Ireland’s Denis Lynch produced a stunning performance from the 16-year-old GC Chopin’s Bushi to win the Selleria Equipe Winning Round competition at Jumping Verona 2022 this afternoon. The world-class field of 46 runners was whittled down to just the 11 that went clear first time out to decide the result, and it turned into a gripping battle of champions in the breathtaking second-round jump-off.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani’s clever first-round track included three doubles, and one of those was still in place second time out. Riders started in reverse order-of-merit based on their time in the first round and jump-off pathfinders, Italy’s Michol del Signore and the uniquely-marked nine-year-old gelding Irish Coffee, faulted at the first element of the double to set the scene in 40.37 seconds. However that time was already bettered by Japan’s Mike Kawai and Saxo de la Cour who also left one on the floor in 39.70 seconds before Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Solid Gold Z set off.
The four-time Olympian and 2011 FEI World Cup champion looked to be setting an impossible target after clearing the penultimate vertical well up on the clock. But losing his line to the final oxer for just a fleeting moment the pair were unbalanced to the last and left it on the floor in the super-fast time of 35.51. No-one else would come close to that.
Fifth to go, Dutchman Harrie Smolders took the lead when posting the first clear with the 10-year-old stallion Uricas v/d Kattevennen who galloped through the timers in 37.26 seconds. And when fellow-countryman Jur Vrieling brought the Comme Il Faut 12-year-old, Comme-Laude W, through the finish almost a quarter of a second quicker after a superb turn to the tricky penultimate vertical only to fall victim to the final fence for four faults then Smolders was still out in front.
Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Double Jeu d’Honvault made no mistake, the nine-year-old Kannan stallion looking very assured as he cleared the line in 37.58 seconds for temporary second place. So when that penultimate vertical also put paid to the chances of Austria’s Max Kuhner and Vancouver Dreams and Frenchman Simon Delestre who seemed destined to overtake the leader with an electrifyingly fast run with Iniesta V, then there were only two left to go. And they were both Irishmen.
Lynch’s Contendro ll gelding seemed a little reluctant when he re-entered the ring and as the 46-year-old rider, who was a member of the gold-medal-winning Irish team at the 2017 European Championship, set off he almost looked like he was being a little cautious. But he wasn’t.
When Chopin’s Bushi landed after the second-last it was clear the pair were way up on time and when they cleared the last with one more giant leap from the big-striding horse the clock showed 37.05, almost a quarter of a second quicker than Smolders who had to settle for second ahead of Guerdat in third when the final partnership of Mark McAuley and GRS Lady Amaro collected four faults.
Lynch was delighted with his win, especially at a fixture he really enjoys. “Verona is a fantastic event”, he said. “There is a great atmosphere and it is a pleasure and an honour to compete here. The public is enthusiastic, they follow every rider and every horse with great passion and this was a great competition today. In the deciding round I had a good starting spot and the performance of Bushi, who is a particularly experienced horse, was really brilliant!”, he added.