“Sh– happens,” is how Henrik von Eckermann described his rail at unlucky fence 13 in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Friday.
The defending champion was one of only three clears in the first round, setting the stage for back-to-back wins in the 22nd edition of the coveted class.
The Rolex Top 10 Final is exactly what it sounds like. The world’s top 10 go head to head over a two-round 1.60m course. World no. 7 McLain Ward (USA) sat this year’s event out, opening the door for Shane Sweetnam to compete.
Included in that elite roster were last year’s champion and reigning world no.1, Henrik von Eckermann, current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping contender, Martin Fuchs, and the individual Olympic gold medalist, Ben Maher. Plus six other phenoms.
Sweetnam set the standard. First in the ring, the Irishman delivered a flawless round aboard his great grey James Kann Cruz. And then the rails started to fall. Favorites Simon Delestre (FRA) racked up eight faults. Harrie Smolders (NED) and Max Kühner (GER) collected 12 apiece. Kent Farrington and Julien Epaillard (FRA) each leveled a fence. Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Maher, two.
It wasn’t until the fifth rider, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy, that the packed stadium saw a second clear. Last to go, last year’s winner, von Eckermann, delivered the third.
In the second round, the riders returned in reverse order of merit. Seven managed to leave all the poles in place but only one would manage the elusive double clear. Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy, third last to go, posted a speedy clear 48.13 seconds put the pressure on the remaining two. A rail at fence 13 ended von Eckermann’s hope while a pair of rails on the final line put paid to Sweetnam’s.
It’s the European Champion’s third time topping the Rolex Top 10.
“I am very excited. It is unbelievable to win this incredible class for the third time! It is truly extraordinary. I have had so much success at this amazing show, but it keeps surprising me! The crowd was amazing and the atmosphere at the CHI Geneva is exceptional; this moment means so much to me,” said Guerdat.
“This win would not be possible without my team. They really deserve this win as much as me!”
Venard de Cerisy has a 50% clear round average over 60 rounds at 1.60m, according to Jumpr App. The 14 year old, French-bred gelding has earned 30 podium finishes (16 wins) and a phenomenal €1,878,223 in prize money with Guerdat in the stirrups. On Friday they added 160k CHF more.
As one does, when you’re Steve Guerdat.