The last class of the first day at Jumping Verona saw 15 horse-and-rider combinations return to decide the winner of the Kask Jump-Off, and it was the home side’s Emanuele Gaudiano who stole the show right from the start.
Riding the 10-year-old Chalou, a horse with a very unusual jumping technique, the 33-year-old rider set the jump-off target in 38.18 seconds. The only rider to beat that was Germany’s Marcus Fuchs with the brilliant Pret a Tout who screeched through the timers in 38.16 but leaving a fence on the floor which dropped him to ninth place.
Gaudiano knew that he’d set a strong pace, but he wasn’t counting on victory until the very end.
“When you go first in the jump-off and you have 15 good riders coming behind you then you have to give everything. Chalou is a very fast horse, he has a very big stride, we had a long run from the combination to the last jump and that helped me a little bit. Marcus Ehning was faster but he had a fence down so I’m lucky very happy with Chalou. He’s in very good form, he jumped really well in Lyon last week and today he won!”, said the Italian rider who pinned Switzerland’s Niklaus Rutschi and Cardano CH into runner-up spot and Belgium’s Zoe Conter and Univers du Vinnebus into third.
Chalou’s extraordinary way of tackling his fences keeps spectators everywhere on the edges of their seats as he points his toes and clears the poles in the most extravagant way. “Many horses have their own style, some give a big stretch in front, some jump in the air, it’s the first time for me to ride a horse like this. I think he’s my best horse and I hope I find another one like him!” said the happy Italian rider who now plans to give Chalou a relatively easy day tomorrow but who will compete him again in Sunday’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup qualifier.
“I have to try to get points for the World Cup series and for Olympic individual qualification. We still have two months (for Olympic qualification) so we have a long way to go, but we will fight for that. We have four Italian riders fighting for Olympic qualification but you never know with horses. Next year I have another horse, he’s just eight this year but he’s very good, so we will see. Today I’m happy, in the earlier class my horse hit the wings and otherwise we might have won but Chalou did a great job this evening so I’m very happy!” Gaudiano said.