Interview with Major winner Gregory Wathelet
On Sunday, Gregory Wathelet claimed the victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017. In an interview, the Belgian rider talked about the fascination of Aachen, the material that Major winners are made of and his birthday plans.
Congratulations on winning the Major in Aachen! Tell us about your “Rolex Grand Prix” experience!
Gregory Wathelet: It was simply fantastic! The atmosphere in Aachen is always unique, just like the crowd. It is a really special feeling every time when one rides into the Stadium, not at all comparable with the other shows one competes at every weekend. Everyone knows in advance that the “Rolex Grand Prix” is going to present difficult challenges and it was no different this time either. The horses have to convince with their scope, technique and speed. I am incredibly proud of my mare. I don’t think one could put it down to luck. I believe “Coree” simply jumped exceptionally. Today’s victory was down to her. Thanks to her my name is now entered on the winners’ board in Aachen and that is the most magnificent gift ever for me!
When did you realise that Sunday could perhaps become your day?
Wathelet: To be honest not until the final rider, Laura Kraut, had taken the last obstacle in the jump-off. Everything was open until the very end, all competitors were highly-motivated. The Grand Slam Majors are the best and most difficult shows in the world. It doesn’t suffice to give just 100 percent. One has to give 500 percent and simply hope that it is enough. This time we pulled it off.
This victory means your personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun. So, where does it go from here for you?
Wathelet: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is a great challenge for us riders. We are extremely grateful to Rolex for their huge commitment to our sport and for enabling such fantastic shows like Aachen, Calgary, Geneva and `s-Hertogenbosch. I believe every rider dreams of winning the Grand Slam and it goes without saying that I will give it my best shot and prepare myself as well as possible for the next Major. But first of all I want to savour this victory here in Aachen. Over the next few days, I will then draw up a plan for Calgary together with my team.
It is your birthday on September 10th. It is coincidentally the very day on which the Grand Prix is taking place in Calgary. But, wouldn’t a second Major victory in succession be a wonderful birthday present?
Wathelet: Yes, of course (laughs). But, as I said, at the moment I am still overjoyed about my victory in Aachen. We will have to wait and see what happens thereafter. But one thing is sure, I will certainly be celebrating my birthday in Calgary this year.
Gregory Whatelet with the Rolex Grand Slam signpost (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton)
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun for Gregory Wathelet
40,000 spectators were there live when sporting history was written at the CHIO Aachen 2017: After two rounds and the subsequent jump-off in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, Gregory Wathelet was able to assert himself against the entire world elite with “Coree” and win the first leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Incidentally, this was the first Major victory in the Belgian rider’s career.
“It is simply a dream come true to see my name on the winners’ board in Aachen! It doesn’t suffice to give 100 percent to win a Major. One has to give 500 percent and that is what we did today. My horse was simply incredible,” stated an overjoyed, Gregory Wathelet, who will now take on the ultimate challenge in equestrian sport: The show-jumper, who succeeds in riding to victory in three consecutive Majors, wins the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and one million Euros in addition to the prize-money. So, Gregory Wathelet’s full focus will now be on Calgary, where at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters” 2017 from September 6th-10th, he will be striving to claim his second Major title.
The winners of the last Majors weren’t able to redeem their chance of claiming a Grand Slam bonus: Scott Brash, who secured himself the top step of the winner’s podium at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016, had the opportunity of claiming a 250,000 Euro bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle here in Aachen. However, the British rider picked up four faults in the first round with the mare “Ursula XII” and finished the class in ninth place after the second round. Indeed, the winner of the CHI Geneva in 2016, Pedro Veniss, could not participate in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”. Over the course of the show week, luck was not on his side, so the Brazilian rider didn’t succeed in qualifying for the Grand Prix. However, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is not over for Pedro Veniss yet: In September at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017, for him 250,000 Euros will be at stake for the second Major victory within a Grand Slam cycle.
Gregory Wathelet, winner of the "Rolex Grand Prix" at CHIO Aachen 2017
The Rolex Grand Slam live
For all those people, who cannot be there in person on Sunday, when the best riders in the world battle it out to claim the victory in the Major, the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHIO Aachen 2017, which starts at 1.15 p.m. (CEST), the jumping competition is being broadcast live on TV and on the Rolex Grand Slam website.
The viewers from Germany can watch the first round of the “Rolex Grand Prix” live on TV, starting at 1.15 p.m. on WDR. ARD is then responsible for the live transmission of the second round, which commences punctually at 3.15 p.m.
For viewers from all other countries, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is transmitting a livestream of the event directly on its website: Starting at 1.15 p.m. (CEST), the entire competition will be broadcast at www.rolexgrandslam.com.
A Grand Slam bonus is at stake for Scott Brash in Aachen on Sunday.
A Major final with world stars and surprises
The show week of the CHIO Aachen 2017 is gradually coming to a close and now we can already reveal, which 40 riders are going to compete in the Final on Sunday afternoon, the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”.
A huge surprise up front: The current Grand Slam contender, Pedro Veniss, will not be on the starting list, as became clear after the third and last qualifier today, the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia”: “I noticed in the ring that my horse, ‘Quabri de l‘Isle’ didn’t feel good today. He wasn’t in his usual form, so I retired right after the first few obstacles,” commented a visibly disappointed, Pedro Veniss, who could only have secured himself a place in the Major final, if he had achieved a top placing in today’s class. “It was my big dream to compete in the ‘Rolex Grand Prix’ on Sunday, but of course the well-being of ‘Quabri’ definitely takes priority.”
Even if luck wasn’t on the side of Pedro Veniss in Aachen, his personal Rolex Grand Slam is not over yet. Because at the 2017 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September, the Brazilian rider still has the chance to claim his second Major victory within a Grand Slam cycle. A bonus that the British show-jumper, Scott Brash, will have his sights set on this Sunday. Because the winner of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2016 was one of the 40 riders to qualify for the “Rolex Grand Prix”.
Scott Brash will be battling it out against the strongest competitors the international show jumping sport has to offer – heading his list of rivals is the current number one in the world rankings, Kent Farrington from the USA, who demonstrated that he is in absolute top form after riding to victory in today’s “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia”. His team colleagues, Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, Lauren Hough and Laura Kraut are all on board too. Also on the starting list for the “Rolex Grand Prix”: the Olympic gold-medallist Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, Eric Lamaze from Canada as well as Kevin Staut and Roger-Yves Bost from France. The Irish rider Bertram Allen; the Italian show-jumper Lorenzo de Luca, Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya, Henrik von Eckermann from Sweden and the Dutchman Harrie Smolders have also secured themselves a ticket for the final. Together with the youngest Major winner of all time, Olivier Philippaerts from Belgium, who won the Grand Prix at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2012 at the tender age of 19, he is accompanied by his fellow countrymen Gregory Wathelet and Pieter Devos, who won the Major in Calgary in 2013.
Twelve riders will be representing the host nation, including last year’s winner, Philipp Weishaupt; the three-time Aachen Champion, Ludger Beerbaum; the winner from the year 2005, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum as well as the youngsters, Laura Klaphake and Maurice Tebbel.
The best riders in the world will be competing against each other in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen” on Sunday, the competition commences at 1:15 p.m. One of them will leave the most famous arena in the world as the new Major winner. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is entering a new round!
Kent Farrington and “Uceko”, winners of the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia”, the third and last qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday
Eric Lamaze wins the first qualifier
The first ‘major’ test at the CHIO Aachen 2017 is over and just like last year the victory in the “Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe”, the first qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday, went to the Canadian rider, Eric Lamaze and “Fine Lady”. In the jump-off, the pair relegated Ludger Beerbaum from Germany, who had saddled “Chiara”, and the Irish show-jumper Bertram Allen with “Molly Malone”, into second and third place, respectively.
