The atmosphere was electric amongst the sell-out crowd on the opening night of the Longines Hong Kong Masters 2015, with world class rider Julien Epaillard bringing home the top spot in the thrilling main competition of the evening; the Longines Speed Challenge. Epaillard won the challenge, worth a total prize money of USD85,000, in a time of 59.81. In a tight finish he beat off stiff competition from current FEI world number 1, the UK’s Scott Brash, who completed the course in 60.06 seconds, just 0.25 seconds slower than Epaillard, and the Netherland’s Gerco Schroder who landed a time of 60.38.
Epaillard is no stranger to success at the Longines Hong Kong Masters having won the opening class last year. Tonight the 37-year-old Frenchman was riding 12-year-old gelding Pigmalion du Rozel and was relieved to hold off a late challenge by UK rider Scott Brash on his 11-year-old mare Hello Annie.
Epaillard commented: ‘It was a big stress for me – I was fast but it’s always possible to be faster. Scott Brash was the last to go and everyone knows he is super-fast!”
On the races still to come he commented: ‘I ride another horse in the Grand Prix on Sunday against the best riders in the world. It won’t be easy, but I will try.’
Second place holder Scott Brash commented: ‘Julien was just too fast for me tonight, he did a fantastic round. My horse did everything she could, I just need to be faster.’
He continued: ‘The Longines Hong Kong Masters is a fantastic event. It’s great to have such support and the audience seems even better than the first time I came here. They know our sport and they really get behind us. I hope they take up show jumping too.’
Walter von Kanel, President of Longines, expressed his support for the equestrian event: ‘Let me congratulate the team from EEM World who organised the Masters. The Longines Hong Kong Masters is probably one of the best competitions in the world.’