win was extra special for Sampson, given their years together. “I have got big plans for him for next year,” Sampson said. “We have been second and third a few times, and have been beaten by the faster combinations, but today it all paid off – which feels great.”