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.
There are just a few hours to go before the first episode of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping this year! The jumping competitions of the CHIO Aachen 2016 begin tomorrow on Tuesday with a warm-up in the Main Stadium. From Wednesday to Friday, the athletes will have the chance to secure themselves a place in the grand finale on Sunday afternoon, the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, which is endowed with one million Euros in prize-money.
The three qualifying jumping competitions alone are a hard trial for both horse and rider: Starting with the “Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe,” the main competition on Wednesday, the path leads to the starting list of the “Rolex Grand Prix”, via the “Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup” on Thursday evening and the “Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia”, the main competition on Friday. Only those riders, who manage to convince with an excellent placing in at least one of these competitions, will win one of the coveted 40 tickets for the final.
All of the top riders in the world ranking list will be battling it out to secure themselves a Major victory: The host country, Germany, is sending its best riders to the CHIO Aachen: Christian Ahlmann (ranks 2nd), Daniel Deußer (ranks 8th), Marcus Ehning (ranks 12th), Ludger Beerbaum (ranks 13th) and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (ranks 21st). The same is true of the French show-jumpers, who have three of the world’s current top ten riders: Simon Delestre, the current number one in the world ranking list, Pénélope Leprévost (ranks 4th) and Kevin Staut (ranks 7th). Incidentally, thanks to winning the bronze medal at the European Championships 2015 in Aachen, Delestre has already pre-qualified for the Grand Prix. The same applies for Gregory Wathelet from Belgium (ranks 10th), the reigning Vice European Champion, as well as for the current number three in the world ranking list, McLain Ward, who already has a place in the “Rolex Grand Prix” after taking the victory at the Pan American Games 2015. Among others, Kent Farrington (ranks 5th) and Beezie Madden (ranks 11th) will also be representing the USA.
Steve Guerdat has even pre-qualified twice – namely for claiming Olympic gold in 2012 and for his victory in this year’s World Cup Final. Since the Swiss rider is travelling to the CHIO Aachen as the winner of the Major in Geneva, all eyes will be particularly focused on him during the show: If he also succeeds in notching up the victory in the Grand Prix of Aachen, he will have achieved the second step in the direction of the Rolex Grand Slam and would then have to complete just one more hurdle at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary to take the Grand-Slam title.
Scott Brash knows what this phenomenal victory feels like: The current number six in the world ranking list went down in sporting history last year as the first and hitherto only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The British rider has also confirmed his participation at the CHIO Aachen and is also pre-qualified for the “Rolex Grand Prix” as winner of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015.
Will Steve Guerdat be able to assert himself against the strong field of competitors? Or will we hail in a new Major winner after the Grand Prix of Aachen on Sunday afternoon? The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is looking forward to an exciting CHIO Aachen 2016!
“Winning a Major is an incredible feat!”
What are your objectives for the CHIO Aachen?
Steve Guerdat: Aachen is always an absolute highlight, every year. The stadium, the huge crowds and the interest of the media is unique. That in itself is fantastic motivation alone. Every rider wants to win here one day. But, of course, after winning in Geneva, a victory in Aachen this year is particularly important to me.
For then you will have taken a further step in the direction of the Rolex Grand Slam ...
Guerdat: Yes, and yet I still find it difficult to set myself the Grand Slam as a concrete goal, before actually having achieved the second step. It is a dream for me, but at present it is still too far out of reach. Winning one Major alone is already an incredible feat! I have succeeded in achieving that in Geneva three times, I have already come second in Calgary once and fifth in Aachen. I am very proud of these results. The Grand Slam is simply something unbelievable, only a few riders will ever achieve that.
How important is this initiative for your sport?
Guerdat: Aachen, Geneva and Calgary were always the main shows of the season for us riders. This is where you find the best sport and the most visitors. The Rolex Grand Slam has placed everything on a new level again. It is a unique format, which also promises even more excitement for the spectators, because they can route for the riders on their way to the next Major victory. This was clearly noticeable in Calgary last year. The whole crowd was behind Scott and it was a very special moment for everyone when he won the Grand Slam. It also attracted huge media interest. I think one can say that the whole sport profits from the Rolex Grand Slam.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is back in Aachen! In the first Major of the year, the top stars of the equestrian sport scene will once again be facing the ultimate challenge: Who is going to leave the most famous showground in the world as the winner of the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”?
Nick Skelton, Christian Ahlmann and Scott Brash are the names of those sports idols, who have succeeded in eternalising their names on the legendary winners’ board of the CHIO Aachen since the premiere of the Rolex Grand Slam in the year 2013.
Whereby Scott Brash’s victory last year was of particular significance: Because the young Brit had travelled to Aachen as the winner of the Major in Geneva. On the Holy Grass of the Main Stadium he and his brilliant horse, “Hello Sanctos”, once again demonstrated their world class, when they reached the finish line clear in the fastest time in the jump-off of the “Rolex Grand Prix” in front of 40,000 spectators.
Scott Brash’s unique series of victories finally came to a climax in September 2015 at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary, where he also rode to victory in the Major. “It was just an incredible feeling when I won, because I had put all my sights, all my energy and all my efforts into that,” is how Scott Brash described that master feat that hailed in a new era of equestrian sport and turned him into a living legend at the tender age of 30: As the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
But soon a new challenger is to reach for the crown: At the CHI Geneva 2015 in December, it was the Swiss superstar, Steve Guerdat, who jumped to victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix”.
He put all his experience to good use with “Nino des Buissonnets” – that ingenious horse, who carried him to individual gold at the Olympic Games in 2012 – and after 2006 and 2013 won the Major in Geneva for the third time.
The Swiss rider hasn’t been able to assert himself against his fellow competitors at the CHIO Aachen so far – but he hopes this will change now: “The Rolex Grand Slam exerts an incredible fascination,” commented Steve Guerdat. “That is why I am top motivated to claim my second Major victory in Aachen.”
The Swiss show-jumper definitely has good chances of success, he has proved that with numerous important victories over the course of the season. However, in the star-studded field of participants in the “Rolex Grand Prix” of Aachen, every pair has the sporting class to jump to the top. But who will display the necessary nerves of steel and concentration to assert themselves in the electrifying atmosphere of the stadium? Who has the absolute will to win in the battle against the clock? Which pair will convince with their perfect harmony and united fighting spirit?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping welcomes the best riders in the world to the CHIO Aachen! Who is going to celebrate a major triumph on July 17th, 2016?
