Britain’s Nick Skelton and Carlo won the Grand Prix of La Baule at the weekend, beating 48 other riders for the lion’s share of €200,000 in prize money.
The first rider in the arena, the Netherlands’ Leon Thijssen, went clear, followed by Poland’s Igor Kawiak and Neufdecoeur Tardonne, and Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) and Allerdings shortly after.
Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze (CAN), the winner last year with Hickstead, also qualified for the jump-off with Derly Chin de Muze, as did Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Nasa, Grégory Wathelet (BEL) and Euphony Cadjanine Z, Ben Maher (GBR) and Tripple X, Jens Fredricson (SWE) and Lunatic.
Pius Schwizer (SUI) and Carlina IV, and Current World Champion Philippe Le Jeune (BEL) and Vigo d’Arsouilles,obtained their place in the jump-off. Ireland’s Niall Talbot was the last rider to jump clear with Nicos de la Cense.
But not all the riders competing in the class were successful on the course designed by Frédéric Cottier, starting with those representing France. Kevin Staut and Nangaye de Kergane got off to a good start, but with one down on the last obstacle, his hopes of a place on the podium were dashed. Pénélope Leprevost and Topinambour experienced the same misfortune. As a result, none of the French combinations went through to the jump-off. A
Only six of the 12 in the jump-off went clear, and it was Skelton with his energetic Carlo 273 who were fastest to take the win. Belgium’s Philippe Le Jeune was second with Vigo d’Arsouilles STX, ahead of Ben Maher (GB) and Tripple X. Less than half a second separated the top three.
Skelton seemed to have an eye on the clock all the way around the course. Putting his foot on the accelerator once he felt confident a clear was in his grasp, he managed to open up a lead of just over a second that proved impossible to beat.
“I was lucky to have a late draw so that I could watch some of the other riders go first and it goes without saying that I’m delighted to have won the Grand Prix,” Skelton said.
“I watched Philippe Le Jeune’s round and I followed in his footsteps, until I reached the vertical and then I stepped up the pace.
“My sights are naturally on the Olympics but I don’t want to put myself under that sort of pressure at the moment, we are just taking it week by week and it’s definitely fair to say that I’m in the extremely fortunate position of having two exceptional horses in both Carlo and Big Star.”
• French rider Simon Delestre scored for the home side on Saturday in the €23,000 Table A competition on Saturday, winning with Whisper Zimequest. Britain’s Peter Charles was second with Murka’s Nevada and Ireland’s Shane Sweetman (Cyklon 1083) pipped Germany’s Thomas Voss (Carena) for third.