The Rozier family in Lausanne
The weather was not kind to the five-star riders. After a beautiful day, it started to rain just as the first rider entered the arena, and only intensified with each round, ending, despite this being longest day of the year, in darkness. Fortunately, a let-up in the rain arrived just in time for the jump-off, which was enough to motivate the riders to go back into battle.
Among them, let’s note the great performance of the promising young stallion of the Levallois family, Andiamo Sémilly (Diamant de Sémilly x Muguet du Manoir) under the saddle of Pénélope Leprévost since the beginning of the season, who continues his progress in a very encouraging way despite a fault during the jump-off.
It was a jump-off with a lot of mistakes. Ramzi al Duhami set the fastest time of the race with High Quality (Quadrillo), while Alexandra Paillot, who had taken a tumble when her horse shied at the start music in the first round, also made a very fast lap with her experienced Polias de Blondel (Desir du Chateau), but one fault relegated them further down the ranking.
Before them, however, one man had already scored high: Philippe Rozier came out on Rahotep de Toscane for the first time in a five-star CSI for nearly two years, and his grey stallion gave him complete satisfaction with a magnificent jump-off in 40''94.
Behind him was his younger brother Thierry Rozier, who with due reverence for fraternal seniority lagged his brother by 30 hundredths on his fantastic Venezia d'Ecaussinnes (Kashmir van't Schuttershof) to complete a first family double at this level!
Behind the Rozier boys were two two Swiss rider, Alain Juffer on Cornet MM (Cornet Obolensky) and the young Swiss promise Bryan Balsiger, this time on AK's Courage (Chepetto C).
For an owner, the return of his protégé is obviously a relief and an immense joy, but Christian Baillet preferred to remain very cautious: "Honestly, I didn't think he could win such an event again. Maybe with one or two more months, but right now... However, what is important to me is not the victory, it is the way he jumped. Today, he jumped like a great horse, a real horse! We see him the same as he was two years ago. We knew that the physical problems were solved, but that's not why a horse becomes what he used to be! It's not finished yet, but it's a good green light. Today, rediscovering the horse we knew is wonderful, but we remained very careful, we gave him time until we were 100% sure! We've got a little reward for that today."
"It's a victory with a lot of emotion to start with,” said Philippe Rozier. “It's the end of a year and a half of trouble. The horse had posterior tendonitis, we had to wait and it took a long time. We tried him out, and then we stopped again, and waited a long time more. I had to go to Sopot but I told Thierry Pommel that I didn't feel he was ready enough yet and I think it was the right decision; the horse has repaid me well. In Saint Tropez, he was already jumping well and I think he moves a notch higher with each course. I really felt some good things and it is certain that I will not take any risks with this horse. It's funny because when I got out of the first round, my groom said to me, ‘Aren't we doing the jump-off?’ and I told her that we were, because I felt he wanted to. I know him by heart. We asked ourselves the question for two minutes to work out if we were only keeping him for the Grand Prix on Sunday, and then it's difficult to explain because these are feelings between you and the horse, but he is a warrior and we had to have a go... even if it’s not to win yet. There were a lot of good people but it's clearly a victory unlike any other today. It is a victory over time because I gave my horse time to heal and today, he repaid me beautifully. Of course, during this long absence, we had doubts. He is a 14-year-old horse who has given a lot and it's like people, you can't control desire. The day I don't want to, I'll stop! But with him, it's all the more difficult because at home and even in the paddock, he doesn't run at all. Only on the track can we know where he stands. If I listened to him at home, he wouldn't be here today because he's the king of laziness. All he wants to do is go galloping in the Fontainebleau forest and grab the branches as he goes. That's his thing and I know it! He just loves to play dumb all the time. Since I rode him when he was a five-year-old, he's been like that. Once he's on the track, that's where it happens. He's really a horse you have to know by heart. He has codes, he’s atypical and that's what makes him so charming. He is very attentive to what I ask him and I have to be very focused because he is not, then he is like a spoiled child to whom you always have to say what you can and can't do... knowing that he will always push boundaries one way or the other. You really have to interpret him and when the lights are all green like today, I can ask him what I want. Today, my idea with him was just to see if he was good enough to do the Grand Prix on Sunday, otherwise, Cristallo A would have run... but I think after today, the answer is clear. That's the big advantage of having two Grand Prix horses. I am really very lucky to be able to count on Cristallo, whom the Laiterie de Montaigu has entrusted to me and who is there to protect Rahotep. So, I will be running the Speed Challenge tomorrow with Cristallo, who has the real ability to do well. Yesterday, I even had a better feeling with Cristallo than with Rahotep, to be honest. The icing on the cake is obviously my brother's second place. It's a beautiful story in every sense of the word," said Philippe Rozier.
"I was very hesitant to go back into that jump-off because it was starting to get really dark, then there was a bright spell for the event itself. It was more pleasant to ride, it wasn't raining anymore, so I thought "Okay, let's go!" I'm really happy I did, because she jumped beautifully. It's all the more fun because it's special here because I've been working on big tracks in recent weeks and we came here to an indoor-style track. But my mare is fantastic because she has this ability to adapt directly to that and then at some point, if you have ambitions, you also have to test your mettle and not hide, and the constraints of the weather just have to be dealt with! I am very happy we did it, and I am delighted for my brother because for him, it has been a pain for a long time and the horse jumped magnificently. I watched his journey on the screen as I warmed up. I am a competitor at heart and I would have preferred to beat him, but it is a beautiful podium. It is true that people have always said that I was not selfish enough and that kind of thing to explain why I was not competitive enough, but in the end, even if I am disappointed, we must put things in perspective. He's my brother, I'm happy and it's Rahotep, I'm delighted! The script is beautiful and if we can rewrite it tomorrow or Sunday, we will rewrite it. Now, however, I am more of a competitor than I was. Today, the difficulty of the daylight and the track makes this victory truly deserved for Philippe. It took a good horse to get out today and I think both Rahotep and my mount deserved their places. It's funny, because with this rain, I didn't really follow the event properly.
I went to the boxes to take shelter. Penelope Leprévost gave me some updates, I knew there were 10 jump-offs but I didn't know who... and I discovered Philippe when I arrived at the paddock! I just got off the phone with my father and told him the news, he was obviously delighted! I am happy to see Venezia because she is in incredible shape. After La Baule, I decided to give her three weeks off but three weeks for horses like that is a long time... but it was my choice. Here, despite the two mistakes in yesterday's race, I came off the track smiling and immediately told my groom ‘I love her, she's great.’ The icing on the cake is that today was also the 125th anniversary of the Olympic Committee and they were present at the competition! It is an honor to have shaken hands with IOC President Thomas Bach. And I told him so, because seeing these people come to watch our sport is great and I think they were happy with the show we gave them, and that's still a little something extra! We also have to defend our product and it really is an honor to see the IOC President, too."