The team of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is mourning the founder of the world-famous equestrian venue “Spruce Meadows”, Ron Southern. He passed away on Thursday at the age of 85. The “Spruce Meadow” vision has meanwhile developed into one of the most famous showgrounds in the world. Together with the CHI Geneva and the CHIO Aachen, the Canadian Spruce Meadows jointly launched the “Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping”.
Congratulations on your victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva 2015. Isn’t that a great Christmas present?
Definitely. The Major in Geneva is very special for me, on a par with riding at Championships. I prepared myself beforehand very well and only competed my horses in the run-up to the event at targeted shows so that they are very fresh and in top form here. I am delighted about this victory. “Nino” is a unique horse, he is simply brilliant. I am totally happy!
You were the ninth rider to go in the jump-off, so you had to wait for seven more riders to finish before it was clear that you had won.
It felt like hours! It is like an eternity and you can’t do anything else apart from watch the remaining rides and hope that it suffices to take the victory.
And the whole crowd were on your side! What is it like when the entire arena cheers so emphatically when you enter the ring? Does the cheering spur you on?
Of course, it is a fantastic feeling when the crowd supports me so enthusiastically. Then, I don’t think about anything else, I concentrate totally on the course and giving it my very best shot. When things really do go well and the crowd cheer the clear round, it is unique. But I wasn’t at all sure whether my time would ultimately suffice. That is why I tried to keep a cool head, even though I was overjoyed then already.
After your Major victory in Geneva your personal Rolex Grand Slam has begun again. What does this competition mean to you?
Rolex’s commitment is very important for us riders. I believe without the long-term support of Rolex, our sport wouldn’t be where it is today. The Grand Slam is something very special, a unique challenge for every rider. The Majors in Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows are classics on the equestrian sport circuit, which every rider strives to win. Everyone is focused on them.
So, your focus already lies on the next Major: the CHIO Aachen in July 2016?
No, no, definitely not already. Now, I am still absolutely focused on Geneva and I am going to celebrate!
It was his day, his crowd, his big victory! The Swiss national hero, Steve Guerdat, won the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva. At the third and last Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at the Palexpo, the reigning Olympic gold medallist relegated Simon Delestre from France and the Canadian show-jumper Eric Lamaze into second and third place respectively.
Up against 16 world-class pairs in the jump-off, Steve Guerdat entered the ring with his top horse “Nino des Buissonnets” as the ninth to go. The Geneva crowd greeted him with a frenetic cheer, as if he had already won. After completing the course at breath-taking speed and jumping clear over the final obstacle, absolutely nothing could keep the spectators in their seats: They celebrated their hero, who after winning in 2010 and 2013, was able to notch up his third Major victory in Geneva. “I am delighted about this victory, my horse Nino is simply superb, the crowd really helped me and of course a bit of luck always has to be on your side,“ said an overjoyed Steve Guerdat after the prize-giving ceremony. “The Major in Geneva is one of the most important competitions for me, it has the same standing as a Championship in my eyes.”
After this victory, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun again for Steve Guerdat – he will once again be taking on the ultimate equestrian sport challenge. “The Majors in Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows are classics on the equestrian sport circuit, which every rider strives to win. The additional opportunity of winning the Rolex Grand Slam provides extra motivation.”
Which is why the motto for the outstanding Swiss rider now is: Full speed ahead towards Aachen! Because Steve Guerdat will have the chance of clinching his second Major victory in succession there in July 2016.
The opening prelude is over, now it is time to continue writing history! The venue: Palexpo, the biggest indoor arena in the world. The protagonists: The top show jumping stars. The event: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the biggest challenge in the history of the equestrian sport.
40 riders have secured themselves a place in the “Rolex Grand Prix”, the Final at the CHI Geneva and every single one of them will give it their best shot to come out on top at the end of the day. Because it is not just about winning the Grand Prix, there is much more at stake: Whoever leaves the ring as the winner of this competition has mastered the first step on the way to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
In total, there were four qualifiers for the “Rolex Grand Prix”. Roger-Yves Bost from France won two of them, Kent Farrington from the USA and the Swiss rider, Janika Sprunger, won one apiece. Their fellow competitors, who are also in the running to take the victory in the Major? The reigning double World and European Champion, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands; the Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland; the Swiss rider, Eric Lamaze from Canada and Ludger Beerbaum from Germany; the Vice-European Champion, Gregory Wathelet from Belgium; the Irish shooting star, Bertram Allen and of course the Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash, who is hoping to defend his title. The starting list reads like a chronicle of successful names from the top sport. 40 big names on paper, all of whom want to write history on Sunday by winning the “Rolex Grand Prix”.
The CHI Geneva 2015 has only just begun. However, already on the first day of the show it became clear that the world elite of the show-jumping circuit are in top form for the third and final Major Show of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
The victory in the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix” on Thursday evening went to the French rider, Roger Yves Bost, the European Champion in 2013. He was thus able to qualify directly for the “Rolex Grand Prix” on Sunday afternoon. But he won’t be the only one in the Final, the best 24 riders from this first qualifier, were also able to secure themselves a place in the competition on Sunday. They include the Canadian Olympic gold medallist, Eric Lamaze; the top German riders, Daniel Deußer, Christian Ahlmann and Ludger Beerbaum as well as the top French stars Patrice Delaveau, Simon Delestre, Penelope Leprevost and Kevin Staut. Having won Olympic gold in 2012, the local hero, Steve Guerdat, is also pre-qualified for the “Rolex Grand Prix”, so he was able to take things easy and rode a young horse in the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix”. The same applies for Scott Brash, the first and up until now only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: As last year’s winner, he too also has a place reserved in the “Rolex Grand Prix”, so he rode the youngster, “Hello Forever” on Thursday evening instead of his top horse “Hello Sanctos”. The British rider has plenty of opportunity to warm up “Sanctos” for the Grand Prix, for example on Friday evening: That is namely when the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” is being staged and the top riders in the world rankings will battle it out to take the victory.
Things will be getting serious for the best show-jumpers in the world soon! Because tomorrow the CHI Geneva kicks off and over three days they will have the opportunity to qualify for the “Rolex Grand Prix”, the third Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
40 pairs are allowed to compete in the competition on Sunday that is endowed with prize-money totalling 1.1 million Euros. As if that is not enough: Whoever leaves the ring on the afternoon of December 13th as the winner of the Grand Prix, has also mastered the first step in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
This biggest challenge in the equestrian sport unites the three most famous equestrian shows in the world – the CHI Geneva, the CHIO Aachen and the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – in an extraordinary competition: The rider, who succeeds in winning all three Majors in direct succession, wins one million Euros in addition to the prize-money. But even two Major victories are worthwhile: In direct sequence this is rewarded with a 500,000 Euro bonus, for the “two out of three mode”, i.e. for victories at two non-consecutive Major shows, a 250,000 Euro bonus beckons.