The current Grand Slam contender, Pedro Veniss, also succeeded in qualifying for the jump-off with his top horse, “Quabri de l’Isle” at his debut appearance on the “Holy Grass” of Aachen. However, the pair picked up eight penalty points in the jump-off, which meant they ultimately ranked 18th. A placing that nevertheless has increased the Brazilian rider’s chances of making sure his name is on the starting list of the “Rolex Grand Prix”, because the best 40 riders from the three qualifications earn themselves a ticket for the final. However, nothing is anywhere near decided yet, we won’t know exactly which pairs will be competing in the Major until after the third and last qualifier on Friday afternoon.
The next qualifying competition for the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, which is endowed with prize-money to the value of one million Euros, is the “Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup”, a floodlit class that starts at 7.30 p.m. on Thursday evening. Here, the riders who rank under the top 18, directly secure themselves a ticket for the final. The “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, which commences at 12.45 p.m. early on Friday afternoon is the final opportunity for the riders to jump their way into final of the Major.
Incidentally, Scott Brash, who won the Grand Slam title in 2015, chose not to compete in the first qualifier. As the winner of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2016, the British rider not only has the chance of picking up the bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle, he has also already pre-qualified for the “Rolex Grand Prix” with his mare “Ursula XII”.
Eric LAMAZE riding Fine Lady 5 CAN Winner of the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is back in Germany: The CHIO Aachen 2017 is in full swing and over the next few days, the utmost and ultimate priority for the top show-jumpers in the world is to secure one of the coveted places in the grand final on Sunday afternoon, the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, which is endowed with one million Euros in prize-money.
Not only is the host nation represented by first-class riders like Ludger Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Marcus Ehning and last year’s winner Philipp Weishaupt. The team the USA has sent to the Soers also includes the country’s best riders among others the current number one in the world rankings, Kent Farrington, as well as the winner of the world cup final, McLain Ward. The same can be said of the French participants, namely three riders of the gold-winning team from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are on board – Kevin Staut, Roger-Yves Bost and Philippe Rozier. The visitors of the World Equestrian Festival can additionally look forward to the Canadian bronze medal winner from Rio, Eric Lamaze, the top Irish rider Bertram Allen, the Italian high-flyer Lorenzo de Luca and the Swiss Olympic gold-medallist, Steve Guerdat.
For all of these athletes, the victory in the Grand Prix on Sunday would also mean the beginning of their personal Rolex Grand Slam: The rider, who succeeds in winning three equestrian sport Majors in direct succession, goes down in history as the winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and claims a bonus of one million Euros. Scott Brash from Great Britain is the only rider to have achieved this feat so far – in 2014/15 – and all eyes will be cast on him once again at the CHIO Aachen 2017: Since, thanks to his repeated triumph at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016, he has the chance of picking up a 250,000-Euro bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle.
Pedro Veniss travels to Aachen as the current Grand Slam contender: After his victory at the CHI Geneva 2016 last December, the Brazilian will now be striving to win his second Major in succession. If he jumps to victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday, he will be riding for the Grand Slam title in Calgary in September.
However, like most of the other riders, Pedro Veniss first of all has to qualify for the Grand Prix: The qualifiers for securing a place on the starting list of the “Rolex Grand Prix” kick off with the “Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe”, the main competition on Wednesday, followed by the “Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup” on Thursday evening and the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia”, the main competition on Friday. Only those riders, who convince with an excellent placing in at least one of these classes, will receive one of the 40 tickets available for the Major final.
Will Pedro Veniss be able to assert himself against the strong field of participants at the CHIO Aachen 2017? Or will a new Major winner emerge from the “Rolex Grand Prix”? The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is looking forward to a thrilling opening event of the year!
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is welcoming the best show-jumpers in the world to the first Major of the year 2017, in Germany: They will be competing against each other at the CHIO Aachen from July 14th to 23rd and on the final Sunday will be battling it out for the victory in the famous “Rolex Grand Prix”. An interview with the current Grand Slam contender, Pedro Veniss from Brazil, about childhood dreams come true, a summer in Calgary and the most loveable horse in the world.
Your Major victory in Geneva was six months ago. How have you and “Quabri de l’Isle” been doing since then?
Pedro Veniss: It is always still a fantastic feeling when I think back. I will remember this victory eternally. It was one of the most important in my career so far. After Geneva we gave “Quabri” a time-out from the sport and he was only implemented as a stud stallion. Afterwards, we took part at a few smaller shows and gradually worked our way back up. Versailles in May was our first big five star event after Geneva.
And that is where you won the “Rolex Grand Prix”!
Veniss: Yes, that was super! “Quabri” already showed that he is in good shape there. But to prepare him for Aachen as well as possible, I have spent June in Spruce Meadows with him and took part in the Summer Series. The huge grass arenas in Aachen and Spruce Meadows are very special, you don’t find hardly anything like it anywhere else in the world. Philipp Weishaupt and “LB Convall” were also in Calgary last summer – and they subsequently won in Aachen. So, I am hoping the plan will work just as well for me.
How do you assess your chances of winning?
Veniss: In “Quabri” I have a wonderful partner under the saddle, who is up to every task. A horse that you can win the big classes with! He doesn’t have any bad days, always gives his best, whatever event we are at and he loves competing. His mentality is simply incredible and he is also the most loveable horse in the world too. I am extremely lucky to be able to ride him and I certainly think he is capable of winning in Aachen. But I have to be just as good on that day too!
It is going to be the first time you have ever competed in Aachen. What do you think is awaiting you?
Veniss: Coming from Brazil let me put it like this: Aachen is the Maracanã of equestrian sports! As a child it was always my dream to ride in Aachen one day. I already had the opportunity to do so when I was only 23 years old during the World Equestrian Games in 2006 as a member of the Brazilian team. But unfortunately my horse sustained an injury a week beforehand. So, it is an even more unique feeling that this dream is finally coming true.
What do you think the moment is going to be like when you ride into the Main Stadium in Aachen for the first time?
Veniss: It is going to be an unforgettable experience! I think, all of the stages of my career that actually brought me to Aachen will pass in front of my eyes again. My family will be in the crowd and will cheer me on. It is going to be a really, really special show for me and I am going to give it my very best shot to win the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday!
The picture enclosed shows Pedro Veniss and "Quabri de l'Isle", winners of the Major in Geneva in 2016 and current Rolex Grand Slam contenders.
How do the best riders in the world prepare themselves for the ultimate challenge? How do the winners of a Major celebrate their victory and how do their teams back home welcome them? What happens behind the scenes at the world-famous showgrounds in Calgary, Geneva, Aachen and `s-Hertogenbosch?
With immediate effect, the new social newsroom of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will keep you constantly updated about all of the Majors, the Major winners and those, who want to become one. All entries on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #RolexGrandSlam will appear bundled together on the homepage of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, so that you don’t have to miss any news on the most prestigious trophy on the international equestrian sport circuit from now on!
The CHIO Aachen 2017 is going to write history!
This year the World Equestrian Festival not only traditionally kicks off the cycle of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, but is at the same time a new milestone in the biggest challenge of the equestrian sport: Whoever succeeds in emerging as the winner of the “Rolex Grand Prix”, will be the first rider ever to benefit from the new, even more spectacular bonus system of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Starting with this new cycle of the Grand Slam, The Dutch Masters in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, is joining the three original events as a fixed annual leg. From now on four Majors – one distributed in each quarter of the year – will be contested: The CHIO Aachen in July, the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September, the CHI Geneva in December and finally The Dutch Masters, which will welcome the best riders in the world in March 2018 for the first time in its capacity as a Major of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Nevertheless, in spite of the inclusion of a fourth leg, the established mode that three Major victories in succession lead to the Grand Slam triumph and a one million Euro bonus in addition to the prize-money, remains intact. However, if a rider wins the fourth Major directly afterwards, he doubles his bonus up to two million Euros.
