CHI Geneva: Martin Fuchs’ first victory in a Major
This Sunday, December 15, the Palexpo audience was able to experience one of the most beautiful Grand Prix’s in the history of the CHI Geneva. On paper, it was difficult to find a favorite among the 40 participants in such a high-level line-up. Over Gérard Lachat and Louis Koninckx’s tricky course, 11 combinations found the key to the jump-off.
Starting in second place, Jérôme Guery set the pace. With his incredible Quel Homme du Hus (Quidam de Revel), who’s present at all the major events, the Belgian rider set an excellent time and, in the end, they secured third place. "Quel Homme is really incredible," he said after the awards ceremony. He makes our lives a dream. In addition, it's a great story of friendship: us three owners are friends and we’ve had some intense moments. And I don’t think it's over yet. He won a gold medal in Europe, he won a stage on the Global Champions Tour, he did well in the Aachen Grand Prix, where he missed the podium because he slipped on a turn. And here in Geneva, which was really our goal for the indoor season, he’s still on the podium. Gaëtan Decroix deserves it, he has lived through some difficult times and now life is being generous to us. So we’ll enjoy every moment. We’ll live each day without worrying about the future and the horse is giving it all back to us. I can't wait for next season."
"I’m grateful to the CHI Geneva organizers and to my Chef d’équipe, who gave me the chance to come up here," added Jérôme Guery. It wasn’t easy to get selected, because there are a lot of good riders in Belgium, I had to insist, and I got my ticket at the last minute. It's a course that suits my horse well. However, I don't know where I could have saved time while leaving the rails up. I went as fast as I could."
"For the rest of the program, Quel Homme will go to Oliva to enjoy the sea and have a few short rides. Then, we’ll focus on the outdoor season, because he’s a horse that’s built for large courses. So next year, we’ll start in Doha or Mexico City, then Aachen and of course we hope that we’ll get to go to the Olympic Games. And I would really like to do Spruce Meadows too. Therefore, Quel Homme’s stallion career will be put on hold. We're not going to do any more breeding swabs until the Olympics." While the Belgians were in good shape, with three riders, the Swiss and the Irish weren’t to be outdone, with three riders also qualified for the jump-off.
Michael Pender caused a sensation at the CHI Geneva by taking second place in Thursday's big event and qualifying for the jump-off in the Rolex GP.
Among the Irish, Darragh Kenny and Balou de Reventon (Cornet Obolensky) came in 9th place, having been penalized by 4 faults in the jump-off. Mark McAuley, came in 10th place with Vivaldi du Theil (Quaprice Bois Margot) and the young (19 years old) Michael Pender, a member of the Young Riders Academy who had already placed 2nd on Thursday evening, came in 11th place in this Grand Prix with HHS Burnchurch (Heritage Fortunus).
Of the Swiss riders, Bryan Balsiger turned in a good performance with his faithful mount Clouzot de Lassus (Ugano Sitte). His double clear round allowed him to secure 6th place, under the emotional gaze of his father who couldn’t hold back a few tears. The young Neuchâtel native is progressively becoming known as a new equestrian star, and in light of the Olympic season, that’s a good omen!
Martin Fuchs had announced it: the Geneva Grand Prix was his goal and even if the Majors of the Grand Slam didn’t prove successful so far, "my luck has turned today", acknowledged the winner. Martin Fuchs has therefore triggered his opportunity to win the Rolex Grand Slam.
The Thurgau native, who didn’t have a very cooperative Clooney during the first round having to settle him before the Rolex triple combination, is a true judge of the course, even with a tricky fence at the exit, and found his horse available and confident for the jump-off. "I made a few mistakes with Clooney at the Geneva Grand Prix last year, but today everything went well. This is my first Rolex Grand Slam victory, which brings together the 4 best competitions in the world. Everyone wants to win these events and it's always a long journey to win such a Grand Prix. This year, I really focused on this event. I’d done two small rounds before to give Clooney confidence. And he was phenomenal today! He's 13 years old and we’ve grown up together." On January 1st, the Swiss prodigy may well wear the World No. 1 armband.
About the rivalry with Steve Guerdat, he answers humorously: "I no longer have my own home ground, since the Zurich competition no longer exists, so Steve has to share his home ground in Geneva! No, there's no rivalry, everyone knows we're friends. He trains with my father and I train at his facilities at least once a week. I don't know if I'm going to be No. 1 in January, but it's obviously an objective, and if it's not this month, it’ll be next month or maybe next year, but I think it’ll come. I’m grateful for my string of horses which allow me to experience such moments."
"The Grand Slam is next year’s goal. Until then, Clooney will have a two-month break. Then he’ll have a little competition to prepare for Den Bosch." Martin Fuchs, who was already the World Reserve Champion in 2018, and 2nd in the World Cup Final this year, and European Champion, edges a little closer, at just 27 years old, into the realm of equestrian legends.
The Palexpo public held its breath when Scott Brash went clear in an ultra-fast jump-off round, stopping the clock just 5 hundredths of a second after Martin Fuchs'. A second place for the Brit who had bet on Hello Senator (Carambole) for the Grand Prix. The only rider in history to have won the Grand Slam, who bid farewell to his Champion mount, Hello Sanctos (Quasimodo Van De Molendreef), the day before, proved in this Grand Prix that he has rebuilt a strong string of horses and that Sanctos' successor is in there. "I lost time in the last corner. I had planned to do it in 11 strides and had to put in a 12th before the white oxer. That's when I lost those few hundredths of a second," said the Scotsman simply.
The first 4 were all within a second of each other. Brazilian Marlon Modolo Zanotelli came in 4th place with VDL Edgar (Arezzo VDL).
2nd in this Grand Prix last year behind Kent Farrington - who this time retired after dropping two rails with Gazelle (Kashmir van Schuttershof) - Steve Guerdat took 5th place with Albführen's Bianca (Balou du Rouet) just over a second behind Martin Fuchs. It must be noted that the demonstrative daughter of Balou du Rouet is wasting time over the obstacles.
Pieter Devos would have cut the time down even more, but for his four faults at the ultimate obstacle which deprived the Belgian rider of another victory in a Major, having won the Spruce Meadows Grand Prix in 2013. With Espoir (Sucouf de Revel), he took 8th place.
With a packed venue, tickets sold out since the beginning of the week, and more than 43,000 spectators over the four days, the CHI Geneva has once again proven that its title as the best competition in the world, which was awarded by L’Année Hippique, is deserved. And to conclude with Martin Fuchs victory, who shared his sincere and contagious joy with the audience, can only signal that this 59th edition was a success! A great champion for a great competition!
Luigi Baleri, Clooney’s owner, alongside Ruth Krech, owner of Prêt-à-Tout, winner of the Rolex GP in 2018.