14th edition of the Saut Hermès: the triumph of Julien Anquetin in the Grand Prix Hermès

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Epic sport and a showstopping spectacle raise the roof of the Grand Palais Éphémère. At the end of a very intense class with the world’s elite riders, Frenchman Julien Anquetin secures victory in the Grand Prix Hermès with the gelding Blood Diamond Du Pont, the finest victory of his career. 32 years of age, he finishes ahead of compatriot Julien Épaillard, world No.4, considered by one and all as the fastest rider in the world, riding Donatello d’Auge. He succeeds the rider from Luxembourg, Victor Bettendorf, winner of the Grand Prix Hermès 2023. Colombian Rene Lopez Lizarazo, based in north-east France for nearly four decades, completes the podium.Today’s opening CSI 5* class saw Belgian rider Wilm Vermeir post the fastest performance in the Prix de la Ville de Paris with his mare Eytuka of Two Notes Z, ahead of German rider Philipp Schulze Topphoff and French Olympic Team champion in 2016, Philippe Rozier. The Talents Hermès, a class reserved for riders aged U25, crowned the French team represented by William Ligier de la Prade with Galilée, and Jules Orsolini with Charlotte 198. They beat Belgium and Great Britain in this class.

CSI 5*: Prix de la Ville de Paris / Class No.8: Wilm Vermeir way out in front

Once again, the Belgian anthem resonated around the Grand Palais Éphémère, the backdrop for this fourteenth edition of the Saut Hermès. In Sunday’s opening class, Wilm Vermeir was paired with Eytuka of Two Notes Z, a 9-year-old Zangersheide mare, to take the win in the Prix de la Ville de Paris, a two-phase class with jumps set at 1m50. Fifth in Friday’s Prix du Grand Palais and very quick but lamenting a fault in Saturday’s Prix GL events, this time Vermeir managed to outpace his rivals (38’’58).

The mare jumped very well during the first two days of the competition, but her rider didn’t handle her very well, joked the Belgian, world No.49. Today, she was on form once again and I managed to get up to her level. She’s a mare that has been in my stables since she was 6 years of age. She is very respectful and jumps the 1m50 classes really well. Her owner lives in Paris, so it is wonderful to win a class here.”The pair were over a second faster than the German rider Philipp Schulze Topphoff, the first to enter the ring with Oilily (39’’86). Second in Saturday’s Prix GL events with Lecoultre de Muze, Philippe Rozier, this time paired with Dirty Sweet, took third place (40’’39). 

Always very quick, Italian rider Emanuele Gaudiano might well have snatched victory (37’’34) had he not copped a penalty on the final fence of the course designed by the Spaniard Santiago Varela Ullastres.

Les Talents Hermès / Class No.9: France’s young talent light up the Grand Palais Éphémère

A Nations Cup spirit permeated the Grand Palais Éphémère for the third Talents Hermès class contested in teams in two rounds with jumps set at 1m45 (the cumulative scores from the two rounds for each rider being added to the times of the second round to separate those tied on points). With William Ligier de la Prade on Galilée, Friday’s winner of the first class of this competition for the U25 riders, and Jules Orsolini on Charlotte 198, France topped the leader board for the third time in this unmissable class at the Saut Hermès.

At the end of the first round, two teams, Belgium and France, were tied without a single penalty point. In the second, following a clear round by the first two riders from each nation, a fault by Jules van Hoydonck opened the door to the French team and handed Jules Orsolini a match point. The 20-year-old rider, with his mare Charlotte 198 having already carried him to the European Young Rider Championships, managed to step up to the plate despite a huge scare at the final fence, with a plank shaking hard before miraculously balancing itself on its wedges again.

I was a bit lucky on the last fence, but it’s great to be in front of a home crowd, said a joyful Orsolini. I was fairly calm. I knew what I had to do and we did it! William and I have competed in several Nations Cups together and we know each other well. With my mare, we’ve gradually stepped up our game, starting with the 130 through to today’s CSI 3* and 4*.” His teammate was equally pleased. “Winning as a team has a special flavour to it, explains Ligier de la Prade, 19. I trust Jules but watching his course was very stressful. More so than when I’m in the ring in fact! Jules is really good in these situations. When we need a clear round, he pulls it off most regularly. It’s been an incredible weekend for me with Friday’s victory, a clear round yesterday and then this success to cap it off. My mare has been fantastic for three days.” The French riders succeed Sweden and finish ahead of Belgium and Great Britain.