For the selected pairs, who are on the starting list of this year’s CHIO Aachen, this means more than ever, full concentration here and now! Because only 40 pairs can qualify for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on the final Sunday – and following tradition the absolute top show-jumpers from all over the globe compete at the World Equestrian Festival together with their best horses.
The equestrian sport elite has been battling it out against each other at the legendary showgrounds at the Soers in Aachen, which attracts around 350,000 visitors every year, since 1927.
On the last Sunday, the Main Stadium in Aachen is completely sold-out down to the last standing area. 40,000 euphoric spectators want to be there live, when sporting history is written in the “Rolex Grand Prix”.
Last year a young German rider led the field: Philipp Weishaupt claimed the Major victory riding the grey stallion “LB Convall”, ahead of Scott Brash from Great Britain, the Grand Slam champion of 2014/15, with his mare “Ursula XII”. This pair in turn also won the Grand Prix of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016 and thus travelled to the CHI Geneva last December as the current Grand Slam contender.
However, it was Pedro Veniss and “Quabri de l’Isle”, who secured themselves the victory in the Palexpo arena in Geneva – the pair that everyone’s eyes will be set on during the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017, when the 34-year-old Brazilian rider and his exceptional stallion will try their hardest to win their second Major victory in a row.
Will Pedro Veniss succeed in pulling off the next step towards taking the Rolex Grand Slam? Or will the journey begin for a different rider? The decision will fall on July 23, 2017 in the Main Stadium in Aachen!
When the CHIO Aachen welcomes the best riders in the world in July 2017, it is not merely going to be the opening leg of the 2017 Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping year, but indeed also mark a further milestone in this ultimate prestigious equestrian sport challenge.
With the announcement of the new Rolex Grand Slam event, The Dutch Masters in `s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, is joining the ranks of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping fixtures. This means, going forward, one Major will be staged in each quarter of the calendar; the CHIO Aachen 2017 from July 14th to 23rd in Germany, followed by the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ CSIO in Calgary, Canada, from September 6th to 10th. The year comes to a close with the CHI Geneva from December 7th to 10th in Switzerland. Then the Netherlands take on the role of hosting the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the first time at The Dutch Masters from March 8th to 11th, 2018.
Along with the introduction announcement of the new Major, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is now also proud to unveil its new logo. “We created a unique concept in the year 2013, which is still today unparalleled in the world of equestrian sport.” commented Linda Southern-Heathcott, President of the Steering Committee of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. “The love for our fantastic partner, the horse, the passion for our sport and the respect for tradition are values that have united all of the Majors,” she added. “From the very onset, executing the highest standards again and again is something we all strive for as well as working together in harmony on our further development. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is not only a combination of world-class shows, it is an enthusiastic partnership and now together with our new partner, The Dutch Masters, we are taking the next, exciting step. The new logo symbolically underlines this.”
In spite of all the innovations, the established model of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping remains intact. Three consecutive Major victories still lead to the Grand Slam triumph and a bonus of one million Euros in addition to the prize-money. However, the newly introduced aspect is that by claiming an additional fourth Major victory in succession, a rider can double the Grand Slam bonus up to 2 million Euros.
Two Major victories within a Grand Slam cycle are still rewarded with a bonus of 250,000 Euros or, if they occur at two consecutive legs of the Grand Slam, 500,000 Euros.
The current Grand Slam contender is Pedro Veniss from Brazil. He won the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva 2016 last December and will be striving to secure his second Major victory in succession at the CHIO Aachen 2017. Former Rolex Grand Slam winner, Scott Brash of Great Britain, also has a chance to pick up a bonus of 250,000 Euros after winning the Grand Prix at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016 last September.
The venue dates of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping:
CHIO Aachen: July 14th-23rd, 2017
Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ CSIO: September 6th-10th, 2017
CHI Geneva: December 7th-10th, 2017
The Dutch Masters: March 8th-11th, 2018
The picture enclosed shows (from left to right) Linda Southern-Heathcott, President of the Steering Committee of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Scott Brash, first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Anky van Grunsven, President of Indoor Brabant, Marcel Hunze, Event Director of Indoor Brabant, and the reigning double World and European Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam at the official announcement at Indoor Brabant 2017.(picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton).
In 2018 the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will welcome The Dutch Masters as the fourth Major in equestrian sport. Established in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) in 1967, and celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, The Dutch Masters will join CHIO Aachen (Germany), CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ (Canada) and CHI Geneva (Switzerland) in the ranks of long-standing traditional Major shows.
“We couldn’t wish for a better partner,” said an enthused Linda Southern-Heathcott, President of the Steering Committee of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. “What has always united all the Majors is the passion for the sport, the love for horses and a long tradition of the highest standard. Therefore, The Dutch Masters is a perfect addition to the Rolex Grand Slam; it offers an outstanding infrastructure, has had a long history and attracts the best riders in the world every year.”
The addition of a fourth Major to the Rolex Grand Slam will bring an exciting new dimension for the world’s elite showjumpers. Any rider who replicates Scott Brash’s phenomenal achievement in 2015 and wins three Majors consecutively, will win the Rolex Grand Slam and a bonus of €1 million. If that same rider then continues their success by winning a fourth Major in succession, they will be rewarded with an additional €1 million bonus. The bonus is on top of the prize money that they win at each event.
Regardless of the calendar year, the cycle begins for each rider with their first Major victory. A bonus of €500,000 is also available to any rider who wins two successive Grands Prix in any order. Additionally, a rider who wins two Grands Prix in a period of four successive Majors, will receive a bonus of €250,000.
The four equestrian Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping all have a long-standing heritage in the sport and share a unique partnership with Rolex, who is also celebrating its 60th anniversary in equestrianism in 2017.
Anky van Grunsven, President of The Dutch Masters said, “Rolex has already done so much for our sport and our long-term partnership with the brand is a privilege on its own. However, to now become part of the Rolex Grand Slam, announced in the 50th anniversary year of The Dutch Masters, is a very special gift for us, the show organizers.”
Jeroen Dubbeldam, the reigning double World and European Champion added. “The two best outdoor and the two best indoor shows in the world are now combined with each other, and will allow the riders to prepare our horses strategically for the Rolex Grand Slam campaign. Naturally, coming from The Netherlands, I am also delighted that The Dutch Masters has become one of the Majors and look forward to competing for the Grand Slam title in my own country next year.”
Having won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in December, the Brazilian rider, Pedro Veniss, is the current ‘live contender’ for the Rolex Grand Slam and will be travelling to CHIO Aachen in July to challenge for a second successive stage win.
Dates of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping:
CHIO Aachen: 14-23 July 2017
Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’: 6-10 September 2017
CHI Geneva: 7-10 December 2017
The Dutch Masters: 15-18 March 2018
Congratulations on your victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva! What a lovely Christmas present you have given yourself.
Pedro Veniss: It is the best thing ever, the biggest achievement in my career! My horse “Quabri de l´Isle” already jumped fantastically in the first round, simply phenomenal. So, I placed all my bets on one card and risked everything because I knew there were several fast pairs to follow. What shall I say? My horse played along perfectly and in the end everything fell into place. It was simply our day!
"Quabri de l´Isle” already proved that the course at the CHI Geneva suits him well last year…
Veniss: Yes, that is right. We already had two clear rounds in the “Rolex Grand Prix” in 2015 and finished eighth. That rounded the year off nicely! But then unfortunately things didn’t run very smoothly for us at the beginning of 2016. I really wanted to win a medal with the Brazilian team at the Olympic Games in Rio in front of my home crowd and I was ultimately very disappointed that we didn’t succeed in doing so. That is why I completely concentrated on the CHI Geneva after Rio. I simply wanted to win!
