Both the grandstand and the Longines Masters of Paris arena gave off an extraordinary amount of energy this evening. The fastest event in the world has lived up to its reputation once again. "Every year there are more and more riders and good horses at the Longines Speed Challenge, and every year there are more and more spectators", declared Bosty. He knows what he's talking about since, out of six editions, he has been on the podium five times! This year, he came third with Pégase du Murier.
The young British rider Jessica Mendoza (19 years old) finished second with the only faultless round on the podium. The European vice-champion, Belgian rider Grégory Wathlet, triumphed this evening with Egano van het Slogenhof, in spite of one fence down like Bosty. The novelty of the Longines Speed Challenge is that a knockdown is penalised with just two seconds, so that a very fast round can make up for a small mistake: one of the reasons behind the evening's incredible atmosphere.
The event's other unusual feature is that the course is exactly the same in Los Angeles, Paris and Hong Kong. This is the only international competition that does this. Does this allow the riders to take even more risks? "I had a plan", confided the winner with a smile, "and I managed to stick to it all the way round. Or almost. With that knockdown at the end of the course, I really didn't think that I would stay in the lead, but I did." The vertical at number 12 was the deciding factor since both Wathelet and Bosty knocked this one down, while Jessica Mendoza took a wider curve to keep the fence up, even if this meant losing time. She is now aiming for the Longines Grand Prix on Sunday!
The class hardly had time to finish before the riders and spectators were on the dancefloor swaying to Jérémie Charlier's music. Tomorrow promises another great day of sport, which will be focused on glamour and generosity. There's talk behind the scenes that a few surprise are in store...