Simon Delestre, the Frenchman ranked number seven in the world, set the crowd alight at Jumping Verona 2022 this evening with a brilliant win with Dexter Fontenis Z in the Kask Jump-Off.
A total of 14 horse/rider combinations returned for the thrilling second round in which the lead kept changing hands until Delestre took his turn.
Austria’s Gerfried Puck and Equitron Naxcel V led the way against the clock with a fault-free run in 35.95 seconds before Belgium’s Zoe Conter and Dawa de Greenbay Z overtook them when breaking the beam in 35.47. Fourth to go, the impressive Japanese partnership of Mike Kawai and Goldwin then reset the target time when crossing the finish line in 35.28 but, two horses later, Dutchman Jur Vrieling changed the leaderboard again with a super round from the big-jumping Comme-Laude W who galloped through the finish in 35.26 seconds.
Vrieling’s big smile as he left the ring suggested he was more than pleased with his result, but there were still eight left to go and plenty more excitement to come.
The home crowd greeted their own Emanuele Gaudiano and the nine-year-old mare Nikolaj de Music with a great roar when they entered the arena, but course designer Uliano Vezzani had left them plenty to do in this second round, and the fourth fence this time out – a double consisting of a vertical to oxer – was the undoing of several including the Italian who left the first element on the floor in the super-fast time of 34.43 seconds.
However the only other Italian to make the cut, Lorenzo de Luca who won this morning’s first class in fine style, sent the spectators into a frenzy when jumping clear with a beautifully balanced round from Promise Z. The nine-year-old mare was sharp and responsive every inch of the way to return a new leading time of 35.24 seconds, so now it was de Luca who had the biggest smile on his face.
However Delestre changed all that when racing home with his nine-year-old gelding Dexter in 33.81 seconds when fourth-last to go. Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and the 11-year-old mare Full Option van’t Zand put in the second-quickest round when last into the ring and stopping the clock on 34.83 which pushed de Luca down to third. But 41-year-old Delestre was clear winner by a margin of more than one second.
Verona has been a very happy hunting ground for this Frenchman for quite some time. “It’s my lucky place!”, Delestre said this evening. “I’ve won the Grand Prix twice here with Hermes Ryan, the first time in 2015 and the second in 2021. This time I’m off to a great start by winning this class. Dexter Fontenis Z (9-year-old Belgian gelding, with the Frenchman from June 2021 – ed) has already competed here last year. This year he is proving himself very competitive, he won the 3* Grand Prix in Oliva and the 4* at Valkenswaard, he is constantly improving. In the future he will be another important horse for me”, he pointed out.