A concept that attracts the top stars of the international show jumping sport and their best horses to the three events every year again and again – all of them with the same goal: To win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and become a legend of the sport. Scott Brash was the first rider ever to achieve this outstanding feat. With his Major victories at the CHI Geneva 2014, at the “World Equestrian Festival” 2015 in Aachen and this September in Spruce Meadows, he made his personal Grand Slam perfect and wrote equestrian history in doing so.
And the Scottish rider will be in Geneva again this year for the CHI hoping to take the victory! As last year’s winner, Scott Brash has already pre-qualified for the Grand Prix together with the best riders of the most recent Championships, for example the Swiss Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat, the reigning double World and European Champion, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands, as well as the European Championships medal winners Gregory Wathelet from Belgium and Simon Delestre from France.
For all those riders, who have not automatically qualified, the battle for participating in the “Rolex Grand Prix” starts tomorrow on Thursday: The 20 best riders in the “Credit Suisse Grand Prix” qualify for Sunday. There are further chances to qualify in the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” on Friday evening as well as in the “Coupe de Genève” and the “Geneva Classic” on Saturday.
On Saturday evening we will know the names of all 40 finalists, who are allowed to ride in the Grand Prix of Geneva. For whom will the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping begin on Sunday?
Interview with Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash
He is a living legend: Scott Brash was the first rider ever to succeed in winning the Grand Prix in Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows in direct succession and in doing so claimed the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title. The British rider is now returning to the CHI Geneva from December 10th-13th, where he celebrated his first Major victory last year. The 30-year-old explained in an interview his experiences since his Grand Slam triumph in September, his plans for this year’s CHI in Geneva and why his employees always complain about him after Christmas.
In the meantime, your Rolex Grand Slam victory was three months ago. How have things been since then?
It’s been pretty busy really, it’s a very full calendar year now! It was such a high at the time; but I tried to very quickly get back into my work and focus on the remainder of the season. The team and I are now looking forward to 2016.
When you look back to September 13 – the day you won the Rolex Grand Slam – which moment springs to mind first?
The moment of realisation, when I knew I’d done it. It was a goal that I’d dreamt about and so to finally do it; after all the build-up, was a real mix of emotions. It’s obviously something that I’ll never forget.
At the press conference after the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, you said you would need time to take it all in and that you still couldn’t believe that you had won. When was the moment, when you really realised that you had claimed the Grand Slam title?
There are still times when I can’t believe what’s happened. I suppose it was just settling back in to everyday life and work and people asking me about it and congratulating me about it, that was when it was really sinking in. It’s just a great feeling in the back of your mind all the time, but in this game you have to keep looking ahead.
And that is precisely what we are going to do now – by looking ahead to the CHI Geneva next weekend. What is so special about the show for you?
Palexpo is a fantastic arena, which is great to ride in for both the riders and the horses and the atmosphere in the ring on “Rolex Grand Prix” day is a really special feeling. It really is one of my favourite shows of the year and I'm really looking forward to going again this year.
What is your goal this year? Will you be bringing your top horse, “Hello Sanctos”, to the CHI with you, whom you rode to victory there last year?
Yes, “Sanctos” will be making the trip over with me and I’m sure he’ll love the event as always. As for my goals, I just try to focus on the job at hand, but I will most certainly be trying to win the “Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final” and the “Rolex Grand Prix”, both of which will be extremely difficult classes to win again, but I'm still extremely hungry for more success in Geneva.
What about “Sanctos”? Is he in good form for further victories in Geneva?
“Sanctos” had a well-earned rest after our Grand Slam victory, but in the meantime he is back on the competition circuit again. At his last competition before Geneva, in Doha in mid-November, he jumped well, but we both made a couple of silly mistakes. But I always feel very confident with “Sanctos”, he is an incredible horse and he loves winning as much as I do.
But of course the others like winning too and the best riders and horses in the world will be competing in Geneva. Who are, in your opinion, the favourites to win the Rolex Grand Prix?
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson with “Casall” and Kent Farrington with “Voyeur” are both in great form at the moment. If these two pairs compete they will without doubt be among the favourites. But to be honest, there are so many good combinations around just now. I think anyone, who qualifies for the Grand Prix can win it, that’s what makes our sport so unique.
What is on your sporting agenda after Geneva?
It’s all eyes on “Olympia Horse Show” in London in terms of my immediate focus, as it is taking place the week after. But 2016 looks like a full calendar year again, so each horse will have different goals to aim for.
Is there enough time in your busy diary for a short Christmas break?
There’s not much time for holidays in this game, but I really enjoy being at home for Christmas. I like to send all my staff home and I do the horses and I really enjoy it. However the girls always complain that it takes them a bit longer to muck the horses out when they come back. It is very hard for me to keep up the standard they all set in my yard. It makes me appreciate them even more when they return!
Legends are born in Geneva! At the third and last Major Show of the year, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to the location, where the most extraordinary triumph in sporting history all started exactly twelve months ago.
Here at the Palexpo, the largest indoor arena in the world, this most impressive merger between purpose and aura, the British show-jumper Scott Brash won the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHI Geneva 2014. It was a moment for eternity, when he crossed the finish line with his outstanding horse “Hello Sanctos” clear and in the fastest time. A moment full of luck, a moment of triumph. And it wasn’t the only one either: Brash‘s journey with Rolex had only just begun. Ahead of him lay Aachen and Spruce Meadows. To win the three big Majors of the equestrian sport in succession was his goal from then on, his big challenge. No rider had ever succeeded in doing so before him. Yet, Brash made the impossible possible: He won in Aachen, he won in Spruce Meadows and thus went down in history as the first winner ever of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Brash is here again now to continue writing history: He wants to defend the title. “It is going to be difficult, but I will do everything necessary to stand up on the top step again,” assured the 30-year-old. Riding to victory at the Major in Geneva – one of the most demanding Grand Prix in the world – is the dream of all top riders.
In 2013, the Swiss local hero, Steve Guerdat, won the competition. Now he wants to reclaim the title, in front of his crowd, on his “piste”. “Geneva is my home show, riding here is something very special for me,” commented the Olympic gold medallist. “I will be on the offence, I will certainly give it my best shot to win the Grand Prix!”
