Double European silver medallist Juan Carlos Garcia scored a spectacular double on the opening day of the CSI5* in San Patrignano where Italian riders proved unbeatable on their home turf. Garcia showed the sympathy, flair, accuracy and extraordinary talent that has taken him to the top of the sports of both eventing and show jumping when first taking the honours in the Prix Sea Aeroporti Milano and then galloping the rest into oblivion with a commanding performance in the feature Deutz Fahr finale.
The show has attracted the elite of the jumping world, but the weather-gods were in an uneasy mood as the main event got underway last night. Fifth into the ring with Hamilton de Perhet, Garcia was lucky to escape the worst of an amazing storm that sent flashes of fork-lightning across the sky and thunderous rain onto the San Patrignano arena. Such is the quality of the footing however that all the riders agreed it had little or no effect on the competition. The surface can cope with vast quantities of water and although the tiny principality of San Marino was revealed in stark relief by a flash of light in the dark night sky and spectators were sent scuttling to the back of the grandstand to avoid the driving rain, it was only Louis Konickx's clever track that created problems for the competitors in the first round - the final line from the triple combination to an oxer claiming a large number of victims.
There were 17 into the jump-off for the €50,000 Deutz Fahr prize-fund and Garcia established his superiority when third to go with Hamilton de Perhet. The great big 15 year old gelding might not seem the most likely speed horse in the world, but his partnership with his rider is cemented over many days in many arenas and they carved a line through the second-round track that brought them home with the clock showing 38.12 seconds. Two horses later The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam came very close indeed when breaking the beam in 38.15 seconds with BMC Van Grunsven Simon but the challenge ended there, and it was second-last rider into the ring, Australia's James Paterson-Robins riding Niack de L'Abbaye, who slotted into third place.
The sun was going down and the floodlights were coming on as the host nation filled all steps of the podium in the two phase 1.40m SEA Aeroporti Milano, Fridays second event. Garcia topped the lineup in this class with the French-bred Moka de Mescam . He was followed directly in the starting order and in the final lineup by 2007 Young Rider European individual silver medallist Emanuele Guadiano on his eight year old Holsteiner Chicago 24. Completing the Italian one-two-three was the ever-popular Gianni Govoni on Little Tinka, a gelded son of Tinkas Boy which was ridden to World Cup Final glory by Italian team manager Markus Fuchs in 2001.
"I am truly happy" Garcia said afterwards. "Two wins with two different horses on the first day of the show is a great result" he pointed out.
The organizers, the Community of San Patrignano, could not have wished for a better start to their annual five star festival as first prize in the days opening WeFree young horse competition was also taken by an Italian. Reigning national champion Emilio Bicocchi and the stallion Graffio del Terriccio produced the fastest of nine clears, edging out Francois Mathy Jr on the lovely Diamont de Semilly mare Polinska de Isles by .33 of a second.