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Saturday… afternoon… fever

Another great day of sport in La Baule! Ireland’s Shane Breen and Sweden’s world number 1 Henrik von Eckermann were the two big winners on the third day of the Jumping InternaBonal de La Baule – Officiel de France. The high point of the compeBBon will come on Sunday with the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule.

It illustrates the clever balance between modernity and tradition at the heart of the Jumping International de La Baule. A high point in La Baule for many decades, the Region des Pays de la Loire Derby got the thousands of spectators in the stands in the sunshine off their seats once again. With a two-minute-plus course and natural fences that are always spectacular -especially with a ford crossing- the event offers a very special flavour. This Saturday an Irish rider was once again the strongest performer. After Denis Lynch last year, Shane Breen was this year’s winner on Screen. “I love competing in Derbies because I’ve done a lot of hunting courses and that helps us to learn to ride on all kinds of terrain and under all kinds of conditions”, said Breen, ranked 55 in the world. I particularly like the La Baule course. it’s very special because the crowd cheers all the riders on. I really wanted to win this Derby because I had finished second several times”.

He was just over a second ahead of France’s Julien Gonin on Caprice de Guinfard. “I’ve been training my horse hard for several weeks”, Julien Gonin explained. “The horse jumps 5-star Grands Prix, so the height is not a problem. It’s his first Derby but I have a big park with plenty of opportunities for training. Taking part in this event is a decision I took a long time ago, and I have trained hard for it. I am very proud of my horse”. Well ahead by ten seconds at the last fence, Switzerland’s Romain Duguet’s hopes were dashed when his horse, Bel Canto de Boguin, refused at the first ford crossing, earning his rider a four- point penalty and valuable seconds. Even so, he finished third. “It’s funny, before the start I told our trainer Thomas Fuchs that my horse would have no problems with the water because as I live in Normandy I regularly train at the seaside”, said Duguet with a smile on his face. “Which just shows that you never really get to know your horses completely. Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed and frustrated, because we were well placed to win”.

The event with the second-highest prize money in the competition (after the Barrière Nations Cup), the Prix Saur went to world number 1, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann. Riding his mare Glamour Girl, he came out on top in a jump-off with 8 riders, beating a strong Grégory Cottard on Cocaïne du Val, an 11-year-old Selle Français mare, by more than one second. He had already won the Sunday Grand Prix in the Bordeaux World Cup event. Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt took the final podium place with Zineday. “After a heavy spring, we let the mare take a rest”, Henrik explained. “She shouldn’t have come to La Baule, but we saw that she was up for it so we brought her. And she won, it’s great!”. However, Von Eckermann will stick to his original plan and will ride Iliana on Sunday in the Rolex Grand Prix de la Ville de La Baule. We would also highlight the very good sixth place of Roger-Yves Bost on Delph de Denat HDC, a 10-year-old stallion.

On Sunday, the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule, with prize money of 500,000 euros, will round off this 2023 edition of the Jumping International de La Baule in great style. The 50 best riders in the competition will set out hoping to succeed Canada’s Beth Underhill, last year’s winner on Dieu Merci Van T & L. Among them, the French competitors will be out to give a strong performance in front of the home fans crowding the stands of the arena and emulate Nicolas Delmotte, the last French winner at La Baule in 2021 on Urvoso du Roch.