Irish Victory on the Green Grass of Chantilly

Darragh Kenny & Balou du Reventon Darragh Kenny & Balou du Reventon Photo by © S.Rispail

31-year-old Irishman Darragh Kenny has grown accustomed to the taste of winning. This month alone he has posted atop the podium no less than four times, including two Grand Prix in Belgium. Yet, this one here in Chantilly with Balou du Reventon is undoubtedly one of the most incredible of his bourgeoning career. After his second place in the LGCT Shanghai, this first place finish was well deserved, and something the ambitious Kenny described as a “relief”. The 2019 Longines Global Champions Tour Chantilly is a show he is unlikely to ever forget.

The course, expertly designed by the Italian Uliano Vezzani, proved tricky even for world’s best. Only six riders saw through to the jump-off: one Irish, three Belgians (one of which was Nicola Phillipaerts, the defending champion), and the French Kevin Staut and Penelope Leprévost…for you can’t have one without the other!
Even so Kenny’s talent, along with that of his horses, is undeniable, he had one of the biggest disadvantage possible in a jump-off: going first in the order. It’s difficult indeed to go in without a reference time while also giving competitors an opportunity to watch his track and find places to save precious seconds.
“I knew that I had to go very quick. He’s an incredible horse, he always wants to be fast…” said the Irishmen. But he left the ring disheartened, for the line to the final oxer got a little lost in translation between him and Balou de Reventon.
“No, I wasn’t really happy with myself because I messed up the line to the last oxer. I lost a lot of time there, and I knew that if someone would catch me it would be because of this. So it’s great to win here in Chantilly and in front of everyone. My owner was here, it’s not often she gets to come so it was nice for her to see. I really like Chantilly, I knew it’s a good arena for my horse who really loves big grass tracks like the one here or at home in Dublin,” said Kenny.

Pénélope Leprévost & aboard Vancouver de Lanlore - Photo by ©S.Rispail

The home representatives too made their public proud. Second and Fourth place were French fan favourites Pénélope Leprévost aboard Vancouver de Lanlore and Kevin Staut with Urhelia Lutterbach respectively. Alexis Deroubaix also claimed a spot in the top 10 with the fastest four fault score. It’s clear the French made their return to Chantilly deserving of the crowd's admiration.
Leprévost was especially happy with Vancouver de Lanlore’s performance, “Because he did his first 5* Grand Prix here last year and a year later we are on the podium. We started out slow and then got faster and faster. I regret that I did not have enough courage to try and take out the stride before the double. Next time I will try for it!”
Rounding out the podium, it is the pair who formally held the title of this Grand Prix: Nicola Philippaerts and Chilli Willi Z. His time was to the second of the two Belgians, who too failed to catch Kenny in the end.
“I am very pleased with my horse who jumped really well and did all the three turns. There were a lot of really good riders in this class. My horse is very fast, but I lost time after the double, and I also came too wide to turn quick after the vertical. I hope to keep having these kinds of results. Chilli Willi is really comfortable on the course, and on big grass tracks in general. We just love coming here,” said Philippaerts.
Chantilly celebrated its 10th year as an iconic stop on the Longines Global Champions Tour, a true hallmark for Jumping International de Chantilly, which emits feelings best put into words by the event’s creator Gérard Manzinali: “10 years is a sacred birthday. It feels as though 10 years have passed quickly, but it also represents the completion of a cycle and the prospective future of LGCT in Chantilly. We have begun discussions and will see if we will continue this adventure together.”
It’s come full circle, but the Saturday of the 10th anniversary does not mean its the end, because tomorrow the public will return, eager to see these champions again in the Masters Groupama, and Sunday event which is “equally thrilling”.

Global Champions League: Berlin Eagles still flying above the rest
Preceding the day’s feature Grand Prix was the second round of the Longines Global Champions League. Yesterday it was the Berlin Eagles who soared to the win, and they have yet land, for they posted another two clears which secured them the team victory. The Berlin Eagles was represented by Ludger Beerbaum and his student Christian Kukuk, who were the only combination not to accrue any faults over both days. Despite the pressures of a blistering time from Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Ireland’s Bertram Allen of Valkenswaard United, the German pair gave a calm and collected performance—a true testament of their seasoned professionalism.
Ehning was aboard the 14-year-old stallion Comme Il Faut, and Allen, the 12-year-old gelding Harler Vd Bisshop. Though they were unable to claim the team title, the lighting fast rounds were good enough for first and second in the individual rankings. Surly a result Valkenswaard United could be proud of.
“We both have horses that are naturally very fast, they’re our best horses at the moment,” the young Irishman confirmed.
Indeed, the Berlin Eagles needed a clear card to win it. Understanding there was no margin for error, to ride smart and accurate was an obvious plan so intrinsically ingrained in Beerbaum in Kukuk that they needed no discussion of strategy. Their horses, too, were in agreement, as seen by the 11-year-old Cool Feeling and 12-year-old stallion Limonchello NT’s carefulness on course.
“Honestly, we never thought of chasing the time of Valkenswaard United, we were just going for two fault-free rounds,” told Ludger Beerbaum, “I admit I was a little bit lucky on the last jump. This result has us feeling positive now going forward, and we plan to continue with the second part of the season in the same way.”
“We didn’t have a real strategy,” teammate Kukuk agreed, “The only goal was to be clear. We are looking forward to competing in Berlin, at home, and hope to continue moving up in the standings…with the same team, of course, you don’t change a team that wins,” he laughed.
The second place team yesterday, the Miami Celtics, also nearly took the victory. That is until William Whitaker’s horse Cadeau de Muze decided to opt out of the last jump…much to his rider’s dismay. The refusal put the team in third place, but it still was enough to slide them into the lead in the overall Longines Global Champions League standings at the conclusion of the French tour.

Agence R&B Presse

Pascal Renauldon & Solenn Rispail 
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