Rio 2016 Olympic team gold medallist, Kevin Staut, secured the main honours for France on the opening day of Jumping Verona 2016 when steering Ayade de Septon HDC to victory in tonight’s Prestige 1.55m Challenge. It seemed that Lorenzo de Luca would keep the trophy at home when galloping through the timers in 36.39 seconds with Limestone Grey. But Staut’s 10-year-old mare shaved almost a full second off that target time to pin the Italian into runner-up spot at the end of the thrilling 16-horse jump-off.
The packed stadium of spectators nearly raised the roof when de Luca went out in front, partnering the Irish-bred horse that has shown incredible form this season. Together the pair were unbeatable at Dublin Horse Show in August and they have continued to blaze a trail ever since. However Staut showed even more amazing speed to put the result beyond doubt. Italy’s Gianni Govoni slotted into third place with Antonio while Staut’s compatriot and partner, Penelope Leprevost, lined up fourth with the 11-year-old Ratina d’La Rousserie. With all four of the gold-medal-winning side at Jumping Verona along with Olympic team reserve and World No. 2 rider Simon Delestre, the French look like a formidable force ahead of Sunday’s feature fourth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Western European League series.
Earlier in the day in the Kask Speed event, Olivier Philippaerts and the 12-year-old Ustina Sitte set a blistering target in 56.27 seconds when fourth to go and could not be caught. “I’m very happy to start off with a win!” said the 23-year-old Belgian rider. “Because I went early I didn’t get to see anyone else, so I just had to jump my own round and force the others to try to beat me! I think I got the advantage with an inside turn at the beginning of the course”, he explained
Ustina Sitte is normally ridden by his twin brother, Nicola. “This week we decided to change horses and she is a very nice mare, very useful in 1.45m/150m classes” Olivier pointed out. He will partner another mare, the 10-year-old Legend of Love, in the World Cup qualifier however. And with a name like that, then victory in the city so closely associated with Shakespeare’s tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet would seem very appropriate indeed. “She’s been very good this year. It will be her first World Cup so we will see how she reacts, but if everything goes well I think she will do great!”, Philippaerts said.
In the Sony 1.45m Speed Stakes, Italian riders filled three of the top five places headed up by Juan Carlos Garcia in pole position. Riding Moka de Meskam, the 49-year-old rider pinned Germany’s Marcel Marschall and Cassius van de Smis into runner-up spot ahead of Gianni Govoni (Larbraker) in third.
Today’s action began with victory for Italy’s Francesca Arioldi and Loro Piana Celtic in the Stephex U25 Riders Academy 1.35m Speed in which America’s Emily Moffat lined up second with It’s Real Love vd Smis Z.