Steve Guerdat (SUI) and the bay mare Bianca began competing internationally in June 2015.
In the nearly three years since, they’ve finished top ten in two World Cup Finals, earned a team bronze at the European Championships and posted an enviably consistent five-star record that includes top five finishes at Lyon, Lausanne, Geneva, Rotterdam, and St Gallen in 2017 alone.
What they haven’t done is win a five start Grand Prix. Until today.
The Swiss rider and his Swedish Warmblood counterpart captured their first ever five star victory with the Rolex Grand Prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in the UK on Sunday. It’s a moment that seems as inevitable as it was thrilling.
“As amazing as she jumps, this is our first win together,” divulged the Olympic gold medalist, “that’s why I’m actually really pleased for the mare because I think the class she shows every week, she really deserves a five star win. I’m very pleased for that.”
A field of 30 contested the Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater designed 1.60m course, of which ten jumped clear to qualify for the jump off.
Third last to go, Guerdat and the 12-year old mare sped around the twisting course, knocking four tenths of a second off the leading time set by USA’s Laura Kraut and her mount of three weeks, Catwalk 22.
Peder Fredricson (SWE) and Hansson WL attempted to catch their time of 43.11 seconds, but caught a rail instead.
It all came down to Canada’s Eric Lamaze (CAN) and his Olympic individual bronze medal winning partner Fine Lady 5. With a lightening quick time of 41.82 seconds they had the win in their grasps until heart-breaking rail at the last, sealing the victory for Guerdat.
“To be honest, I had a really good feeling with my mare, Bianca,” said Guerdat of heading into this weekend’s Grand Prix, the mare’s first competition since the World Cup Finals in April.
“She’s feeling really good. She’s always jumped really good. But I feel like that I’m getting closer and closer. She’s a little bit green. She’s 12 but she’s still lacking a bit experience.”
The two-time World Cup champion confirmed he’s aiming the feisty mare at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon this summer.
Kraut settled for second, but was delighted with her horse, saying “This was his first ever five-star class so I’m more than happy with him!”
Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano and Caspar 232 took third with a faultless ride in a time of 44.31 seconds.