Tops-Alexander Triumphs in Saut Hermès CSI 5* Grand Prix at Gorgeous Grand Palais
The Grand Palais, one of Paris’ great landmarks, is used to hosting high-end fashion shows and prestigious art exhibitions. But this weekend, instead of Picasso and Matisse, Chanel and Armani, the focus was on names like Tops-Alexander and Leprevost, Allen and Beerbaum — world-class riders assembled for the Saut Hermès Show Jumping CSI 5* competition under the building’s iconic glass roof.
The marquee event of the weekend at Saut Hermès was Sunday afternoon’s 1.60m, €400,000 Grand Prix. As the sound of horse whinnies echoed through the hall and the smell of hay wafted through the crowd, 47 pairs entered one after another on the 13-obstacle course. Only three would go clear, knocking down no rails or poles and advancing to the jump-off round. In other words, this was a challenge at the highest level of the sport.
Among those who almost made it to the jump-off was Great Britain’s John Whitaker, who came in 6th place on Ornellaia with only four faults. The veteran rider’s impressive result earned him €18,000. In contrast, Whitaker’s younger brother Michael on JB´s Hot Stuff was one of many to retire after several problems on the course. The same fate befell Louise Saywell on Cordalis 7 and Canadian up-and-comer Ben Asselin on Veyron.
Faring better was Ireland’s Denis Lynch, who finished in 67.83 seconds with just 8 faults. Lynch will now be heading across the Atlantic to the Longines FEI World Cup in Omaha, Nebraska, which starts at the end of the month.
And while Lynch did not end up on the podium in Paris, his compatriot Bertram Allen did. Riding Molly Malone V, the young phenom from Wexford went all-out for the victory in the jump-off in a blistering time of 39.20 seconds, but incurred 4 faults after knocking down an obstacle. Allen’s pay cheque for the afternoon: €60,000.
Slightly slower (41.44) but faultless in front of a home public which held its breath and then roared as she sailed over the last jump was France’s Penelope Leprevost on her bay stallion Vagabond de la Pomme. But Leprevost’s stellar result — worth €80,000 beyond the prestige of the second place in and of itself — was topped for the victory by a fellow female rider.
That winner was Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia, who on California also replicated her clear first round but crossed the finish line in 41.36. In this case, the old adage ‘time is money’ proved to be very true, as Tops-Alexander’s few fractions of a second advantage over Leprevost translated into a staggering payout of €132,000.