This Major victory means that your personal Rolex Grand Slam has begun. What do you think about this initiative?
Veniss: The Rolex Grand Slam has a special significance for me, whereby my Grand Slam history actually already began last year in Calgary, when I came third in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”. That was my first really big achievement, I was totally thrilled about it at the time. Furthermore, I was invited to compete at the CHI Geneva on the basis of this placement. That definitely inspired me. The result in Calgary made it clear to me that I have big dreams in this sport that I want to pursue. After that I worked even harder on myself. And one of these dreams – a childhood dream to be honest – namely winning the Major in Geneva has now come true. However, I do still have a big dream on my list…
Veniss: To be able to ride in Aachen one day. That has always been my big goal. I had the opportunity to do so once at the World Equestrian Games in 2006. But then my horse sustained an injury a week beforehand, which meant I wasn’t able to ride. Since then the thought of competing in Aachen just wouldn’t let go of me.
This July you will not only definitely compete at the CHIO Aachen, but indeed as the Grand Slam contender. How do you rate your chances of winning a further Major?
Veniss: Alone the fact that I am now being able to contend in the Rolex Grand Slam is simply unbelievable and I am so lucky to have such an exceptional horse like “Quabri de l´Isle” to take on the challenge with. Hence, my focus in 2017 will definitely lie on Aachen and Calgary. I know that it will be extremely difficult to win the Rolex Grand Slam, but I will train even harder and give it my very best shot. And as I already said: There is nothing wrong about having big dreams!
Pedro Veniss won the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva 2016. In front of a crowd of 9,500 spectators in the sold-out Palexpo arena, together with “Quabri de l’Isle” the Brazilian rider put in a brilliant performance with a clear round in the jump-off and secured himself the victory in the third and last leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, ahead of Olivier Philippaerts from Belgium and the British show-jumper, Scott Brash.
“It was like a dream come true, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said an overwhelmed Pedro Veniss about the first Major victory in his career, which has at the same time made him the new Grand Slam contender. At the CHIO Aachen in July 2017, he will now have the opportunity to continue his personal Rolex Grand Slam and take his second Major victory in succession.
Scott Brash came to Geneva with this aim in sight, because – after his legendary Grand Slam triumph in the 2014/15 season – he had travelled to Switzerland as the current aspirant for the title, since he had been able to repeat his victory from the previous year at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016 in Calgary this September. As the last starter in the jump-off, it initially looked like the 31-year-old was going to claim the victory again, but in the end the British rider and his current top horse “Ursula XII” was four hundredths of a second slower than the winner.
Nevertheless, at the CHIO Aachen 2017 Scott Brash still has the chance to pick up the “two-out-of-three” bonus for two non-consecutive Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle. On the other hand, Philipp Weishaupt’s personal Rolex Grand Slam came to an end at the CHI Geneva: The Major winner of the CHIO Aachen 2016 collected eight faults in the first round of the extremely demanding course, which meant he didn’t qualify for the jump-off and thus missed the chance of pocketing a Grand Slam bonus.
The CHIO Aachen 2017, the next leg in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is being staged from July 14th-23rd, 2017.
Tomorrow you will be competing in an international class with your long-standing successful partner, “Nino des Buissonnets”, for the last time. After the “Rolex Grand Prix”, a festive ceremony will celebrate “Nino” retiring from competitive sport. When did you decide that Geneva was to be his last show?
Steve Guerdat: It was always clear that when “Nino” retired, it would be in Geneva. It is my favourite show and “Nino” has already won the “Rolex Grand Prix” here twice. The crowd here love him. I made the decision that it would happen this year around two months ago. “Nino” is still in top form at the moment, but he will turn 16 next year and if he were to sustain an injury, it would probably be the end of his career. I didn’t want to take this risk. I wanted him to retire when he is still at the peak of his performance, he deserves that. Tomorrow the people can enjoy him for one last time and then that is it for him. That is the way it should be!
You competed at top level together for six years and have celebrated countless victories. How much has “Nino” contributed to your career so far?
Guerdat: I think in the meantime “Nino” has become a legend, not just because of him winning Olympic gold or because of the two Major victories in Geneva. For example, he also came second in the World Cup Final twice. He never took part at too many shows, but whatever he did, he always turned in top results – and he is still in top form now. He is not only my best horse, he is without doubt one of the top horses in sporting history.
What are your feelings when you look ahead to tomorrow, when you know it is going to be the last time that you saddle “Nino” for a Grand Prix?
Guerdat: I don’t want to think about that now at all. I will ride tomorrow and try to win the “Rolex Grand Prix” again. Everything else will happen afterwards!
Alright, let us concentrate on the sport, then: In this respect, what can we expect from the Major final?
Guerdat: It will certainly be a very difficult course, as is customary here in Geneva. The first round will be a long one and it is necessary to ride extremely fast in the jump-off. There are so many good pairs here, we already saw that in the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” on Friday evening. It is definitely going to be exciting tomorrow, but hopefully luck will be on our side, so that we complete the class on a good result.
You too put in a remarkable performance on Friday and claimed third place in the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” with “Corbinian”. In the spring you succeeded in winning the World Cup Final with this horse. Do you think that “Corbinian” could follow in “Nino’s” footsteps, as far as future Championships are concerned?
Guerdat: “Corbinian” is perhaps not quite as consistent as “Nino” at the moment, but he is an exceptional horse in his own way. He already is one of the absolute top horses now and it is a shame that the people haven’t give him the credit he deserves yet. I mean this horse won the World Cup Final – that in itself is a huge victory in a horse’s career. As such, “Corbinian” doesn’t actually have to prove anything else or follow in anyone else’s footsteps, because he has already left his own.
Finally, coming back to tomorrow’s “Rolex Grand Prix” again: When you won in 2013 and 2015, you were one of the first to go in the jump-off, so you had to wait for a number of riders to jump before you actually knew you had won. Do you hope that things won’t be as nerve-racking for you tomorrow?
Guerdat: I simply hope, I ride well. Everything else will take its course!
The first big competitions of the CHI Geneva are over and from the onset the current Grand Slam contender, Scott Brash, proved that he is in top form. He took the very first opportunity to secure a starting place in the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday.
The British rider and his current top horse, “Ursula XII” already put in a magnificent round and galloped over the finish line clear in the qualifying competition on Thursday. “I am delighted at our performance, ‘Ursula’ is in the best form possible. She was still a little bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere here at the Palexpo, but she jumped very nice and relaxed. She has got the day off today, she will compete in a small class tomorrow just to take the edge of her before the Grand Prix on Sunday.”
Scott Brash also succeeded in securing himself the ticket for the final with no pressure at all: The 31-year-old mastered the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix” – the first qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday – with ease after finishing third with “Hello M’Lady”. The US American, Kent Farrington, jumped to victory in the class with “Creedence”, ahead of Jérome Guery and “Grand Cru van de Rozenberg” from Belgium. In addition to the successful trio, a further 20 riders were able to reserve a ticket for the “Rolex Grand Prix” with top placements, including the number one in the world rankings, Christian Ahlmann, in addition to his German team colleagues Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Daniel Deußer and Marcus Ehning as well as the Italian show-jumper Lorenzo de Luca and the French riders Pénélope Leprévost and Roger-Yves Bost.
On Sunday, they will be taking on among others the reigning double-World and European Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands, the US American McLain Ward, winner of the Pan-American Games 2015, the Vice European Champion Gregory Wathelet from Belgium and the bronze medallist at the Olympic Games in Rio, Eric Lamaze from Canada. All of these riders have already pre-qualified for the Major final due to their outstanding performances at the most recent Championships, alongside the Swiss national hero, Steve Guerdat, as winner of the Major in Geneva in 2015.
