Ahead of the decisive, final grand prix of the Longines Global Champions Tour season, the top riders in the world came together for the last CSI5* speed class of the weekend. The United States’ Lauren Hough took the stunning win aboard dark bay Royalty Des Isles (Zandor Z x Elan De La Cour).
“She is naturally fast,” Hough said about Willow Grace Farms’ Selle Francais mare. “Royalty Des Isles is 10, and we bought her [in October 2014] in Europe, at Henk Nooren’s.”
Early in the class, France’s Simon Delestre, riding the consistent 10-year-old, Holsteiner stallion Chesall (Casall Ask x Concerto II), set an impressive early pace, taking all the risks across the long galloping track, designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani. Delestre’s clear round in a time of 55.43 seconds laid down the gauntlet for those who followed, many of whom incurred faults whilst trying to keep up with the pace required.
The challenge for riders was to balance the need to gallop the long distances between fences while also maintaining a careful jump. It was the combination fences that seemed to be of particular significance, with the middle vertical of the triple combination and an up-to-height oxer going into the last double catching many riders out.
Delestre’s lead held until Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher rode a determined round aboard his impressive 13-year-old, Holsteiner stallion Colore (Contender x Lord), taking out strides and cutting corners to take the lead in a time of 55.30 seconds.
But Dreher’s lead didn’t last once Hough had the opportunity to attempt the course. The horse-and-rider pair set out meaning business, leaving out a stride between the first two fences, and never relented with each step. Keeping up the pace throughout, Hough claimed the lead after posting an excellent time of 54.82 seconds.