Youth certainly has the wind in its sails at the Longines Masters of Paris. This morning Paul Delforge, very much on form since the beginning of the competition, picked up a win in the first class of the day with Terre du Banney. At just 18 the young rider couldn't have wished for a better start to his first participation in the Longines Masters of Paris.
After his impressive performances at the beginning of the competition, along with those of the young French riders Camille Condé Ferreira and Damien de Chambord and the 18-year-old Brazilian João Victor Castro, the exception is becoming the rule: this year the Prestige Trophy is looking like a springboard for the Masters of tomorrow, the future six star generation!
Fittingly the Masters followed them in the Prix Salon du Cheval of Paris/CENECA. By the end of the morning the grandstands were already full of spectators come to watch this Grand Prix. And they were right to do so; the line-up was extremely interesting. Some riders came to fine tune horses they will mount in the Longines Grand Prix; others came on young horses to give them a feel for high level competitions and a six star atmosphere.
As for Kevin Staut, he chose For Joy van’T Zorgvliet HDC, a horse he admires greatly but with whom he had a fall. The main goal was to restore his confidence. And he clearly achieved that goal since, even erring on the side of caution, the couple won the event ahead of Olympic champion Steve Guerdat.
The amateurs in the Prix Laiterie de Montaigu also offered us a thrilling jump-off in the return match of yesterday's Prix Bang & Olufsen. This time it was the likable Venezuelan Gustavo Mirabal and G&C Leroy 136, in second place yesterday, who secured top honors ahead of yesterday's winner, Benjamin Castaldi, today on Othello Mouche.
The winner paid tribute to his horse and course designer, Luc Musette. "He offered us a real international jump-off, the likes of which amateurs like us rarely have a chance to experience," he said.
A little earlier in the afternoon a 'Paris by night' atmosphere had already invaded the arena. The Bluebell Girls came along to add a touch of glamor to the course reconnaissance. The hall was ready for the show. And it was a female rider, the Longines ambassador, who clinched the top spot in the Prix Lido de Paris, with French and Swiss riders grabbing the first five places. And sometimes sport really gets it right!
Philippe Rozier and Olivier Guillon came in second and third respectively. Were they perhaps distracted by the Bluebell Girls? If so then Jane Richard Philips played it to her advantage to beat them in this time trial. She teamed up with her partner Zerkina Z, her former lead mare today aged 15, which she now keeps in reserve for big competitions such as the Prix Lido of de Paris, where their complicity worked wonders and translated into a round so fluid and fast that no other competitor could equal them.
The Bluebell Girls then returned and put on a show in the arena during the prize giving before heading back to the Village Prestige to perform their cabaret ParisMerveilles staged by Belgium's celebrated Franco Dragone, now based in Ecaussinnes. This combination of sport, spectacle and glamor was evident throughout a long evening offering a wealth of beauty, performances, fun and emotion.
And on the performance side, the Gucci Gold Cup provided a boisterous jump-off which notably included the four members of the French team that won silver at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014. The public encouraged the Blues with unparalleled fervor, applauding them every step of the way and waving the little tricolor flags the EEM had made available to them.
Adding to the suspense, the top three in the provisional rankings were invited to sit in three great armchairs at the edge of the arena - until dislodged by a faster rider. Patrice Delaveau with the young Léontine Ledimar Z HDC, just eight years old and new to this level of competition, got to test the top 'throne' briefly but soon had to give it up to Simon Delestre and an imperial Chesall.
"I couldn't have hoped for more from such a young mare. I am delighted," declared the team Jump Five rider. As for Simon Delestre, very much on form too at the moment, he could not praise Casall's son too highly. "He was a little overcome by the atmosphere at the beginning of the first round which perhaps explains his fault," he said.
"But during the jump-off he was the horse I know again: respectful and extraordinary He is a bit of a complicated horse but exceptional.” The prize-giving offered an intensely emotional moment when, in honor of this great French victory, an a Capella Marseillaise rang out from the public.
The same altruism was present in the teams that joined the wonderful initiative behind the Style & Competiton for AMADE class – not that it prevented participants from giving free rein to their sense of showmanship. On that front the clear winner was the Laiterie de Montaigu, represented by Julien Epaillard and Benjamin Castaldi, who offered us a real sword and sandals spectacle. As for the clock, however, it was the Longines team made up of Jane Richard Philips and Camille Condé Ferreira alias "Mario & Luigi" who left the others standing.
Lights, glitter and performance - this Parisian night will long leave stars in the eyes of those lucky enough to witness it.
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