However, it is still not certain whether the winner of the CHIO Aachen 2016, Philipp Weishaupt from Germany, will be able to compete in the “Rolex Grand Prix”. He wasn’t placed in the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix”, nevertheless on Saturday he still has two chances of qualifying for the Major final: In the “Coupe de Genève” at 12.30 p.m. and in the “Geneva Classic” at 9.30 p.m.
The CHI Geneva has only just begun and already this evening the best riders in the world will be battling it out for a ticket to compete in the big final on Sunday: the “Rolex Grand Prix” that is endowed with prize-money totalling 1.2 million Swiss Francs.
The line-up of participants for this third leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping couldn’t be more exclusive, because the entire show jumping world elite has announced its participation: The French team gold medalists from Rio, Kevin Staut, Pénélope Leprévost, Roger-Yves Bost, Philippe Rozier and Simon Delestre, are represented in Geneva. Furthermore, the spectators can also look forward to the reigning double World and European Champion, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands, the bronze medallist from Rio, Eric Lamaze from Canada, and the entire Swiss Championship team led by the superstar, Steve Guerdat. Headed by the current number one in the world rankings Christian Ahlmann, not only all of the top 15 riders in the world rankings will be guests in Switzerland, but indeed almost the entire top 30, including McLain Ward and Kent Farrington from the USA, Bertram Allen from Ireland, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson from Sweden, Lorenzo de Luca from Italy as well as Ahlmann’s German team colleagues Daniel Deußer, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning.
For all of these top riders, the victory in the Grand Prix on Sunday would at the same time mean the start of their personal Rolex Grand Slam: The rider, who wins the three Majors of the equestrian sport – the CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary and the CHI Geneva – in direct succession, goes down in history as the winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and claims a bonus of one million Euros.
Scott Brash from Great Britain is the only rider to have achieved this feat so far, namely in 2014/15, and after his victory in the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ this September, he will once again be competing in Geneva as the current contender for the Grand Slam. But the German show-jumper Philipp Weishaupt also has the chance to claim a Grand Slam bonus at the Palexpo in Geneva: As winner of the CHIO Aachen 2016, a second Major victory within one Grand Slam cycle would earn him a 250,000 Euro bonus.
The “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHI Geneva gets underway at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday. The 40 starting places are allocated in a total of four qualifiers: Starting with the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix” today at 6.30 p.m., followed by the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” on Friday at 8.00 p.m., on Saturday the riders actually have two opportunities to win a ticket for the Major final on Sunday, namely in the “Coupe de Genève” at 12.30 p.m. and in the “Geneva Classic” at 9.30 p.m.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is returning to Switzerland for the last Major in the year 2016: The best show-jumpers in the world will be competing against each other from December 8th-11th, and on the final Sunday they will be battling it out to claim the victory in the famous “Rolex Grand Prix.” An interview with the current Grand Slam challenger, Scott Brash, about exceptional horses, exceptional rides and last-minute shopping at the foot of the Swiss Alps.
Just one year ago you went down in history as the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Now, with your back-to-back victory at Spruce Meadows in September, you are once again the title contender. Why is the Rolex Grand Slam still such a strong attraction for you?
Scott Brash: I think it has a strong hold on everyone because Aachen, Calgary and Geneva are the three Majors that every rider wants to win. Every rider wants to be part of the Rolex Grand Slam and have the opportunity to try to do what not many people have done in history.
And if you should succeed in claiming the Grand Slam victory again, it would be particularly legendary. Because this year you didn’t compete in Aachen and Calgary with your long-standing successful partner, “Hello Sanctos”, with whom you were able to win the three Majors in 2014/15, but indeed with “Ursula XII”. Do you think this mare also has the potential to claim the Grand Slam title?
Brash: To be honest, yes I do and it is because she is also an exceptional horse. She is unique and it is rare to have two unbelievable horses in your lifetime, but she is certainly one of them. She was very close at Aachen, coming second, but proved she has been good enough to be there or thereabouts so all eyes are on Geneva for her now.
So you will be bringing “Ursula” to Geneva for the “Rolex Grand Prix”?
Brash: Yes, “Ursula” will be coming to Geneva. We have already started organising her programme straight after Calgary with Geneva in mind. She started her campaign indoors in October to get into the indoor season and we have set her up as well as we could for Geneva.
What are the special challenges of the Major in Geneva as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Brash: In contrast to Aachen and Calgary and their huge grass arenas, Geneva is indoors for a start. But I think it is different to the other Majors in the sense that the “Rolex Grand Prix” in Geneva is only one round instead of two, so you are nearly guaranteed a jump-off with the top horses and top riders. It is going to be a testing course with a fast jump-off there as well. So technically, it is very different to Aachen or Calgary, but there is going to be fantastic sport and I am looking forward to it.
With its date in mid-December, the CHI Geneva is not only well-known for its great sport, but also for its exceptional atmosphere and the festive ambiance. Do the riders also get into the Christmas mood?
Brash: Geneva is such a wonderful show and they have some great stands where you can buy lots of Christmas gifts and I usually do my last-minute shopping in and around there. It would probably be early Christmas shopping for me! But I think having Christmas just around the corner lends the show a great ambiance and everyone is in a great frame of mind and that creates a nice atmosphere to ride in.
And, of course, the perfect Christmas present for you would be to finish the competition as the Major winner...
Brash: Well, the “Rolex Grand Prix” will be a tough competition again and extremely hard to win. But I will give it my best shot!
On the horizon of the King of the Alps. Majestic, with the dignity of an undisputed ruler, the Mont Blanc towers over Lake Geneva. On the banks of which the battle for the crown has just commenced again. Because at the Palexpo in Geneva, the largest indoor arena in the world, the top stars of the equestrian world traditionally meet up in December for the third Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
The CHI Geneva has been impressing the crowds since 1926 and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year to the most southwestern point of francophone Switzerland to experience unforgettable sporting moments together with the best riders in the world.
All eyes will especially be cast on one man: Scott Brash, whose name is as closely connected with the glorious history of the Rolex Grand Slam as the Majors themselves. Since precisely two years ago, the young Brit laid the foundation for that monument that turned him into a living legend, after his victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva 2014: In the following year, he also succeeded in winning the Majors in both Aachen and Calgary and hence became the first and only rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Scott Brash’s journey with Rolex is, however, by no means over after this pioneering triumph: “My fascination for the Majors is unabated,” the 31-year-old said and promptly delivered the evidence in July when he came second at the CHIO Aachen 2016. Moreover, after defending his Major title at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September, he will be saddling his horse at the CHI Geneva as the current contender for the Rolex Grand Slam.
Philipp Weishaupt will also be travelling to Switzerland with the confidence of a Major winner, since it was he, who delegated Scott Brash into second place at the CHIO Aachen 2016. The German show-jumper has the opportunity to win the bonus for two Major victories within a Grand Slam cycle in Geneva. “Winning the Grand Prix in Geneva is an absolute dream,” commented the also 31-year-old. “It is an extremely tough challenge, but my horses are in top form and I think we have a good chance.”
But, the Swiss arena is not going to be the venue for a duel between merely Brash and Weishaupt, the entire show-jumping world elite is competing at the CHI Geneva, including last year’s winner, Steve Guerdat. The Swiss local hero has won the Major in Geneva three times already, in 2006, 2013 and 2015 and is one of the absolute favourites again this year.
Yet, which national hymn will echo through the Palexpo on the afternoon of December 11th, 2016, which rider will head the lap of honour, whose triumph will be eternally anchored in the minds of the 8,500 spectators, will exclusively be decided in the ring.
