In the warm-up arena next to the arena at the foot of the beautiful village of Grimaud, Abdel Saïd was unendingly congratulated by all the riders present here in the Var. At 32 years old, riding his Selle Français Bandit Savoie, he has just had one of the biggest and best victories of his career. A great way to celebrate his recent change of nationality. Egyptian by birth, Abdel Saïd has only been riding for Belgium for a few weeks.
In the company of the World's best and under the Mediterranean sun, the afternoon's sport was looking good at Grimaud. 31 riders and their horses defending no less than 12 nations were on the starting list of the CSI 5* - 1.60m Hubside.Store Grand Prix this Sunday. Spanish course designer, Javier Trenor Paz, had reserved a technically tough course for them with 13 obstacles,16 jumping efforts and a time allowed of 84 seconds.
The two combinations, a treble as n°5 and the double of verticals as n°9 proved to the determining elements of this round. Many riders such as France’s Philippe Rozier, riding Le Coultre de Muze, Edward Levy and Rebecca LS, Belgium’s Constant Van Paesschen with Isidoor van de Helle and Great Britain’s Harry Charles with his Olympic ride, Romeo 88, all faulted here.
The first clear round wasn’t until Frenchman Bruno Garez with his stallion United Sunheup entered the ring. In 82.58sec, the pair found the right tempo and put the pressure on the other competitors. He was then followed by the Colombian René Lopez Lizarazo and Kheros Van 'T Hoogeinde, and then the Italian, Piergiorgio Bucci and Casago. Abdel Said (BEL), Mark McAuley (IRL), Pedro Veniss (BRE) and Michael Duffy (IRL) also jumped a perfect first round.
It was finally only 6 competitors who chose to jump-off after the Italian, Piergiorgi Bucci decided to retire. First to go and only French rider qualified for the last act, Bruno Garez crossed the finish line in 48.90s. This didn’t faze René Lopez Lizarazo, who was more than 2 seconds faster (46.21s). The Irish pair formed by Mark McAuley and Jasco Vd Bisshcop, already 2nd on Thursday in the CSI 5* - 1.50 confirmed their current good form by going even faster (45.48s). Not fast enough however against the Belgian Abdel Said and his faithful Bandit Savoie, a 10 year old gelding by Qlassic Bois Margot, in the past ridden by Steve Guerdat and Fanny Skalli, who pulled out all the stops and reduced the time even further to 45.12s, thus offering themselves a new victory. “I’m thrilled, for both myself and my team who work so hard," said the Belgian rider. “Bandit is an extraordinary horse, he won his first 5* in Wellington and has continued to have an excellent season. The Olympic Games were a disappointment for us, we didn't get the results we were hoping for (62nd) but we’ve found answers and it’s finally paid off. I’m really delighted to see him back on top form. We were 4th last week in Rome, this week we’ve won, I couldn't have dreamt it better. On top of that, we’re lucky to get the chance to compete in an incredible location, it was a real 5* level track and the competition was tough so it makes this victory is even better. I won't be able to return next weekend because we’ve the Belgian National Championships, but I hope to return soon and win again.”