If every Grand Prix is a chance to prove yourself to the national team selectors during an Olympic year, France’s Julien Epaillard is building a compelling case for Paris 2024.
At age 44, the current world no. 5 is hot off his best season to date and by far—Epaillard won a phenomenal €2,198,599 in prize money in 2023, more than double his previous best year in 2022 (Jumpr App). Four weeks into 2024, he shows no signs of slowing down. Literally.
The flying Frenchman, arguably the fastest rider in the world at the moment, won the Anemone Horse Trucks Grand Prix of Amsterdam on Saturday—by over two and a half seconds.
Aboard the 11-year-old chestnut Dubai du Cedre (Baloubet du Rouet x Diamant de Semilly), Epaillard crossed the timers of Quintin Maertens and Louis Konickx’s short course in 34.16 seconds. His closest competitors in the 10-horse jump off weren’t close at all. Willem Greve (NED) and Pretty Woman van’t Paradijs took second in 36.57. Lars Kersten (NED) and Funky Fred Marienshof Z finished third in 37.98.
“Two weeks ago in Oliva, I rode low classes with her again. The first round was difficult for me because she was still very fresh. But in the jump-off she was great,” said Epaillard.
“The distances were easy. After the second fence I went for it. She is in top form and always does her best in the ring. For me to ride her is fantastic.”
It’s the fifth Grand Prix win for the fleet-footed pair since June 2023.
Epaillard and Selle Français mare won their first 1.60m 5* in La Baule (FRA) with the Coupe des Nations BarriEre. They collected another at the European Championships in September, and, two months later in November, won both the Longines Grand Prix in Lyon and the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix 1.65m in Praha. All told, they collected €644,859 in 2023.
Not only does this pair have the speed and scope for championship competition, they also have the consistency. In 21 1.60m appearances last year, they jumped into the top ten at a 60% clip, according to Jumpr App. Of their 13 podium finishes that year, 10 were victories.
And the Frenchman’s Olympic hopes aren’t pinned on the mare alone. Dontatell D’Auge, also 11 (Jarnac x Helle Pierville), is a higher achiever still with Epaillard in the irons. In 2023, that pair took in €1,074,482 in earnings with 11 podium finishes and eight victories (five at 1.60m). Which is to say, he’s got options and great ones at that.
In the likely event Epaillard is named to the French team for the Paris Games, it’ll be an Olympic debut of the Frenchman and just days after his 45th birthday. You know who else made their Olympic debut in their 40s? USA’s Beezie Madden (41), and it worked out golden for her.