Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and VDL Edgar M win the Trophée de Genève
Staged in the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena, 50 riders, representing 15 nations, contested Friday’s feature class – the Trophée de Genève – on the second day of 2022’s edition of CHI Geneva. The stellar line-up starred no fewer than 17 of the world’s current top 20-ranked riders, including world number one, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and fellow Swede Peder Fredricson, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, local favourite Martin Fuchs and previous Major winner Max Kühner, all of whom would be hoping for a spectacular finish in this 1.60m, 13-combination class in order to qualify for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.
With no obviously tricky fences standing out, at the halfway point, 12 riders out of 25 starters graduated to the jump-off after navigating the Gérard Lachat-designed course fault-free, including current Individual Olympic champion Ben Maher, the in-form American McLain Ward, and last year’s winner of the Coupe de Genève, Harry Charles and his mount Borsato. After the break, the crowd was treated to another six clear rounds and some exceptional levels of horsemanship from riders including the up-and-coming 24-year-old Gilles Thomas, a key member of Belgium’s 2022 Nations Cup Final-winning team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for CHI Geneva debutant, 23-year-old Briton Joseph Stockdale, who, after a super smooth round, picked up an agonising time fault.
Into the jump-off and it was evident early on that the shortened course was proving more of a test than the first round, with the British duo of Maher and Charles, Swedish duo of von Eckermann and Fredricson and America duo of Kraut and Ward all accruing faults. Last year’s Rolex Grand Prix champion, Martin Fuchs and Shane Sweetnam bucked this trend, both jumping fault-free, but with the Irishman eclipsing the Swiss maestro’s time by an impressive 12.06 seconds, which appeared to be unassailable. However, the sole representative from Luxembourg, Victor Bettendorf, soon went one better than Sweetnam, beating him into second place by 0.28 seconds. With just a handful of riders left to go, Bettendorf looked to have things sewn up, but a determined Marlon Modolo Zanotelli from Brazil flew around the seven-combination jump-off over a second quicker than Bettendorf, thereby taking the victory with his superstar partner VDL Edgar M.
Thrilled with his 13-year-old chestnut gelding’s performance in both rounds, Modolo Zanotelli commented: “He was amazing – he has had such an incredible season, and this is his last show of the year. To have a victory this early in the show is definitely something incredibly special.
“I was lucky to go towards the end of the class so I could watch the rest of the riders and know what I had to do. I know my horse incredibly well now and know his strengths which meant I could take some risks at the beginning of the course – luckily today that was enough to win.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix and asked if he will be partnered by Edgar, Modolo Zanotelli said: “That is the plan, but I am jumping Like A Diamond in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final tomorrow so we will see how she goes and then make a final decision.”
Behind the stable door:
Tell us a little bit about your journey to CHI Geneva…
I flew from Miami to Belgium with Nayel Nassar’s Coronado and Igor Van De Wittemoere five days ago, and we stayed there until Tuesday night, before arriving in Geneva yesterday morning. They are feeling good and are in a great mood. They both travelled extremely well, eating and drinking plenty. They are very kind, friendly and talented horses. Coronado and Igor travelled in a double container. There are also containers called ‘triples’, which hold three horses, but the horses have less room. To ensure they have a more comfortable journey, we always ship our horses in a double.
This time the plane was also full of flowers, which were being transported to Amsterdam – there were lots of tulips so the whole flight smelt beautiful! The flight is a little cold, as the horses travel better when they are cool, and it’s also better for the flowers. We also had one boat engine on the flight; generally, as well as horses, these cargo flights transport all sorts of things – cars, washing machines, pretty much anything you can think of. The grooms sit behind the pilots’ cockpit and from there we have access to check on the horses, which is what we’re doing every second hour or sometimes every hour, depending on how they travel.
It must be very important to monitor a horse’s hydration, nutrition and wellbeing when they fly?
Yes. Some of the horses don’t drink very well when they fly, so we try to give them a bit of wet mash, which we sometimes add apple juice to, as a way of hydrating them. The hay that they eat of the plane contains a lot of electrolytes, which hydrates them even more. It’s also important to make sure that the horses are properly fed and hydrated and fully prepared before any type of plane journey.
Do you do a lot of driving, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long journeys?
I used to, but now I do not do as much, as I am lucky enough to have use of a transport company that drives for us. I like to listen to music on long journeys, and I am now lucky to travel with friends so we try and get the atmosphere going. I think a lot – travelling is a good time to reflect.
If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?
I think you have to know your horses really well – in that way you can recognise if your horse does not feel well or if they are stressed, and then you will be able to help them. It is important to know these little things, such as if your horse travels hot or cold – the more you know about your horse the better it will be.
How have Coronado and Igor been preparing for CHI Geneva?
The horses have been jumping at home in the United States. A few weeks ago, they did some big shows in America and Canada so they have had a few quiet weeks since then in the build-up to this Major. I think that they can sense that it is a big venue here at CHI Geneva with a lot of atmosphere, and you can tell that their adrenaline kicks in.
How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and now CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?
Yes, absolutely – they are some of the best shows in the world! Everything is the best of the best – the facilities, the sport, the stabling and so on. They really take care to make sure the horses, riders and grooms do not want for anything.