But he is by no means on his own there: Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Deußer from Germany, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands, Kevin Staut, Pénélope Leprévost and Simon Delestre from France, Eric Lamaze from Canada, Bertram Allen from Ireland, Gregory Wathelet from Belgium, Kent Farrington from the USA – they are the big names of the equestrian sport, the best in the world ranking. They are the winners and runners-up of many Championships, who want to prove their skills to a crowd of 9,400 spectators in a huge arena spanning 5,400 square metres.
In 1926, Geneva hosted an international equestrian show for the first time. The Swiss metropolis has been the venue for equestrian sport in a class of its own ever since. Since the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was founded in 2013, the CHI Geneva has ultimately become part of a new era: Three world-class shows. One million Euros in addition to the prize-money. A place in the hall of fame of the sport for eternity. Geneva, Aachen, Spruce Meadows.
Who is going to win the “Rolex Grand Prix”? Will Scott Brash succeed in carrying off this feat again? Whose name will be the title of the new chapter in equestrian sport history?
One thing is sure: The story will begin at the CHI Geneva 2015. Here, at the Palexpo, here with the best riders in the world faced with the probably biggest challenge of the equestrian sport.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun again!
With his Major victory at the legendary Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Scott Brash became the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. We spoke to the 29-year-old British show-jumper about his sensational victory, which has turned him into an equestrian sport legend.
Your Major victory in Spruce Meadows means you are following in the footsteps of the Canadian national hero, Ian Millar. Last year he said, the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam will be the hero of all heroes. You have pulled off this exceptional feat! How do you feel now?
For me winning the Grand Slam is a dream come true. It is incredible winning one Major, but to win all three in a row – the three most difficult Grand Prix in the world – and what’s more with the same horse – is simply fantastic, simply a dream come true, I don’t know how else to describe it.
How difficult was it to assert yourself here in Spruce Meadows against the best riders in the world?
Extremely difficult! The course was very demanding, both rounds were a challenge, the allowed time was tight. The organisers put together a very special Major to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Spruce Meadows. It was phenomenal to win against such a line-up of top riders, over such a course and in front of such a fantastic crowd.
So, the conditions were spot on for a real Major?
Definitely! I love the atmosphere in Spruce Meadows, the “International Ring” is unique. The show has a very special history and one senses it in the ring too. The atmosphere was so intense, while I was riding. The crowd was terrific! It was simply a wonderful show.
Your journey with Rolex began with the Major victory at the CHI in Geneva in December, in Aachen you won the second leg and here in Spruce Meadows you have now claimed the victory in the Grand Slam. How was your journey with Rolex?
It was simply fantastic from the first Major victory until now. It is an honour for me to be the first rider to win this fabulous Rolex series. Rolex has been sponsoring the equestrian sport for many years, but what it has achieved with the Grand Slam is unique – both for us riders and for the sport as a whole. The Grand Slam has helped the show jumping sport to become more popular and it offers us riders an exceptional competition. As athletes, we couldn’t wish for more.
You have been heading the world rankings for months, you won team gold at the Olympic Games in 2012 and have been able to celebrate numerous further victories on the show jumping circuit. What significance does the Grand Slam victory have for your career?
Every rider dreams of winning in Aachen, Geneva and Spruce Meadows once. So, on winning the Grand Slam title, I have not only achieved a goal in my career, but also fulfilled a dream of a lifetime. To be honest, I feel like I have just reached the peak of my career. I can’t image there could be anything better!
History was written today at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters‘! Scott Brash succeeded in doing what no other rider has achieved before: He made the impossible possible and in doing so has become a living legend!
The British show-jumper was the only rider among the first-class line-up of participants in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” to jump clear in both rounds and, after Geneva and Aachen, secured himself the third Major victory in succession. An amazing triumph, because this exceptional feat means that Scott Brash is the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping!
“It is absolutely unbelievable, for me the dream of a lifetime has come true,” said the 29-year-old, as the Rolex Grand Slam Trophy was presented to him during the festive prize-giving ceremony. The impressive trophy is, however, not the only reward for Scott Brash’s master achievement: As the winner of the three big equestrian sport Majors, he has won the incredible sum of one million Euros in addition to the prize-money of 500,000 Canadian Dollars. There has never been such a high bonus in the history of the equestrian sport before. No other rider has ever asserted himself against his fellow competitors so convincingly before.
The spectators in the sold-out “International Ring” witnessed a Grand Prix that was unparalleled in terms of emotion and excitement: Continuous rain and a course comprising of the highest degree of difficulty awaited the 40 riders, who had succeeded in qualifying for the Major throughout the week of the show. Indeed only ten pairs jumped clear in the first round. As was the case at the Major in Aachen, Scott Brash and his phenomenal “Hello Sanctos” once again crossed the finish line clear in the fastest time in the first round. Twelve pairs went through to the second round, which comprised of an even more demanding course, eleven pairs failed. When finally Scott Brash rode into the ring amid thunderous applause, after the fourteenth fence the winner was clear. The stadium held its breath 14 times, 14 sighs of relief when the poles didn’t fall. Finally, tens of thousands of people glanced at the scoreboard: The time sufficed – a hero was born!
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – the ultimate equestrian sport challenge. Scott Brash mastered this challenge today. He wrote history in Canada at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and turned September 13th, 2015 into the beginning of a new equestrian sport era.
Just one day until the big Final: If he rides to victory in the Grand Prix in Spruce Meadows tomorrow, Scott Brash has the legendary opportunity to become the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. In an interview, he told us how he will spend his day off today to prepare himself and what could unnerve his top horse "Hello Sanctos" in the ring tomorrow.
After qualifying on Thursday for the Grand Prix, the "CP 'International', presented by Rolex", you are only going to take part in the one competition with "Hello Sanctos". What did you do with him on his day off?
We just did some light training yesterday. I rode him twice so that he could stretch his legs, but very gently and relaxed. I exercised him lightly this morning too and this afternoon we will actually do a bit more work, depending on how he feels. I will ride him tomorrow morning one last time before the Grand Prix.
And what will you do this evening?
I am invited to the traditional dinner here in Spruce Meadows, which I am really looking forward to. However, I will go back to the hotel early, of course, because, after all, I have got a job to do tomorrow.
Which is going to be everything but easy, because a host of fantastic riders have qualified for the Grand Prix. Who do you think are going to be your biggest rivals in the battle for victory tomorrow?