The individual who posted the best performance was Argentinean rider Matias Larocca with a double clear round and the fastest time.

CSI 5*: Grand Prix Hermès / Class No.10: Julien Anquetin treats himself to the finest success of his career

The statue of the French general Maréchal Joffre situated in front of the Military Academy at the entrance to the Grand Palais Éphémère, doubtless appreciated the showstopping spectacle. The grand finale of the fourteenth edition of the Saut Hermès, the Grand Prix Hermès saw French rider Julien Anquetin take the crown after an incredible jump-off with his 13-year-old French Saddle gelding Blood Diamond du Pont.

Third to enter the arena in the nine-way jump-off, the Frenchman gave the crowd a lesson in management and crossed the line in 34’’64. Impressive. However, the win was certainly not in the bag at that point given the rivals lined up to take their chances, starting with Julien Épaillard, considered to be the fastest rider in the world, who had purposely held Donatello d’Auge back for this Grand Prix.

The Frenchman, world No.4 and bronze medallist at the last European Championships, also went all out with his risk-taking in each of his trajectories. However, the clock finally stopped at 34’’92, just 28 hundredths of a second behind his compatriot and friend. World No.1, Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann then committed one fault with Iliana. Solely the Colombian rider René Lopez Lizarazo with Kheros van’t Hoogeinde, managed to come close as he completed his jump-off in 35’’96. This time the podium was definitive.

Two French riders on the two top steps of the podium and, on the third, the most French of Colombians, the latter having settled in Lorraine in north-eastern France nearly 40 years ago. 

“It’s the finest victory of my career, admits Julien Anquetin (world No.72), aged 32. I’m on cloud nine. I’m struggling to get my head round it. I’ve already won a Grand Prix in a CSI 5* class (La Coruña in 2023) but winning here in France is unbelievable. In the jump-off, I think my U-turn was the finest of my entire career. I was happy when Julien Épaillard also qualified for the jump-off as I was very motivated by the idea of pitting myself against the fastest rider in the world. I said to myself that we would be able to have some fun! It was a great challenge. I knew I’d been quick in the jump-off but it was very stressful to watch the others. My horse has been incredible once again. This horse competed in his first international competitions with me. This victory is quite the accomplishment.”

There is certainly no disappointment in coming second today though. “I’m honestly very happy for Julien and I’m delighted to be where I am, confesses Julien Épaillard. I’ve had a slightly unlucky weekend with 4 penalty points on three occasions, so it’s a nice end to the competition. In the jump-off, I tried to save some time at the start but my U-turn was not exceptional. At the last fence, I may well have lacked a little boldness too. I wasn’t daring enough to try it with one less stride. There’s no use going back over it though. Julien was the best. And it’s great to see that there are some youngsters pushing us along.” 

Really going on the offensive, Rene Lopez thrilled the public from the first round and his third place has given him back his smile after a fall on Friday in the first class. “I’m very happy… even if first place is best, smiles Rene Lopez. I had the horse to take the win and I was so keen to achieve that but the start of my jump-off proved tricky. It’s a good result for the horse who has linked together a series of clear rounds. His owner Mr Bertrand Darier has trusted in me for a number of years so I’m also pleased for him. I’m thrilled.”

In the first act, a complicated home straight, which notably included a set of double fences, caused numerous faults among the fifty riders, as was the case for individual Olympic champions Ben Maher (world No.2) and Steve Guerdat (world No.3), both Hermès partner riders. The final upright also dashed the hopes of several renowned riders, who had posted a clear round right to the last, including the French Olympic champions Philippe Rozier and Kevin Staut, the French champion Edward Levy, as well as German rider Daniel Deusser.

The allotted time (63 seconds) set by Spanish course designer Santiago Varela Ullastres, assisted by Frenchman Grégory Bodo, also prevented Belgian riders Pieter Devos and Jérôme Guéry, Hermès partner rider, and Julien Gonin, from posting clear rounds. “The home straight caused a lot of faults, but that was also down to the fact that it rounded off a course, which had already called for some very different levels of exertion in the first section, explains the course designer. We’ve had a very fine Grand Prix. We built the course, but the credit has to go to the riders who put on a fantastic show.”

Saut Hermes press release (c) | Photo 1: Class N°10 – Grand Prix Hermès CSI 5 – Prize giving Julien Anquetin – SUNDAY 17TH MARCH 2024 – COPYRIGHT CHRISTOPHE TANIÈRE

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