The first day of the 2023 edition of the ‘Jumping International de La Baule – Officiel de France’ was marked by Sweden’s Marcus Westergren’s win in the FFR Prize, the biggest event of the day in the CSIO 5* category… a very good start before the prestigious Barrière Nations Cup, the high point on Friday, with a French team determined to shine.
The François André equestrian arena of La Baule dressed up in its finest attire, as it does every year, to welcome the best showjumping riders, horses and enthusiasts to the Jumping International de La Baule. The first day’s competition started under a sunny Atlantic sky, which particularly smiled down on Sweden’s Marcus Westergren (ranked 236 in the world). He was the surprise winner of the FFE Prize (1.50 m, timed), the first qualifying event for the Grand Prix de La Baule, to be held on Sunday. Starting in 5th place, he nevertheless had to wait a long time to savour his victory. “When I started out, I just tried to do a normal round”, said the Swede. “I really did not expect to do so well, particularly because my horse is only a 9-year-old and is still inexperienced. As I was one of the early starters, the wait seemed very long. Marlon Modollo Zanotelli took it right up to the wire towards the end” (the Brazilian, ranked 10th in the world, faulted at the last fence). Well, I won in the end, I can’t believe it. I’m really surprised to have won. I am a reserve rider for the Swedish team so I will not be taking part in the Nations Cup, but I am very happy to have already qualified for the Grand Prix”.
The Swede finished ahead of Nicolas Delmotte with his BWP Ilex VP. “It’s a good way in”, the exultant Frenchman said. “Last week, we had a good Nations Cup at Saint-Gall with a clear round in the second leg. Today’s event was important because I needed to qualify for Sunday’s Grand Prix. The horse jumped really well, so I’m feeling confident about the rest of the event”.
In the morning, Julien Gonin started the day by winning the ELC Prize on Caprice de Guinfard (1.40 m, timed). In the Loire-Atlantique Region Derby (1.45 m, in two phases). Julien Épaillard on Hoover (an 11-year-old KWPN stallion) and Roger-Yves Bost with his 12-year-old mare Ballerine du Vilpion, lived up to their reputation, exciting the spectators with their first and second places. “It’s always nice to start a competition with a win”, the world number 2 said. “I had never ridden Hoover on grass and it’s encouraging to see that he feels confident right from the first day. But the hardest part is yet to come.”
Ambitious French riders in the Barrière Nations Cup
On Friday, the Coupe des Nations Barrière (starting at 13:30) will be the highlight of the day. Ten teams (Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland) will fight it out against the current titleholder Belgium; the eight best nations in the first round qualify for the second. The last time France won the Cup was in 2017, and the team is hoping that ‘La Marseillaise’ will sound out across the arena again. To make that happen, French team leader Henk Nooren has named Simon Delestre (no. 7 in the world) on Cayman Jolly Jumper as opener. The rider from Lorraine will be followed by Grégory Cottard (no. 65) on Bibici, and then 2016 Olympic Champion Kevin Staut (no. 16) on Visconti du Telman. World number 2 Julien Épaillard, riding Dubai du Cèdre, will have the responsibility of bringing up the rear. “There is always more pressure in a Nations Cup at home than in another country”, says Henk Nooren. “We are going to try another tandem with Julien and Dubai, because Donatello d’Auge (the horse he won the Grand Prix 5* in Saint Tropez on) cannot jump on grass. However, the mare has shown us some nice things over the last few weeks (10th in the Rolex Grand Prix in Rome).¡, so it’s very important for us to keep the horse in the group. We’ll do everything we can to win this Barrière Nations Cup”… and try to get the La Baule crowd off their seats.
Starting order of the Barrière Nations Cup
- Great Britain