Many riders have shown that they are in top form here. Beezie Madden, for example, has had an excellent show so far, so has Kent Farrington. But Kevin Staut and Eric Lamaze have both also put in great performances so far here at the ‘Masters’. It is definitely going to be a tough battle for the victory!
And “Hello Sanctos” will be fighting for you as he has done over the past days…
Yes, he jumped very, very well on Wednesday and Thursday. He really feels at home in the “International Ring”. The only thing that could distract him are the extraordinary fences here in Spruce Meadows. “Sanctos” is sometimes a bit spooky in that way. So, we shall have to wait and see what the course designer has in store for us tomorrow.
Have you already developed a strategy of how you are going to ride the competition? There are two rounds and possibly also a jump-off.
Naturally, when I walk the course, I will decide how I am going to ride. But, ultimately, we have to take each round as it comes. We simply have to keep concentrated and take one step at a time. It is going to be very, very difficult to win the Major, but we will certainly give it our very best shot!
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, that is the ultimate challenge of the show jumping sport: Winning the three big Majors – Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows – in succession and thus rising to the peak of the sport. That is every top rider’s dream. And on Sunday, we will find out whether this dream will become reality for Scott Brash.
For the winner of the Majors in Geneva in 2014 and in Aachen in 2015, the Rolex Grand Slam is within reach! Just one victory is missing, he has to demonstrate one more time that he is exceptional, that he hasn’t be heading the world ranking list for months without good reason. On Sunday, in the big Final of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, it is all down to Scott Brash: If he wins the Grand Prix, the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”, he will go down in equestrian sport history as the first ever Grand Slam winner.
However, there is big competition from big names, who also have big goals. Because befittingly for a Major, only the very best riders in the world qualify for the Grand Prix and thus have the chance to take part in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Scott Brash himself succeeded in securing his place in the Final after achieving a top ranking in the qualifier on Thursday. The same applied for the Belgian Vice European Champion, Gregory Wathelet, and for the Canadian Olympic gold medallist and two-time ‘Masters’ winner, Eric Lamaze, who were able to win the two qualifiers on Thursday. The US-American rider McLain Ward – the winner of the ‘Masters’ in 2009 – already demonstrated that he is in top form when he won the opening jumping competition on Wednesday: This would have also meant he had qualified for the Grand Prix – had he not already secured himself a place in the Final as the reigning Pan American Champion. On the other hand, Ward’s fellow countryman, Kent Farrington, still had to qualify: That was no problem for the current number five in the world rankings, because he notched up excellent placings in the competitions on Wednesday and Thursday. The two French riders Roger-Yves Bost and Kevin Staut also put in top performances: They are currently lying in first and second place in the interim rankings of the ‘Masters’ and have thus definitely already qualified for the Final.
We will also see three other former Spruce Meadows winners on Sunday: The two Belgian show-jumpers Pieter Devos, who won the Major in 2013, and Olivier Philippaerts, the winner in 2012, both succeeded in qualifying in the competitions on Wednesday and Thursday. Canada’s national hero, Ian Millar, qualified automatically as the “defending title holder”, together with the Swiss rider, Steve Guerdat, for his victory at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The final opportunity to qualify is in the “Nations Cup” on Saturday. After this competition, we will know exactly which 40 contestants are allowed to ride into the impressive “International Ring” to compete in the Grand Prix that is endowed with prize money totalling 1.5 million Canadian Dollars. But one thing is already certain: For Scott Brash it is going to be the ride of his life!
The time has come at last! The Spruce Meadows 'Masters' – the second Major Show of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – has begun and right from the start all the signs indicate that equestrian sport history is going to be written on Sunday in the legendary "International Ring".
With a top ranking in the "Cana Cup", Scott Brash qualified straightaway on Thursday for the big Final on Sunday, the "CP 'International', presented by Rolex" and has thus come a huge step closer to his dream of winning the Grand Slam.
The British show-jumper and his top horse "Hello Sanctos" mastered the first round and the jump-off with ease, jumping clear over both courses to finish fifth. This guarantees him a place on the starting list of the Grand Prix on Sunday. "I am delighted that we were already able to qualify for the Final today," stated Scott Brash after the prize ceremony. "'Sanctos' feels at home here, he jumped fantastically today and yesterday. We are looking forward to Sunday!"
The day that could change Scott Brash's life and the equestrian sport world: Because if Scott Brash should head the lap of honour of the Major on Sunday afternoon, he will be the first rider ever to win the three most challenging and prestigious Grand Prix in the world in direct succession: In December last year he jumped to victory at the CHI Geneva and in May he secured himself first place in the Grand Prix at the "World Equestrian Festival" in Aachen. A victory in Spruce Meadows means he would go down in history as the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. He would thus claim one million Euros – in addition to the prize-money of 500,000 Canadian Dollars. An extraordinary opportunity for an exceptional rider!
Endowed with prize-money totalling more than 2.8 million Canadian dollars, a line-up in a class of its own and Scott Brash’s legendary opportunity to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, if he claims the victory in the “’CP International’, presented by Rolex”: The 40th anniversary edition of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is more spectacular than ever.
However, the best riders in the world, who start competing in the legendary “International Ring” of Spruce Meadows on Wednesday, have a long way ahead of them until the Final on Sunday afternoon. A maximum of 40 riders can qualify for the Grand Prix, which lures the competitors with total prize-money to the value of 1.5 million Canadian dollars. A third of which is reserved for the winner. If Scott Brash succeeds in winning this competition, his third Major victory in succession would mean he is the first rider to claim the title of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which would earn him the tidy sum of one million euros in addition to the regular prize-money. This has never been achieved before in the history of equestrian sport!
However, like most of his colleagues, Brash first has to qualify for the Final. Only very few riders have already assured themselves a place on the starting list of the Grand Prix: The local hero, Ian Millar, as last year’s winner, for example, or the Swiss Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat, as well as McLain Ward from the USA for his individual gold medal at the Pan American Games 2015.
The remaining riders have the opportunity to qualify for the starting list of the Grand Prix by achieving top rankings in the competitions from Wednesday until Saturday. There are two big jumping competitions every day, which means eight chances in total for each participant. The Nations’ Cup on Saturday afternoon is the final dress rehearsal. Four riders per nation will compete for the team and battle it out for the team victory. Scott Brash will not be competing for Great Britain, he is competing at the ‘Masters’ as an individual rider. However, that makes no difference to the eligibility to compete in the Grand Prix on Sunday. Because when it comes down to the Final, the Major victory, every rider has to face the challenge individually. They have to do their best to jump clear in both rounds of the competition. Only the best twelve go through to the jump-off in the “’CP International’, presented by Rolex”. And then the dream of a Major victory is within grasp! For the best of the best the journey with Rolex will then begin – or will come to a sensational end with the fulfilment of a dream. Scott Brash’s dream.