The top 40 pairs in the world qualify to compete in the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHI Geneva. In the end, one pair will triumph over all of their fellow competitors. Let the battle for the throne of the equestrian sport begin!
A legend says goodbye: Olympic champion and two-time Major winner of Geneva, "Nino des Buissonnets", will have his last "grand entrance" to the public at this years CHI Geneva. After this stage of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping the special horse will be retired from the sport.
“He deserves the chance to call it a day at Palexpo, in top form, at the end of a great season, in the so-special Palexpo arena. It's the right time and place to stop", shares Steve Guerdat. With "Nino des Buissonnets" he won the Major of Geneva in 2013 and 2015 and in the year 2012 he won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in London.
"Nino des Buissonnets" will bid farewell to the public at CHI Geneva on Sunday, 11th December, after his last round in the "Rolex Grand Prix" with Steve Guerdat.
Congratulations on your victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”. Exactly one year after your sensational Grand Slam triumph, history is repeating itself again for you. Albeit with a different horse …
Scott Brash: Yes, I won all three Majors that led to my Grand Slam victory with “Hello Sanctos”. But here I opted for “Ursula”. I am so delighted at this victory with her, because it was such a long road to get her there. She was always an incredible horses and winning a Major with her is something very special for me.
So, you will now be taking on the Rolex Grand Slam challenge with “Ursula”? After all, the two of you already also came second in the “Rolex Grand Prix” of Aachen.
Brash: “Ursula” is a world-class horse and I am extremely happy that she is finally getting the attention she deserves. But I am also realistic: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is such a difficult thing to win – after all we are talking about the three biggest Grand Prix in the world. Being able to win in Geneva, Aachen or Spruce Meadows even once in a lifetime is already a fantastic achievement in itself. And it remains to be a virtually impossible challenge to win all three Majors in succession, even with the best horse in the world. Even today, I can still hardly believe my victory last year. But don’t understand me wrong: I will now nevertheless dedicate my entire attentions to the Rolex Grand Slam again and give it my best shot.
So that means now: Focusing totally on Geneva?
Brash: Absolutely! Regardless of the Rolex Grand Slam, in my eyes the CHI Geneva is the best indoor show in the world. I love Geneva! The “Palexpo” is a wonderful arena, there is going to be fantastic sport there and the “Rolex Grand Prix” will be a tough competition again. I know what is awaiting me – and I am looking forward to it!
Do you actually have enough space for a further Grand Slam Trophy at home?
Brash: There will always be room for that, don’t worry! (laughs)
The picture shows Scott Brash and "Ursula", winners of the "CP 'International', presented by Rolex", with the Rolex Grand Slam Trophy in the "International Ring" of Spruce Meadows. It can be used free of charge (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton).
He has done it again! After his phenomenal triumph last year, when Scott Brash won the third Major in succession in Calgary and thus went down in history as the first winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the Brit now succeeded in riding to victory again in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”.
In the Grand Prix of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the second leg of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, on Sunday afternoon, as the only rider to remain clear after two rounds and a jump-off, Brash left the entire world elite of the jumping sport trailing behind him and with this unique performance defended his Major victory of the previous year.
“I am overjoyed and my whole thanks go to my horse, who jumped exceptionally today,” a delighted Scott Brash commented on his sensational success, which takes him to Geneva in December to the next leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. In the third and last Major of the year, Scott Brash now has the opportunity to repeat history: If he should once again succeed in winning the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHI in Geneva, he could claim the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title for the second time at the CHIO Aachen next July. However – and that is the especially extraordinary thing – with a different horse: Since whereas he jumped to victory in the Majors in Geneva in 2014, and in Aachen and Spruce Meadows in 2015 with “Hello Sanctos”, this time he had placed his bets on “Ursula”, whom he also came second with at the CHIO Aachen in 2016.
For the winner of the CHIO Aachen 2016, Philipp Weishaupt, on the other hand things didn’t run smoothly in Spruce Meadows: The German and his stallion “LB Convall” missed the opportunity of taking a further step in the direction of the Rolex Grand Slam, when they didn’t manage to qualify for the second round of the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” after collecting twelve faults in the first round. However, in December Weishaupt still has the chance of picking up the bonus for two non-consecutive Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle in Geneva. In Spruce Meadows, the Swiss rider, Steve Guerdat, could have taken advantage of this “two-out-of-three” bonus after his victory at the CHI Geneva in 2015. However, eight penalty points in the first round of the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” meant the Olympic gold medallist of 2012 and “Corbinian” didn’t go through to the second round.
The picture shows Philipp Weishaupt and "LB Convall", contenders for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, in the “International Ring” of Spruce Meadows. It can be used free of charge (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton).
The final qualifier for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” was on Saturday evening and now it is ultimately clear which pairs are allowed to compete in the grand final on Sunday in this year’s Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the second Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
In addition to the two Rolex Grand Slam contenders, Philipp Weishaupt and Steve Guerdat, Christian Ahlmann, the current number one in the world rankings and the winner of the Major in Aachen in 2014, is on the starter list together with his team colleague, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, winner of the Major in Aachen in 2005, as well as the Olympic gold team medallists, Roger-Yves Bost and Kevin Staut – winner of the Major in Geneva in 2010 – from France.
The Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash from Great Britain and the Brazilian rider, Pedro Veniss, who came first and third respectively last year, are also qualified for the final together with the reigning Vice European Champion from Belgium, Gregory Wathelet and his fellow countryman, Olivier Philippaerts – the winner of the Major in 2012. The winner of the Major in 2009, McLain Ward, will also strive to repeat this exceptional achievement. A victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” would be the first Major title for his US American team colleague, Kent Farrington – and the current number two in the world rankings is without doubt one of the big favourites.
As such, the biggest names in the sport are all represented in the final of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. At the end of the day, one of them will write a further unique chapter in the history of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. One of them will go down in the history of the equestrian sport as a Major winner.
The picture shows Steve Guerdat and "Albführen's Happiness", winners of the first qualifier for the "CP 'International', presented by Rolex". It can be used free of charge (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton).
The international classes of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary, Canada have been underway since Wednesday. The two Rolex Grand Slam contenders, Philipp Weishaupt and Steve Guerdat, can be more than satisfied with their initial performances at the Major: Guerdat won the first qualifier for the “CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex” with the mare “Albführen’s Happiness” straight off. So, the Swiss rider has already qualified for the Final on Sunday. “Naturally, it is great to get a show off to such a good start,” said Guerdat delighted, however he also explained: “Of course, there is a huge difference between this first qualifier over 1.50 metre obstacles and the Grand Prix on Sunday, when a completely different level of performance is demanded.” Incidentally, Guerdat is placing his bets on “Corbinian” for the “CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex”, whom he won the World Cup Final with in the spring and with whom he successfully competed at the CHIO Aachen in July.
As in Aachen, Philipp Weishaupt will be saddling his horse “LB Convall” for the Major final. The stallion, who already competed in the Summer Series in Spruce Meadows, has presented himself in top form from the very first day onwards after returning to Calgary: “He is fresh, he felt at home here again straightaway, he greeted the parade horses of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as if they were old friends. He also felt great jumping too.”
Since the pair are pre-qualified for the final after winning the CHIO Aachen, they can take a relaxed approach to the remaining days of the show. “’’Convall’ had the day off on Thursday, I am riding him in an advanced jumping class on Friday, Saturday I will rest him again – and on Sunday we will be going for it,” commented a confident Philipp Weishaupt, who, if he succeeds in riding to victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” on Sunday, will have the opportunity to perfect his second step in the direction of the Rolex Grand Slam.
