Ahead of tonight's final Grand Prix of the season, the top riders in the world came together for the final CSI5* speed class of the weekend with USA's Lauren Hough taking a stunning win with her dark bay Royalty Des Isles.
Second in the ring, Simon Delestre, riding the consistent Chesall, set an impressive early pace, taking all the risks across Uliano Vezzani's long galloping track. His clear round in a time of 55.43 laid down the gauntlet for those who followed, many of whom incurred faults whilst trying to keep up with the pace required.
The challenge for riders was to balance the need to gallop the long distances between fences whilst also maintaining a careful jump. It was the combination fences that seemed to be of particular significance, with the middle vertical of the treble combination and an up-to-height oxer going into the last double catching many riders out.
Gregory Wathelet proved that the time could be bettered, finishing in a time of 54.27, however he incurred eight faults on the way and as the class progressed with very few clears, some riders chose to step off the gas slightly, gambling that a clear round would be good enough for a placing.
Unwilling to take that gamble, Bertram Allen rode a beautifully smooth round to place Delestre's lead in jeopardy, however he missed out by just seven hundredths of a second, to go into second. This position was short lived, as next to go, Hans-Dieter Dreher rode a determined round aboard his impressive bay stallion Colore, taking out strides and cutting corners to take the lead in a time of 55.30.
Lauren Hough and Royalty Des Isles set out meaning business and didn't relent, keeping up the pace throughout, deservedly taking the lead in the closing stages of the competition posting an excellent time of 54.82. This proved to be the winning round, despite valiant attempts by Cian O'Connor and John Whitaker as the last two to go.