The Arena Grandes Écuries was back to its old glory with packed stands, loges and people gathered all around only to witness Nicolas Demotte's triumph in the Rolex Grand Prix of the Masters of Chantilly. An ideal scenario for the rider from the North of France as he is about to fly off to the Olympic Games where the atmosphere will not be the same as in Chantilly.
This first edition – or number zero as its initiator Christophe Ameeuw calls it - was a real success on all levels: "I don't have the words to describe what I feel. The spectators, the exhibitors and the riders came back and gave life to this event again. I'm looking forward to next year, as I've already made notes on what we're going to improve to make this Masters the one competition not the be missed, worthy of this majestic site and the Capital of the Horse, Chantilly.”
For the riders, the Masters of Chantilly is already an extraordinary event, according to the words of the European Champion, Swiss rider Martin Fuchs, second in the Rolex Grand Prix: "In a season, we do a lot of CSI5*, but it is for this kind of competition that we work and we prepare our horses; to be in this kind of atmosphere, with this kind of audience and in a setting such as this one.
The Rolex Grand Prix was the high point of this first Masters of Chantilly: a beautiful class with a beautiful course where the priority was the horses’ welfare. There were some faults, but all of them light, some disappointing though, like the one of Steve Guerdat and Victorio des Frotards. Thirteen protagonists were left for the jump-off, including some couples leaving for Tokyo in a few days.
Among them, the winner, Nicolas Delmotte who started in second position in this jump-off with his Olympic horse Urvoso du Roch: "As we leave for Tokyo in a few days, I didn't want to take too much risks, but I still wanted to win. I could have gone faster, some did, but they all had one down, my choice was the right one in the end and I am very proud of my horse." With 42"30, he put enough pressure on his opponents to push them to the limit, giving him, one month after La Baule, a second 5* Grand Prix victory. A success that boosts his confidence just before the Games: "It's true that I've been 300% motivated for a little while now. My horse is in extraordinary shape. After La Baule, he had a week's rest and after two small courses in Grimaud, he was at his best here in Chantilly. But despite these victories, you have to keep your feet firmly on the ground. I always say that on Monday when you get back to the stables you start again from scratch. You have to try to not put more pressure than necessary on yourself, but I do think a lot about the Games and I need to stay focused.”
Martin Fuchs did not give in to the pressure put on by Nicolas Delmotte. He tried to be faster, but did not succeed: he missed out on 36 hundredths: "Second place is still great, my horse Leone Jei is only 9 years old and has very little experience in 5* jump-offs. He has a huge stride, I even took a stride off to go on the last one, but it wasn't enough.” The two opponents will meet again in Japan. “But this time I’ll take Clooney who is much faster!”, adds the Swiss rider with a smile.
French rider Marie Demonte was a bit of a surprise guest on the podium, but what a beautiful moment for her and Vega de La Roche who came in third behind two Olympic riders: "Yes, it's magnificent even if in the moment, when you are fully concentrated, you don't really realise what is happening to you. I think I will savour this moment tomorrow and then, as Nicolas says, on Thursday you go back on the course and it starts all over again. This third place is really the icing on the cake of a weekend that went perfectly. Vega had already achieved a clear round in a 5* Grand Prix in Grimaud and finished ninth with one fault. This third place is the best performance of my career, especially in this sublime setting, but I still have a lot of objectives in mind because at the moment I have a string of three very good horses.”
Another beautiful story has been written here at this "number zero" of the Masters of Chantilly. Could it get any better? Yes, says Christophe Ameeuw, who has his eyes and his mind on the next edition.