Clooney © Soraya Exquis

Clooney 51: We love you, champion!

There is some superb sporting entertainment on the programme this afternoon, but before it got under way, there was emotional interlude, with the stunning grey coming out for a special retirement ceremony. As the gelding made his final farewell, it would have taken a very hard heart not to be moved by the sight of his entourage in floods of tears. We spoke to the people who have had the good fortune to be at the side of this great champion all these years.

Martin Fuchs: "I’d love to be inside his head, but I think he’s delighted to be back in Geneva. During the warm-up on Thursday, he looked like he was really happy to be back at an arena that he loves. His happiest memory? It has to be today, with the fully deserved welcome that Geneva is going to give him for his farewell. Thank you."

Sean Vard, his groom: "He’s been literally champing at the bit in his box since he arrived in Geneva. If he could jump a few fences, I’m sure he’d do it with joy in his heart (laughs). He’s going to be overwhelmed for sure when he steps out into the arena, with the lights, the spectators and all the attention focused on him. He’s going to love it, though. I think we’ll all be crying too much to be able to see anything anyway."

Luigi Baleri, his owner: "I can’t pick out one single memory with Clooney. He’s such a special horse. He’s one of a kind and every moment I’ve had with Clooney is etched in my mind forever. He’s given us so much, and I’m proud to see him enjoy a very much deserved retirement celebration. He’s a warrior and he fought every inch of the way to give us so many memorable moments."

Paris Sellon, Martin Fuchs’ partner: "I was there the morning Clooney suffered his injury and I spent a lot of time with him during his convalescence. We built up a pretty strong bond and I’m so happy to see him in Geneva this weekend so that we can give him the celebration he deserves. I remember one morning in Wellington when Martin didn’t have the time to ride Clooney and I took him out for his warm-up. Martin said that I could even do a few jumps with him. I very nearly didn’t dare. The feeling was magical though."

Janika Sprunger: "I’m very close to Martin and I’ve had the privilege of riding alongside him and Clooney at a lot of big events. They’re one of the best partnerships I’ve ever seen compete and they’ve penned a whole page in the history of our sport. I know that I’m going to be crying my eyes out. As a rider, and knowing the place that horses can take in our hearts and our lives, I know how Martin will be feeling."

Clooney_Martin © Soraya Exquis

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