The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2015: Five days of top sport in a class of its own, a major decision: Will Scott Brash become a legend on Sunday?
The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ begins on Wednesday and the best riders in the world will be taking part in the second leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping! Heading the list is the number one in the world rankings, Scott Brash, who after his Major victories in Geneva and Aachen could now become the first rider ever to win the Grand Slam. The 29-year-old British show-jumper has brought his best horse “Hello Sanctos” to Calgary with him in his strive to finish first in the Grand Prix, the “‘CP International’, presented by Rolex”.
However, there is tough competition also from his own country: The equestrian sport legend, Michael Whitaker, will also be giving it his best shot, together with his nephews William and Robert, who have both also competed at championship level. For Canada, among others, last year’s winner and national hero, Ian Millar, as well as Eric Lamaze, the 2008 Olympic Games individual gold medallist, have confirmed their participation. Switzerland is also very strongly represented: Romain Duguet, who claimed team bronze at the European Championships 2015 will be on board together with his fellow countryman, Steve Guerdat, the Olympic gold medallist, Major winner of Geneva in 2013 and current number five in the world rankings. The USA is also sending its top riders across the border: Beezie Madden (number three in the world rankings) is riding in Calgary, as well as McLain Ward (ninth in the rankings) Kent Farrington (fifth in the rankings) and Reed Kessler, who came second in the Grand Prix at the ‘Masters’ in 2014.
Always hot candidates to take the victory are the Brazilian Olympic gold medallist, Rodrigo Pessoa, and the Belgian show-jumper, Gregory Wathelet (number ten in the world rankings), who secured himself a silver medal at the European Championships 2015 in Aachen in the individual classification. As the winner of the Major in 2013, his fellow countryman, Pieter Devos, feels just as much at home on the spacious jumping arena of Spruce Meadows as the French rider, Kevin Staut. The individual European Champion of 2009 and team Vice World Champion of 2010 and 2014 has not only been one of the top show-jumpers in the world for years, he too almost succeeded in riding to victory in the Grand Prix at the ‘Masters’. Finally, his fellow countryman, Roger-Yves Bost, the European individual gold medallist of 2013 and team World Champion of 1990, will also be travelling to Canada.
A line-up that includes the current top riders in the world, Olympic champions, medal winners and Major winners, plus the unique opportunity for Scott Brash to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and thus write equestrian sport history – that is the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ from September 9th-13th, 2015!
One date. One venue. One unique chance to make his dream come true. On Sunday at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Scott Brash can go down in history as the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Join him on his journey with Rolex from the very beginning: Geneva, Aachen and now Spruce Meadows.
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Liège Airport, half past four in the morning. A horse trailer arrives on the cargo car park of from the Netherlands. It’s still dark at night at one of the biggest cargo airports in Europe. An empty parking lot.
An hour later the trucks are stood in all directions. Engine noise. Headlights. Forklift trucks driving backwards and forwards. The babble of voices. People with horse passports. People with water canisters. People with hay nets. Neighing. Snorting. Horses kicking against the walls of the horseboxes. “At the moment, it all seems to be total chaos. But once we have started loading, everything will run like clockwork,” promises a man in accent-free English. He is wearing a yellow safety vest, which identifies him as being a member of the airport team. On the other hand, the fact that he speaks perfect English distinguishes Jon Garner from most of his colleagues on-site, because he is not Belgian. The Show Director of Spruce Meadows has travelled here from Calgary personally this afternoon to have the 67 horses from eight nations flown to his hometown. To the famous Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – the second leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Among them, “Hello Sanctos”, that outstanding horse, who could turn his rider into a legend next Sunday: After the British show-jumper, Scott Brash, was able to win two Major shows in succession, he now only needs to ride to victory in Spruce Meadows to go down in history as the first rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
However, “Sanctos” shows no trace of all this commotion about this unique opportunity. He was one of the last horses to arrive at the airport at around twenty to eight, he is chomping away at his hay happily, looking out of the window of the horsebox, while things are gradually calming down on the car park. The equipment has been stowed away, the explosive dogs have examined all of the palettes, the paperwork has been checked: Everything is ready to start loading the horses into the Boeing 747.
26 cargo boxes are at hand for this purpose. “Sanctos” is going to share his box with his stablemate “Forever”. The two geldings have got a box all to themselves – “Business Class” with more legroom. A luxury that around a third of the horses can enjoy. Otherwise, three horses travel together in each cargo box. “It depends on the owner’s booking and how well the horses get on with each other. We basically try to transport horses from the same stable together, because they already know each other. But, of course, we can’t put a stallion next to a mare and in the case of two stallions, we usually leave the middle compartment free,” says Jon Garner, explaining the system behind his loading plan, which will get underway at 8 o’clock on the dot with the first pair of horses.
Two stallions from the Netherlands trample up the loading ramp into the cargo box. The grooms lead them into the compartment from the rear side and tie the horses up at the front. The airport team close the hinged doors behind them. Jon Garner also sets to work, helping with each horse with a skilful hand.
Once all of the horses have been loaded into the box, the grooms use the side doors to provide them with food and water for the duration of the flight. Then, it is time to say goodbye. The horses are placed inside the airplane using a hydraulic lift, the grooms set off for home again for the time being. Only three of them are allowed to accompany the flight to Calgary together with Jon Garner, a further colleague from Spruce Meadows and a veterinarian. Hannah Colman, the groom of “Sanctos”, is one of them: “I am delighted that I am allowed to fly with him. He actually doesn’t mind travelling, whether by truck or by plane. But it puts my mind at rest, if I can be close to him the whole time.” Scott Brash isn’t flying to Calgary until two days’ time. Hannah will prepare “Sanctos” for the big challenge until he arrives. “We are a bit nervous, because Scott and “Sanctos” have to qualify for the Grand Prix on Sunday first. But “Sanctos” is in good shape,” she said glancing at her protégé, who is still busy with his breakfast. He is still got plenty of time to finish, because he is not due to board until 11 o’clock.
