There’s no audience more supportive of Steve Guerdat than his hometown crowd of Geneva, and on Dec. 15 he scored an emotional and thrilling victory in front of them in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva.
Guerdat blazed to a competitive time early in the 10-horse jump-off, then had to sit and watch every other rider chase him. “It was 10 or 15 minutes that felt like forever. It felt longer than the whole weekend,” he said.
“I would have bet a lot of money that I didn’t win it. I really thought I was 1 second too slow,” he said. “Doda [Alvaro de Miranda] was faster than me but had one down; I thought for sure Scott or someone was going to catch me. It was a long wait!” Watch Guerdat's jump-off round.
In the end, World No. 1 Scott Brash, who has been on a remarkable roll of wins, had to settle for second almost half a second slower.
“It’s always emotional to win here. I almost get a little scared about how I’m going to live up to it; I’ve had so much success with this crowd over the years. But every year I come back and have bigger wins. It’s amazing,” said Guerdat, who is based in Herrilberg, Switzerland.
And this win was indeed a big one—the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva is one of the legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Guerdat earned a check for more than $200,000 in the class, and it’s the first step toward winning even more if he adds wins at Aachen (Germany) and Spruce Meadows (Alberta) to his tally. “It’s big. Every win is big, but for this kind of money is special,” he said.
Pieter Devos, the Belgian rider who had started his own quest for the Grand Slam by winning at Spruce Meadows in September, finished ninth at Geneva with two rails in the jump-off.
The American contingent finished in the middle of the pack, with Brianne Goutal in 12th with Nice De Prissey, Kent Farrington (who scored two big wins in the week) in 13th with Willow, Reed Kessler and Cylana in 15th, Lucy Davis on Barron in 18th—all with 4 faults in Round 1—and Richard Spooner on Cristallo in 30th with two rails in Round 1.
In a touching ceremony the night before, Guerdat officially retired his veteran 2008 Olympic Games mount, Jalisca Solier.
Nino des Buissonnets, Guerdat’s mount for individual gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games, had been putting together a string of second places, taking the runner-up spot at the Stuttgart (Germany), Helsinki (Sweden) and Olso (Sweden) World Cup-qualifiers. “He’s won so much already. He doesn’t jump much, but every time he goes out, he’s in the top. He’s in a class of his own,” Guerdat said.
“Nino is going to have a long break now. I have to decide if I want to ride him or not in the World Cup Final. We’ll see. Either that or I’ll focus on the [Alltech FEI] World Equestrian Games. But for sure, for the next two or three months you won’t see Nino,” he continued.
Guerdat is a Rolex testimonee. “I’m very thankful to Rolex for everything they do for the sport and for me. I’m grateful to be part of their family,” he said.