Having recently obtained his qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, the Moroccan rider Abdelkebir Ouaddar seems to have grown wings. Riding his faithful 12-year-old Selle Francis stallion Quickly de Kreisker (Diamant de Semilly X Laudanum XX), the world ranked No. 44 managed the pressure of the event right through to the last jump.
Taking to the arena as the 16th and final pair in the jump-off, the Moroccan rider was the only one to cross the finish line in less than 37 seconds, with a time of 36.40. Up until that point Great Britain’s Scott Brash had been waiting in the wings as the leader with Hello Forever, a talented 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (For Pleasure x Nimmerdor) owned by Lady Harris & Lady Kirkham that has only a few grand prix starts to his name. However, Hello Forever, who last year won the American Invitational in Miami in what was his biggest career victory before today, was on form in Paris, and carried Brash in 1st place all the way until the final round, when Ouaddar found a faster track by nearly two seconds to take top honors.
Also double clear and finishing in 3rd place was Christian Ahlmann of Germany aboard Epleaser van’t Heike, while his countryman Marcus Ehning finished 4th with Pret a Tout. Rounding out the top five was Martin Fuchs and Clooney 51. Pénélope Leprévost, the only French rider qualified for the jump-off, finished 11th on her mare Nice Stéphanie.
“My horse had already given me a wonderful gift by helping me qualify for the Olympic Games. Today, he gave me so much again by winning the Grand Prix Hermès, in front of this great public that gave me all their support!” Ouaddar commented. “Today, I would like say a very special thanks to the French public and the King of Morocco, because it is thanks to him that I have the opportunity to do the most wonderful sport in the world. There were 16 riders who made it through to the jump-off, some really great riders! I’m just over the moon; this shows that my horse can do anything, and maybe even win a medal at the Olympic Games.”
Ouaddar is the first Moroccan rider to win a class at the Saut Hermès, but that said he is very nearly the only Moroccan rider ever to compete at this exclusive, invitation only event, and he stands alone as the only Moroccan rider among the top ranked athletes in the world. Ouaddar, who is based in France and trains with Frenchman Marcel Rozier, is deeply loved by the French public. The capacity crowd under the glass-domed Grand Palais exploded with joy and gave him a standing ovation after he crossed the finish timers in 1st place, ahead of some of the world’s top riders.