Hannah gets “Sanctos” out of the truck at five to eleven and everything runs smoothly: Half an hour later he is already stood in his temporary stable in the airplane, next to “Forever”. Row nine, on the left-hand side. Two cargo boxes per row only leave the crew an arm’s length of space at the outside of the cargo room to squeeze by from horse to horse. Neither the loud roaring of the airplane, nor the confined space seem to bother “Sanctos”. Even when the next box docks on with a jerk, he carries on nibbling away at his hay, dunking it in the bucket of water now and again.
At 12 o’clock Jon Garner finally closes the gates of the 26th cargo box. He wipes the sweat from his brow with his sleeve. A short breather, before checking to see that everything is okay inside the airplane. Everything is checked once again: The condition of the horses, the boxes, the palettes carrying the equipment, the paperwork. Thoroughness takes time. So, it is 2 o’clock by the time Jon Garner comes out of the airplane one last time, carrying the yellow safety vest in his hand. Everything is fine. Everything is ready for take-off. The vest can be handed back to his colleagues from Belgium. At the bottom of the steps he gives everyone a hug goodbye. Then, Jon Garner goes back inside the airplane. Back to his 67 protégés, together with them back to his homeland, back to his show. A show at which one of these protégés could write sporting history on Sunday.
In a few days' time, Scott Brash will have the legendary opportunity to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, if he rides to victory in the Major at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters'. In an interview, the Scottish rider explained how he and his horse, "Hello Sanctos", have prepared for the show in Calgary, what he would like to read about himself one day and why the best decision in his life had something to do with football.
Only one week until Calgary! How have you experienced the time since your Major win in Aachen?
It was nice. There was a lot of media attention, but it wasn't crazy. A Major is a Grand Prix that every rider wants to win and it was one of my ultimate dreams to win in Aachen. It was a wonderful feeling and it was great reflecting on that over the past few months. But now I’m excited and looking forward to Spruce Meadows. “Hello Sanctos” feels in good form, we’re just trying to make our final preparations with him. His last show was in a grass arena, we tried to make it as near to Calgary as we can.
What kind of horse is “Sanctos” when he is at home?
He’s a very clever horse, so I think he knows that he’s good. He knows he’s the king of the stable. But he’s very laid-back and relaxed at home, does everything at his own pace. So, everyone has to go at his pace. He loves being at home, loves relaxing, loves hacking out. But when he enters the arena, he comes alive.
Who will come with you to Calgary? Will your family and girlfriend be there?
My girlfriend Hannah looks after my horses, so she will be there. She’s fantastic with the horses, she absolutely loves them and takes great care of them. She will be with “Sanctos” all of the way and hopefully, she will be on the flight with him. My father, who is busy at work and only comes to some big shows, is coming. My horse owners and my farrier are coming, too. There are many people coming to Spruce Meadows and it makes me want to win even more. It’s going to be a nice show.
Are you nervous or excited when you compete at such an important show like Calgary?
I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, I just really want to do well, so when it becomes really big, I am very focused on what I have to do.
When was the last time that you were really excited at a show?
When I won in Aachen. That feeling when you win, that feeling when you target a class and prepare for a class that you have had your mind set on for a long time before. And then go there and win the class, that is an incredible feeling. There’s no better feeling in the world.
If you wouldn’t have become a show jumper, what would be your profession?
When I was younger I was quite a good footballer, but it got to the point when I was eleven or twelve when it was going to be the football or show jumping. I chose show jumping and I’m glad about my decision. But if possible, I would have stuck a little bit more into football.
Your father owns a construction company. Have you ever considered joining the family business?
Not really, I see how much stress my father is under. He’s very good at what he does and it looks like a tough job.
You once said that your father has been your childhood idol. So, is he the person, who has influenced you most in your life?
My whole family has been a big influence, always supporting me and being behind me. If things ever went wrong, they would be there to help. Growing up, they were fantastic to have.
The best advice you ever got?
I have had some fantastic advice from a lot of people, but I think the best is to stay the term and to never give up on your dreams. I don’t regret anything I have done in my life. I think it’s important to make different experiences, good and bad, it makes you who you are.
Who inspires you today?
Many different people for many different reasons. I’m inspired by my horse owner Lord Harris about what he has done for many people. He is so enthusiastic for everything. Achieving the next goal and the next dream. He runs a lot of schools and he changes these kids' lives. They are very well educated and get a really good start to life. He, Lady Harris as well as Lord and Lady Kirkham have also done a lot for healthcare in Britain, for charities like animal health trust. My horse owners are wonderful people and I will always have the greatest respect for them.
What is the best thing about life as a professional show jumper? What is the worst thing?
The best thing is seeing all those wonderful countries and beautiful venues. The worst thing is maybe the amount of traveling. We live out of a suitcase, really. We are home for two or three days a week and then we are away again and again. It’s quite tiring and tough on people. You need a really good team behind you. But we do all love it. Being home for a couple of weeks, we want to be at the next show. So, it’s what we love doing.
What do you do to relax when you are always on the road? Do you have some hobbies beside horses?
There’s not much time, to be honest, but I just love being at home. I have bought a new yard in Sussex near Hickstead and I just love the area with nice people around us, just going out for dinner and relaxing a little bit. But if I ever have a bit of time, I like to play golf, that’s quite relaxing.
When was your last holiday?
A long time ago actually. But my girlfriend and I have decided to go on holiday this year in October. We are planning to go to Dubai for a week or so. It will be nice to go and relax.
And maybe with a little bit more money to spend. So, let’s go back to Spruce Meadows. What will you do in the hours before the Grand Prix?
I will just do what I normally do before a big Grand Prix. Take “Sanctos” out, stretch his legs, make sure he feels good. And then be focused on the course and walk the course early.
Do you have some rituals or a lucky charm?
No, I’m very boring in that way, I’m not very superstitious.
But you always wear this bracelet on your wrist…
That was actually a gift that an owner gave me directly after the Olympics. It’s just a nice gift I wear. But maybe it is lucky, I don’t know.
Regardless of the outcome in Spruce Meadows, how have you experienced your journey with Rolex so far?
What Rolex has done for the sport is incredible. They have put this series on, which is fantastic for us riders to aim for. It has really generated more publicity for the sport, a lot more people are following our journey to see if we can do it. It’s great for the sport. Rolex has been a fantastic sponsor for show jumping for many years and it’s great to have their continued support.
If you could capture one of the moments of your journey with Rolex in a frame for your living room wall, which one would that be?
It would be coming through the finish line in Aachen, finding out that we'd won. It was probably the best feeling I have had for a long time.
