Max Kühner, Darragh Kenny and Olivier Philippaerts made it the same back-to-back podiums in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco, after a spectacular performance of top sport.
Securing his first-ever LGCT Grand Prix win Max Kühner managed to do one better than last year to land on top of the podium with the same horse EIC Coriolis des Isles. Darragh Kenny had to settle for second place this year with Volnay du Boisdeville finishing 0.3s behind Max in the two man jump-off. While Olivier Philippaerts stood in bronze position again after just two time faults in the first round with H&M Miro.
Speaking after his win Kühner told GCTV: “It was really important for me to catch Darragh this year because last year I was in the lead but he was just a bit faster than me so this year I really had the mission to beat him. Monaco is a very specific place it is small and tiny but my horse really likes it and he is flying with the incredible atmosphere here. You can feel all the spectators and it is special.”
Kühner’s win means he is the latest addition to the GC Prague Playoffs, with a ticket to the elite line-up in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix which will take place in Prague this November. When asked if he was expecting to win the golden ticket Max commented: “In this sport, we don’t expect things we fight for it and of course, the golden ticket is something all the other riders are also fighting for and I am very happy to have it now.”
Under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, the 10th leg of the Championship race is a long-standing and popular stop on the calendar, with illustrious names listed on the winner's roster over the years. Crowds lined the edge of the arena, including passionate fans of the sport and new visitors who had never witnessed show jumping before but were delighted to see the world’s top riders and horses in such a breathtaking venue.
Although there are no changes in the top two positions of the overall season ranking with Christian Ahlmann still leading on 210 points and Ben Maher in second with a tally of 182 points there has been a big shuffle down the order. Pieter Devos jumps up to third on 158 points and Darragh Kenny claims fourth place for now with 153 points.
Members of Royal Families and VIP’s took their seats for a feast of top show jumping with ringside views allowing everyone to be absorb the highest level of show jumping. With 34 riders qualified for the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco the stage was set for a thrilling climax to the 10th event of the season. There were plenty of distractions and challenges throughout Uliano Vizzani’s course as the first round delivered upsets for some and only two riders managed to book their place in the jump-off. A fashionable crowd were on parade along the red carpet lining the port side, with spectators pressed against the ringside to watch the stars of show jumping in action.
The dazzling evening of top sport didn’t disappoint under floodlights at the incredible showground nestled alongside Monaco’s famous port beneath the Prince’s Palace. HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Charlotte Casiraghi watched from the Royal Hospitality as the first riders navigated the exceedingly technical course in the compact sand arena.
Although there were many combinations managing to come home on just 4 faults at the halfway point it was looking like it might be a jump-off with riders on 4 faults. It all changed when Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Miro, off the back of a spectacular win for the Stockholm Hearts in GCL, managed to keep all the fences up but an agonising 2 time faults on the board.
There was bitter disappointment for Olivier as Darragh Kenny and Max Kühner jumped clear to make it a jump-off and mean Olivier was not going to better his position from last year.
Olivier Philippaerts spoke to GCTV saying: “It is crazy that the podium is basically the same as last year. It is very very cool to see that but I have changed horses since last year but it looks like all three of us like this show. Obviously, two time faults was never going to be enough for the win. The only one to blame today was me. The horse did everything he had to do and I was just way too slow. Everything makes Monaco so special that is why it is so tough."
First to take on the tough jump-off course were Darragh Kenny and Volnay du Boisdeville. They kept it tight but didn’t risk it all leaving all the fences up in a time of 35.70s. Kenny shook his head as he walked out of the arena knowing he left the door open slightly for Max to beat him.
Darragh Kenny smiled: “2nd seems to be my position and it’s not exactly where I would like to be. But I have to say Volnay jumped unbelievable today. He has been a great horse for me since I took him over from Teddy Vlock. I was a little slow in the jump-off and that is where I lost it. I definitely knew I left the door open, I did one more stride to the vertical then I would have liked and then I was a little slow to the last and I knew I was behind today and Max made it happen. I knew when I came out the ring he could beat me and that’s not an enjoyable feeling but we will just keep fighting and trying to get that golden ticket.”
The crowd erupted in cheers as Max Kühner and EIC Coriolis des Isles took a brilliantly calculated round, keeping a consistent rhythm but letting the chestnut stallion travel to the fences. The pair looked slower at the halfway point, however, managed to pick up the pace the last as they flew through the finish gates, stopping the clock in 35.36s, just ahead of Kenny as he punched the air in triumph ecstatic at his win, and place in the GC Prague Playoffs.
The Tour now has a 6-week summer break before heading to London for the 11th leg of the 2022 Championship race as the action hots up and the race to the final rockets up a gear.