The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ begins today and the best horses and riders in the world have travelled to Calgary for the second leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, to battle it out for the victory in the Major. Five days of jumping sport in a class of its own is thus guaranteed, as well as a fitting final: The “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” on Sunday is endowed with an incredible two million Canadian Dollars in prize-money and challenges the elite of the jumping sport with one of the toughest five-star courses in the world.
Only 40 pairs have the chance to battle it out for the Major victory. In order to secure their ticket for the final they have to put in excellent performances in the qualifying classes that are being staged between today and Saturday. The last big rehearsal for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” and at the same time a highlight of the event is the Nations’ Cup on Saturday: Ten nations will be competing against each other and have sent their top riders to Canada for the competition: Eric Lamaze will be heading the team of the host nation. The Olympic gold medallist of 2008, already succeeded in claiming the victory at the Major in Spruce Meadows in 2007 and 2011 and recently proved that he is in superb form at the Olympic Games in Rio after winning the bronze medal in the individual classification.
The reigning Olympic gold medal-winning team, France, is sending two of its Rio gold medallists into the running: Kevin Staut and Roger-Yves Bost. And the USA will be represented at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, first and foremost by their Olympic silver medallists, Kent Farrington and McLain Ward. Team Great Britain will be supported by Scott Brash, who became a living legend last year in Calgary after going down in history as the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
The German delegation has got a first-class line-up too: Among others, the two Olympic bronze medallists and the reigning Vice European Champions, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Christian Ahlmann (the current number one in the world rankings), as well as the winner of the CHIO Aachen 2016, Philipp Weishaupt, will be on the starters’ list. With his outstanding horse “LB Convall”, Weishaupt has got his sights set on the second Major victory in succession and thus also the next step in the direction of the Rolex Grand Slam. However, winning the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” would definitely also prove worthwhile for Steve Guerdat from Switzerland: As the winner of the CHI Geneva in 2015, he has the opportunity to claim the “two-out-of-three” bonus for two non-consecutive Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle.
For Belgium, among others the reigning Vice European Champion, Gregory Wathelet, as well as Olivier Philippaerts, the winner of the Major in 2012, are also set to compete. The Netherlands, the reigning World and European Champions, are basing their team around Gerco Schröder, who can always be relied on to win a medal.
Regardless of how many excellent achievements all of these riders have notched up so far: In the legendary “International Ring” of Spruce Meadows, actions speak louder than titles. Each of the participants in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” has the chance to go down in history as a Major winner. However, only the rider, who puts in an absolute top performance on Sunday afternoon and displays total harmony with his horse and the resolute will to triumph, will be able to master this ultimate equestrian sport challenge.
The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in the year, is being staged in Calgary, Canada, from September 7th-11th. How the winner of the CHIO Aachen, Philipp Weishaupt, rates his chances of a second Major victory in succession and what challenges await the best riders in the world in the legendary “International Ring” in Spruce Meadows, are revealed in an interview with the 31-year-old German show-jumper.
There are emotional images from your Major victory in Aachen. When the pole of the last competitor fell in the stadium, you sank to your knees on the warm-up area...
Philipp Weishaupt: I was completely drained of energy at that moment, there was nothing else I could do. I just couldn’t believe it. It was simply an overwhelming feeling; in fact, it still is. It is without doubt a moment that I will never forget in my whole life. There are millions of riders, but only very few are granted such a victory. So, at the age of 31, I have already achieved something, that nobody will ever be able to take away from me.
That’s true! Aged just nine, your horse “LB Convall” is still a youngster too. The CHIO Aachen was the first Major in his life.
Weishaupt: “Convall” is simply an exceptional horse! In spite of his young years, he is extremely cool and has enormous scope. Prior to the CHIO Aachen, I spent four weeks in Spruce Meadows to get him used to grass rings. That was fantastic preparation and really did him good. Of course, it is an enormous advantage for the ‘Masters’ now, because he has already been there.
What is special about the Major in Calgary?
Weishaupt: There are not many such huge grass arenas like the one in Calgary, you have to ride in a special way, you have to let the horses canter much faster. The time between the jumps is tight, the material of the obstacles is incredibly solid and the course is built differently than at most shows. There are horses, who love that and there are others, who aren’t too keen at all. I am lucky here because “Convall” belongs to the first group.
Does he like indoor shows too? After all the third leg of the Rolex Grand Slam in December leads to the CHI in Geneva.
Weishaupt: Geneva is not a typical indoor show. Boasting an indoor area that is bigger than most outdoor rings, it has an absolute outdoor character. But apart from that, I think a really good horse wins whether it is indoors or out. Due to his temperament, “Convall” does prefer the big grass areas, but he is such a top quality horse that he will without doubt also be able to perform well indoors too.
So, he is exactly the right partner to claim the Grand Slam title?
Weishaupt: Well, I don’t want to stick my neck out too far! The Rolex Grand Slam is a super challenge, but I don’t think anyone will be able to follow Scott Brash’s lead in a hurry. There are perhaps a handful of riders, who have been able to win three Majors over the course of their entire life, but winning them in direct succession is something very, very, very special. I am actually delighted that I am able to compete in the Grand Slam at all. Nevertheless, I will be give it my best shot in Spruce Meadows and will try to win!
International Ring. A name that is awe-inspiring. It is the Main Stadium of Spruce Meadows. The place, where legends are born. Only exceptional athletes are allowed to enter it, because only the best of the best are allowed to compete on the enormous grass arena in the heart of the showgrounds.
The rider that jumps to victory here on the last day of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, will leave a very special impression behind. He will go down in the history of the sport as a Major winner.
Last year, the British show-jumper, Scott Brash, succeeded in doing so. But that wasn’t all either: In that split second when he jumped the last obstacle in the Grand Prix clear with his amazing horse “Hello Sanctos”, the world-class rider Scott Brash, became an equestrian sport legend. With his third Major victory in succession, he won the Rolex Grand Slam and thus claimed the throne of show jumping.
Now it is down to his challengers to reach for Scott Brash’s crown! Particularly one young man from Germany, because Philipp Weishaupt will be entering the arena as the winner of Aachen. He is placing his hopes on the stallion, “LB Convall”, who is extremely familiar with Spruce Meadows: Namely, he and Weishaupt spent four weeks in Calgary this summer – shortly before their victory at the CHIO Aachen.
“‘Convall’ was able to get used to the huge grass ring there and put in very good performances in the advanced jumping classes,” his 31-yearold rider explained. So, the chances are looking good for the second Major victory in succession for the German pair. But one certainly shouldn’t underestimate this man either: Steve Guerdat, the exceptional Swiss rider, who at the age of 34 has already won almost all of the prestigious titles in the sport. Olympic gold medallist, European Champion, many-time World Cup Final winner – so many victories, so many achievements. He has won the Major in Geneva three times already: In 2006, 2013 – and most recently in 2015.
Thus, the Rolex Grand Slam in Calgary is also a current topic for Guerdat too: Following the “two-out-of-three” mode, he could pick up a bonus for two victories at non-consecutive Majors. Hence, should Guerdat win the Grand Prix of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, he would receive 250,000 Euros in addition to the prize-money.
Yet, it is not the prospect of winning the bonus that is attracting Steve Guerdat to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at the foot of the Canadian Rocky Mountains again this year. “I love the sport and the huge events have always fascinated me. Aachen, Calgary and Geneva – they are Grand Prix that every rider wants to win at least once in a lifetime.”
That is precisely why they are all here: Olympic gold medallists, World Champions, shooting stars, the top riders in the world rankings. Because there is hardly any other more worthy place in the world to challenge one’s fortune. Here, in Spruce Meadows, where so many big success stories began. Who will ride to victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” on September 11th? Who will leave the legendary “International Ring” as winner of the Major?
