Uliano Vezzani had prepared a difficult first round for the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco. Especially his line from 5 to 6, from the center of the ring to the double by the grandstands and into the corner caught out more than half of the field. In the LGCT Grand Prix Analysis, presenter Frederik De Backer looks at the different answers to the toughest question the Italian course designer had asked.
Edouard Levy got very close to producing the first clear but the final oxer got the better of him. Olivier Philippaerts on a spectacular H&M Miro rode a magnificent clear round but the big chesnut spent to much time over the track, finishing with 2 time penalties, landing them into 3rd in the end.
With Philippaerts sitting in third and only Max Kühner and Darragh Kenny going clear after 34 riders in the Grand Prix, the podium would be a copy of the 2021 edition with the same 3 men featuring on the steps in Monaco.
Kenny was the first to go clear in Round 1, so he was first to go in the jump-off too. Kenny on the fast moving Volany du Boisdeville had to fight off the big moving EIC Coriolis des Isles and started with pace to the oxer by the videoscreen.
In the first strides after the oxer Volnay stumbled forcing the Irishman to go wider on an extra stride compared to Kühner.
But remarkably Kenny led at the take-off of fence 2, though the margin was small. In the next line he could show the pace of Volnay. In the standard 7 strides leading into the oxer at 6b, Kenny created more speed than Kühner, increasing his lead on the Austrian to one stride. There was no option for Kühner in that line as the big step of Coriolis had to be held to make things fit. Volnay’s speed couldn’t be matched.
That speed however threw Kenny wider in the rollback and that opened the door for Kühner to shave of small margins of the setback. Now the big step of Coriolis allowed him to ride one stride less to the liverpool and to go tighter to the double bringing the runner-up from 2021 back in the race with just the double and 2 more fences left to jump.
Coming out of the double, a 180° rollback and 7 strides home were the last 2 lines to ride. In the landing Kühner was nearly level with his 2021 nemesis but him and Corliolis steered into the turn later and wider than Kenny, jeopardising his comeback.
Kühner, at the age of 48, had never won a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix before, setting his best results 365 day ago, in 2021, when finishing 2nd on the same horse, behind Darragh Kenny.
Now this time around, his first-ever LGCT Grand Prix win was slipping away yet again.
Remarkably both rode the same number of strides in the rollback but found themselves in completely different situations. Kenny was much wider out of the turn sitting at the left to take off, Kühner somehow steered in wider at first but came tighter out of the turn, taking off at the right side of the Prince’s Palace upright. Kenny and Volnay’s ground pace had extended their lead again to nearly a full stride.
Kenny had just 7 strides in a slight bend to get home and he sat on a fast moving horse too, what could go wrong? As he went slightly wider to make the 7 strides fit and with just 3 strides to get home it looked like he had the win in the bag.
Kühner had just one bullet left in his gun and that was a massive stride of his stallion and he risked it all to the last oxer of Longines. Landing over Prince’s Palace, he urged the son of Zandor Z to open up, Kenny still ahead. As Kenny sat wider halfway the final stretch, Kühner found himself on a near straight line to the Longines oxer, but Kenny was still leading.
Through his first 3 strides EIC Coriolis had developed so much pace that the 6 strides were right there in front of him whilst Kenny had to hold once to get his extra stride in. The one stride to many.
At the finish Kühner who was 2nd and last to go in the 2-man-jump-off looked up to the screen and saw the green -0.34sec appear on the videowall with RANK 1 along side. He had just won his first ever LGCT Grand Prix on the 10 year old Coriolis who seems to thrive in the small Monaco ring. Thriving despite or thanks to his big stride?
And Kenny? He was clearly disappointed not winning this Grand Prix and finished 2nd again after being the runner-up in Madrid too. He would afterwards declare that he struggled to find the rhythm after the stumble in the first turn. He had put up an enormous fight and has now just 5 stages left to secure his Golden Ticket for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in Prague.
To find out all the details about the Monaco Grand Prix, head over to GCTV and the LGCT Grand Prix Analysis on a GCTV Pro Pass.