Frenchman, Julien Epaillard, took even himself by surprise when galloping to victory with Quatrin de la Roque at the penultimate leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2016/2017 Western European League on home ground in Bordeaux, France tonight. “I didn’t come here with big expectations” said the delighted 39-year-old from Normandy, after out-pacing and out-jumping the stellar field of 39 starters in another marathon jump-off against the clock.
Runner-up spot went to 40-year-old Dutchman Leopold van Asten with VDL Groep Zidane while reigning European Young Rider champion, 21-year-old Guido Klatte from Germany, clinched third with Qinghai and Ireland’s Denis Lynch lined up fourth with All Star.
It seems even the top course designers are astonished by the ability of the horses and riders on the indoor circuit this winter, as 19 managed to complete Uliano Vezzani’s first-round track without incident. “What can I say? It’s a big arena and the horses jumped great – that’s the sport!” said the world-famous Italian course designer.
It was Rio Olympian, van Asten, who set the jump-off target when second to go and clear in 37.71 seconds, and although Frenchman Aldrick Cheronnet (Tanael des Bonnes) and Germany’s Markus Brinkmann (Pikeur Dylon) were also fault-free it wasn’t until Klatte took his turn that the Dutchman’s time looked vulnerable. Klatte steered a shorter route when cutting inside the first fence after tackling the double at the halfway point, stopping the clock in 38.09 seconds, but two horses later Epaillard and his 13-year-old gelding did the same to break the beam in what would turn out to be the winning time of 35.92 seconds.
The superstars who followed him into the ring often faulted at the vertical that followed that inside turn, or sometimes even earlier, on the rollback to the vertical third fence on the new course. Lynch was never likely to beat the target time with his massive 14-year-old gelding, but 38.41 seconds would be plenty good enough for fourth spot when the remaining six contenders all left poles on the floor.
“Things have not been going great for me, and after La Coruna (early December) I felt my horse was tired so I gave him a little break” said Epaillard as today’s result began to sink in. “Then we started again in Oliva (ESP) and came here, but I was only really preparing for the Grand Prix tomorrow, I wasn’t expecting this to happen!” he added.
Gothenburg in Sweden will host the last leg of the Western European League in three weeks time.
Photo: Pierre Costabadie/FEI