Congratulations on your victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen, which you certainly had to fight hard for…
You can say that again! When I walked the course it was clear to me that it was going to be very, very difficult today. The obstacles were very demanding, the time was very tight. As the first to go in the class, I didn’t have the best starting position either. Which is why I am all the more delighted that it ultimately sufficed for the victory. Everything simply went so well for me today, it was a perfect day. I have dreamt about winning here as long as I can remember. When I came to the CHIO Aachen the first time at the age of five and walked passed the winners’ board, I thought: I would like my name to stand there one day! But I never dreamt that this would become true. To be honest, I still can’t believe it.
You just spent four weeks in Calgary taking part in several international shows there in Spruce Meadows. Was that perhaps the key to your success? Did you bring the motivation from Calgary with you to Aachen?
Yes, that really helped me, and I believe it was decisive for my success. I was able to prepare my horse “LB Convall” excellently for the impressive atmosphere in Aachen, so that he felt at home here from the very beginning. That was precisely my plan and it certainly paid off!
How was the “Rolex Grand Prix” for you today?
It was simply phenomenal – from the very first moment through to the prize-ceremony. There is always a “full house” in Aachen, the crowd loves the sport. Then, that huge grass ring and the long history of the show. Being able to ride here is simply indescribable. I am especially proud to have won the “Rolex Grand Prix”, because Rolex simply stands for top sport. I can’t thank everyone enough for this unique day!
After this Major victory your personal Rolex Grand Slam has begun. How do you rate your chances of claiming the title?
What Scott Brash succeeded in doing last year was simply unique. To win two Majors in succession that alone is very, very difficult – not to mention the Grand Slam victory! Hence I am not expecting to follow Scott’s lead here. However, “Convall” is an exceptional horse. He is just nine years old and hasn’t competed at many top class shows yet. The fact that he was able to put in such a performance against the best pairs in the world here in Aachen, shows how special he is. So the chance is there!
So we will see you again at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary in September?
Definitely! I wanted to compete there anywhere, whatever the outcome here in Aachen was. Of course, thanks to the Major victory it is even more worthwhile now. I am looking forward to taking on this challenge!
Six days of show jumping in a class of its own, hundreds of thousands of euphoric visitors, a nail-biting final: The opening Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at the CHIO Aachen 2016 couldn’t have been better. Especially not for Philipp Weishaupt, who rode to victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen” and thus celebrated the first Major triumph in his career.
The German rider left the entire present-day equestrian sport elite trailing behind him with “LB Convall” and relegated the Rolex Grand Slam winner of 2015, Scott Brash from Great Britain, and the Spanish top rider, Sergio Alvarez Moya, into second and third place, respectively, against the amazing backdrop of the sold-out Main Stadium. As winner of the Major in Aachen, Philipp Weishaupt now joins the ranks of those sport icons, who have written history at the most famous showground in the world: Nick Skelton, Christian Ahlmann and of course Scott Brash – to mention just the most recent entries on the legendary winners’ board of the “Rolex Grand Prix” of Aachen. Now, a further unforgettable name has been added to the list.
“I can’t really believe it at the moment,” commented a more than overwhelmed Philipp Weishaupt during the prize-giving ceremony. “When I walked the course, it was clear to me that it was going to be very, very difficult today. But then, everything simply went so well, it was simply a perfect day.” And precisely this day is perhaps the beginning of a chapter that could soon become the most important one in his career. Because today, on Sunday, July 17th, 2016 – three days before his 31st birthday – the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun for Philipp Weishaupt, the challenge for the most prestigious and most demanding trophy on the international equestrian sport circuit. The objective is to win the three Majors – the CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and the CHI Geneva – in direct succession. A bonus of one million Euros and an eternal place in the sport’s Hall of Fame awaits the rider, who succeeds in achieving this exceptional feat.
So, for Philipp Weishaupt, the next stop is going to be Calgary – at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ from September 7th- 11th, 2016.
The contest for the crown of the equestrian sport is entering a new round with the CHIO Aachen 2016, the first Major in the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, and now it has already been decided, which 40 athletes will be able to face the ultimate challenge in the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday.
The best riders in the world had the opportunity to secure themselves a ticket for the grand final in three different classes: The Canadian Olympic gold medallist, succeeded in winning two of the qualifiers, the “Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe” on Wednesday and the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia” on Friday. As such, the crowd in Aachen can look forward to greeting him on Sunday together with Simon Delestre, who claimed first place in the first qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” and who is also the current number one in the world ranking list, and the youngest Major winner of all time, Olivier Philippaerts: In 2012, the then 19-year-old rode to victory in the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Thanks to his excellent performances in the qualifiers – among others ranking third in the “Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe” – the Belgium rider now has the chance to battle it out for a further triumph in the Rolex Grand Slam.
In the “Mercedes Benz-Nations’ Cup” on Thursday evening, the winning team from Germany sovereignly secured themselves a place on the starting list for Sunday: Ludger Beerbaum, Christian Ahlmann, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning have not only notched up a long list of Championship victories, each of them has already been able to win the Major in Aachen at least once. However, the US American and French riders, who brought a huge dose of excitement and nail-biting entertainment to the Main Stadium in Aachen on Thursday after engaging in a head-to-head race with Germany, are also among the favourites to win the “Rolex Grand Prix”. The top riders from the USA – Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Laura Kraut and Lucy Davis as well as Pénélope Leprévost, Roger Yves Bost and Philippe Rozier – all three were members of the French team that won silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2014 – will undoubtedly also convince the crowd with top performances on Sunday.
Finally, the Rolex Grand Slam winner, Scott Brash from Great Britain; the Dutch multi-champions Gerco Schröder and Maikel van der Vleuten, as well as the Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat will be among the prestigious line-up. And although a dream would come true for every rider if they succeed in claiming the victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” – for Switzerland’s superstar much more is at stake: As winner of the CHI Geneva in 2015, Steve Guerdat could make his second Major victory in succession come true and would thus travel to Calgary in September as a hot candidate to take the Grand Slam title and win a bonus of one million Euros. “Corbinian is an incredibly talented horse with amazing potential,” said Steve Guerdat about the gelding, with whom he won the World Cup Final in April and who is his chosen horse for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday. “It is his first time in Aachen and we will have to wait and see how well he copes with the impressive atmosphere on Sunday. But he has already proven that nothing is too difficult for him!”
The first qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHIO Aachen 2016 is over: The Canadian rider, Eric Lamaze, asserted himself with “Fine Lady” in the “Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe” on Wednesday afternoon and relegated the current number one in the world ranking list, Simon Delestre from France, and the Belgian show-jumper, Olivier Philippaerts, into second and third place, respectively.
The athletes had to overcome 16 obstacles measuring up to 1.60 metres in height in the first big challenge of the Aachen Major. Steve Guerdat, winner of the CHI Geneva in 2015, wasn’t able to meet the requirements of the demanding course and had to retire with “Concetto Son”, so he wasn’t among the 14 clear rounds that reached the subsequent jump-off in the battle for the victory. However, this performance doesn’t reduce his chances of winning the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday: As the Olympic gold medallist of 2012, Guerdat has already prequalified for the Final of the CHIO Aachen, for him winning the competition would mean his second Major victory in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. That is why he rested “Corbinian” on Wednesday, Guerdat’s current first choice for the “Rolex Grand Prix”, because the gelding already presented himself in good form on Tuesday in the opening jumping competition and mastered the course with ease without picking up any faults.
The next qualifier for the “Rolex Grand Prix” is a floodlit competition on Thursday evening: The riders have a second opportunity to secure themselves a place on the starting list of the Grand Prix if they achieve a top ranking in the “Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup”. The third and final qualifier is the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia” on Friday. Following this, we will know who the 40 participants are that have qualified for the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the Aachen Major on Sunday, which is endowed with one million Euros in prize-money.