Do you feel more pressure when you are at one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors?
There is always pressure in this sport, but I do definitely feel that there is more pressure at a Major. You have the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, both are such prestigious classes with a lot of prize money. Everyone wants to win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, and I think the field is so strong this year that anyone could win.
How much riding do you do?
I do not ride much anymore. I used to ride a little bit, but to be honest I think I am better at grooming the horses and giving them treats!
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?
I love being with the horses. It is always a very proud moment when the horses do well at a show – it is a whole team effort to get those results. I also love the bonds that you create with people at the shows. My least favourite part has to be mucking out!
What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?
It is a great community. The grooms definitely support each other, which is very important, as the job can sometimes be hard. There is now more support than ever, with the introduction of associations that look after us – it is hard work and it is nice to be recognised.
What attributes do you need to have to be a top-level groom?
You need to be hardworking, passionate, love what you do, and of course want to win!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Monkey see, monkey do. You must always look and learn by keeping your eyes and ears open at all time.
Word from the Organiser:
Sophie Mottu Morel
You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva is going ahead with full capacity?
It is completely amazing! Ticket sales for this year’s edition of the show have been great. I think we will have a full house on Sunday, and maybe even Friday and Saturday. I cannot explain why this year has been so good for sales, maybe it is Clooney’s [Clooney 51] retirement ceremony or the chance that Martin Fuchs may win the Rolex Grand Prix again for a historic and successive third time. We are happy to see that a lot of people want to come to the show this year. I think people want to be hereto share in a special memory with other people and to cheer for a Swiss victory. Also, last year CHI Geneva was the only event in Geneva in December, so maybe last year people discovered the show and have decided to come back this year.
This year we have an extra day of competition on Wednesday, and we have opened up the show to everyone, as it will be free to enter. This is one of our philosophies to make CHI Geneva accessible to everyone and gain a new audience for our sport.
Is there anything new to this year’s schedule at CHI Geneva?
Yes, the Prix Credit Suisse, comprising three National Jumping classes on the first day of the show. These past years, the competitions were held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but we realised it would be hard for the riders to get here because the traffic in Geneva in the mornings is difficult, and it’s also easier for the National riders to only come to the show on one day. It also means that we can give the volunteers a break during these mornings, as they do not have to be at the Palexpo so early, and it is also nice for us, the organisers, to have a few quieter mornings!
How important are the volunteers to the successful running of the show?
They are crucial. We have 700 volunteers this year and they are the stars of the show. They give the show so much passion – they want to be there and they are happy to be there, and for me they are so important. The show wouldn’t be the same without them – they are spirit of the show.
What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?
We work like a family – we all want to help each other. We have a lot of responsibilities, and we have to count on each member to do their job correctly. We have to trust our colleagues – there are lots of people doing lots of different jobs but we all come together to achieve the same objective.
What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?
You have to love the sport that you want to be part of but you also need to follow other major sports, such as tennis, golf and skiing and their sporting events. If you want to be good, you have to look at what the others do well and always strive to improve.
You have to go to events and speak to people working there, and you can take those ideas and translate them for your own event. In addition, I would say, do not count your hours because you will work a lot – but it is also fun because you meet a lot of people and if you are passionate about your sport, you can sometimes meet your sporting idol. All in all, don’t be afraid of the job, speak with lots of people and open your eyes to everything so that you can continuously improve.
Do you and CHI Geneva’s organisers take inspiration from any of sport’s other Major competitions, e.g., in tennis or golf?
Yes, of course. It is so beneficial to look at what other sports are doing. I did go to The Championships, Wimbledon once, which was incredible. I think maybe going to the other sports’ Major events is something we should do a bit more to learn how they do things.
Why does CHI Geneva emphasise giving younger riders opportunities to compete in a Major competition?
Because they are the stars of tomorrow. It is really important for them to compete with the best riders and in the best arenas, and it is a fantastic way to learn. Supporting young riders has been part of CHI Geneva’s long history; even before I came to the show, Alban Poudret and many others made sure it was a priority. Nowadays, we have the U25 classes but before those were introduced, we welcomed the younger generation in the international classes. I think these classes have helped to develop riders, such as Edouard Schmitz, who is only 23-years-old. He started doing the U25 classes when we first introduced them three years ago, and now he is one of the best in the world.
Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; how successful has it been and how has it positively changed the sport?
I think it has been an amazing success. It was 10 years ago we started out on this journey, and now we are having the chance to be able to reflect on it. We have met some amazing people from the other Majors and have learnt so much from each other. It was great when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015 because it gave our concept creditability – it proved it is possible even if it is tough.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping set the benchmark and standard for other shows to achieve – the quality of riders that come to compete is phenomenal and the prize money is also incredible. CHI Geneva has learnt so much from being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, and we are so proud to be part of this family – the other Majors inspire us and make us want to keep getting better. I’m also very grateful and thankful to Rolex – they’ve been a very faithful partner.
What has been your personal highlight from the first 10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
There have been so many. A personal highlight for me was watching Scott Brash win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in Calgary – it was breath-taking. Also, watching Steve Guerdat and Nino [Des Buissonnets] win the first Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013 is something I will never forget.