Renowned Frenchman Julien Epaillard and Donatello d'Auge emerged triumphant in the esteemed €1.5 Million Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco. Securing his second LGCT Grand Prix win of the year, just 4 weeks after the first at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Ramatuelle / St. Tropez, he won the high-stakes competition which took place against the picturesque backdrop of Monaco, captivating fans from around the world.
Emotions ran high as Harrie Smolders and Monaco N.O.P took second place securing their golden ticket to the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in Prague later this year. Young talent Ioli Mytilineou collected her first ever LGCT podium taking third place on the uber consisten Levis de Muze.
Under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, the 9th 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, as VIP’s including former F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi watched the world’s top riders and horses in such a breathtaking venue.
Speaking after his win Epaillard smiled: “This Grand Prix was a big aim for me. Maybe this is the best Grand Prix I’ve ever won, today, so we will enjoy! Donatello is a special horse for us - I bred him with my wife, he is now 10 years old and he has now won three or four 5* Grand Prix’s, so it is very nice to breed a horse like this and celebrate the win with him.”
Talking to GCTV Harrie Smolders explained: “We were so close in Cannes, we had the fastest time, but the last fence down so I am so glad to now get the Golden Ticket. Monaco [N.O.P.] was again outstanding today - brilliant. I think Jullien had the advantage to go last, I must say he did it very, very slick, and I can only be very proud and grateful for my horse Monaco, he was brilliant again.”
A beaming Ioli Mytilineou said: “It feels incredible - I still haven't really realized it yet, I don't think. At this show a lot of top riders brought their top horses, it really was the big guns here tonight.”
Maikel van der Vleuten remains on top of the overall season Championship rankings breaking the 200 mark on 203 points. Christian Kukuk has leapfroged into second place on 180.2 points and after not qualifying for today’s LGCT Grand Prix Malin Bayard Johnsson slipped down to third on 160.14 points. Two time LGCT Champion Edwina Tops-Alexander remains in fourth on 148 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 absorbed in the highest level of show jumping. With 38 riders qualified for the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco the stage was set for a thrilling climax to the 9th 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 five 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 the show jumping world 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, HRH Princess Caroline de Hanovre and Charlotte Casiraghi watched from the Royal Hospitality as the first riders navigated the exceedingly technical course in the compact sand arena.
The crowd fell silent as home hero Philippe Rozier and Le Coultre de Muze entered the arena. A faultless clear and the sell out crowd erupted - proving the jump off tough yet jumpable, posting a time of 41.27 seconds.
Jumping her first ever clear round in a LGCT Grand Prix, Jeanne Sadran aboard Unforgettable Damvil left the arena after the first round in tears and into the arms of an equally emotional team. There was silence from the surrounding stands and VIP areas as she entered second to go in the jump-off. The final fence fell in an incredible performance from Sadran, ultimately finishing in her highest placing ever in a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix.
Harrie Smolders aboard Monaco N.O.P had the crowd on the edge of their seats, recording a split time of -1.87 seconds at the half way point. A tight second half of the course put the duo straight into the lead and the pressure onto the remaining two riders.
Climbing mount olympus, yet another young rider proving her place on the world stage, Ioli Mytilineou and Levis de Muze stormed to success as second last to go. Helped every step of the way by their support crew, a tight and quick clear guaranteed them her highest ever 5* Grand Prix placing.
In pole position Julien Epaillard and Donatello d'Auge had nothing to loose. The crowd erupted in cheers as the pair rode a brilliantly calculated round, keeping a consistent rhythm and cutting all corners as tightly as possible. At a flat out gallop to the last, everyone was holding their breath as he clear it and finished over a second faster than Smolders as he punched the air in triumph - ecstatic at his win.
The Tour now has a couple weeks off after 5 back-to-back events before heading to A Coruna for the 10th leg of the 2023 Championship race as the action hots up and the race to the final rockets up a gear.