I have travelled to some extraordinary places, and done some wonderful things, but watching international standard show jumping in an arena carved out of the car park in Monte Carlo’s port, surrounded by towering apartment blocks and a marina stuffed with plutocrat’s gin palaces was on quite another league.
Thanks to Longines, my friend Susanne Madsen, of The Horse Rider’s Journal, the photographer Michael Hemy, and myself spent the weekend watching the Monaco leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2013. (Previously I was at the London leg, which took place in the Olympic Park.) We flew out from Gatwick on Friday afternoon and, within a few hours of landing at Nice, were standing by the swimming pool of the Le Meridien Beach Plaza in Monte Carlo, pinching ourselves.
At 1830hrs we headed to the venue, where riders, stables, practice ring and show jumping arena had all been temporarily constructed hard by the marina. It was a quite extraordinary site but, after a few minutes, it seemed entirely normal that a rider should be checking their girths in a car park.
Or that a Pomeranian had come to check out the action too.
We had arrived in time to see the riders circle the practice ring, and take a few jumps, whilst we also admired the view over the water.
Here’s rider Jane Richards, who is sponsored by Longines.
After watching the riders warming up, we were ushered towards the VIP loge overlooking the main arena, for dinner whilst we watched the Pro Am Competition.
This involves one amateur rider, and one professional from the Tour. The amateur sets off first across the clock, and must jump clear to be in with a chance. The moment he or she finished, the professional takes off on wings, also jumping against the course. Both riders stay on the course whilst their partner jumps.
It’s nerve wracking to watch, and extremely exciting. (The amateurs wear white, the pros red.)
Here’s French actor Guillaume Canet, who has decided to make a career in show jumping. (His sponsorship by Gucci has just been announced: spot the logo on his saddle cloth.)
Here’s Gucci-sponsored Edwina Tops-Alexander.
It was a stupendous evening, with more to come on the Saturday, with the Grand Prix taking place in the evening