If Rolex issues an anniversary publication about the Grand Slam of Show Jumping in a couple of decades, what would you like to read about Scott Brash in it?
It would be nice to be remembered for achieving a lot of goals and being on top of the sport for a long period of time. I hope one day, people will look back on me as one of the legends of the sport the same as Ludger Beerbaum or Marcus Ehning. It would be great to read about that one day.
And the headline of the chapter?
Hopefully “A dream came true”. Because if it could be done in Calgary, if I could win, it would be an absolute dream come true.
In just a few days' time, the eyes of the world will be cast on Calgary! Because when the prestigious Spruce Meadows 'Masters' begins on September 9th, the international show-jumping elite will gather there to compete against each other in the "International Ring". In a short interview, Senior Vice President, Ian Allison, reveals why the show is extra special this year.
Mr. Allison, in a few days, Spruce Meadows opens its doors for the 'Masters', the second Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Are you looking forward to the show?
Spruce Meadows is both excited and honoured to welcome the world’s best horses and riders to it grounds for the 'Masters'. This 40th anniversary edition of the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' has an extraordinary number of wonderful story lines, but none more so than that of Scott Brash.
That's right, because after his Major victories at the CHI in Geneva in 2014 and at the World Equestrian Festival Aachen in 2015, Scott Brash now has the legendary chance to win the Rolex Grand Slam and thus write equestrian sport history. The only thing that is missing is the victory in the Grand Prix of Spruce Meadows, the “‘CP International’, presented by Rolex". Are you keeping your fingers crossed for him?
There is a reason why Scott is currently the number 1 ranked rider in the world and in play to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. He is truly a complete horseman and dedicated athlete, who has put together an impressive résumé very quickly. The entire sport should be excited about this historic time. Scott and Hello Sanctos have the opportunity to achieve something that has never been done in our sport.
And the world will be watching him do it! How many spectators and media representatives are you expecting on site?
We expect 200,000 fans, to accredit over 100 media on site and to have an impressive global television reach. All of the elements are in place for a true Major.
Sunday, April 13th, 1975, Spruce Meadows, lying just outside the gates of the metropolis Calgary, at the foot of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A date, a venue, an event that was to write sporting history. Because the equestrian centre, which the Southern family was to officially open on this day, has long since become one of the most famous sporting venues in the world. Spruce Meadows is family-run up until this very day, still following the principle of the original quest to create a unique atmosphere of friendship, trade and top sport.
The figures speak an impressive language: Riders from 57 nations have already competed at the site, which, spanning 553 acres, offers sufficient space to house over 300 football pitches. 14 riding areas, two halls and stables for 1,000 horses – gigantic dimensions that can only be grasped by those, who have actually visited the location in person. Half a million visitors annually can confirm this. So too can the world elite of the show jumping sport, who contest the Grand Prix in the “International Ring” during the prestigious ‘Masters’ – the second leg of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Now, in Spruce Meadow’s 40th anniversary year, precisely here in this legendary arena, a further milestone in the history of the equestrian sport could be set. Namely by Scott Brash. The Olympic gold medallist is the first rider ever to succeed in winning two consecutive Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam. Starting with the CHI Geneva in December 2014, where Brash and his exceptional horse “Hello Sanctos” rode to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix, the pair left their fellow competitors trailing behind them this May at the World Equestrian Festival as well. Now that the Brit has won first place in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, competing at Spruce Meadows will allow him to unlock the impressive sum of 500,000 Euros – the reward for two Major victories in succession.
If Brash succeeds in winning the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, he could double this bonus. However, it is not just the one million Euros that are attracting the 29-year-old to the top show in Canada: The ascent to the Olympus of the equestrian sport is what lures him. To achieve what no other rider has managed to achieve ever before! Winning the three most demanding and most famous Grand Prix in the world directly in a row. Geneva, Aachen and now the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Making the Rolex Grand Slam perfect. And becoming a legend in the process!
However, two lists underline the fact that it is not going to be an easy task. As every year, the top international riders will be on the entry list. Not to forget the list of previous winners: Rodrigo Pessoa, Ludger Beerbaum, Jos Lansink, Nick Skelton, Jeroen Dubbeldam, John Whitaker – the list is full of the names of world champions, Olympic gold medallists and equestrian sport idols. The two Canadian national heroes, Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar, have already succeeded in adding their names to the list. Millar even managed this feat twice with the sensational horse “Big Ben”, last year the ten-time Olympic Games participant claimed the victory in the “CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex” with “Dixson”. Now it is down to Scott Brash to follow in the tracks of Millar. Ride into the “International Ring” and win. Face the ultimate challenge. The whole world will have their eyes cast on him. Will he manage to pull off this sensational feat? Will he win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping? Sunday, 13 September 2015. A date, a venue, an event that could write sporting history.
For Scott Brash the dream of claiming the victory in the Rolex Grand Slam is almost within reach. His personal Rolex Grand Slam started at the CHI Geneva in 2014, where the British rider, who is in the meanwhile number one in the world rankings, finished first with his top horse "Hello Sanctos" after jumping double clear. During the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen a few weeks ago, the exceptional show-jumper had a déjà-vu experience in front of 40,000 spectators: Three clear rounds and the fastest time in the jump-off after reaching the finish line in 48.04 seconds – these were the ingredients for the phenomenal victory in a nail-biting final. He had also placed his bets on the right horse in Aachen, namely on "Hello Sanctos". In September, he will have the opportunity as the first show-jumper ever to claim a triple victory in the Spruce Meadows "Masters" in Calgary. If the 29-year-old succeeds in winning the Grand Prix there again, he will become an equestrian sport legend. Because nobody else has ever achieved this feat before. He would also pick up a huge bonus. Because whoever wins all three Major shows - in Aachen, in Spruce Meadows, and in Geneva - in succession, has the chance to win one million Euros on top of the prize-money.
Brash has already competed in Calgary once before. And he is looking forward to returning: "I like the showgrounds, even though they do differ from Aachen. Aachen excels with its fantastic atmosphere and huge stadium. In Calgary the atmosphere is also unique, but the stadium is of course totally different." He already rode "Hello Sanctos" at his Calgary premiere and he felt quite at home there, which is actually a good omen. Nevertheless, Brash is facing the last obstacle with a down to earth attitude and with "understatement". "It is going to be everything but easy, taking the victory for the third time in succession. Many other very good riders have to tried to pull off this feat before me. It was already very difficult winning two shows consecutively and three in a row…that will be very, very difficult," was his realistic assessment. Especially since the British rider is aware, that he will face very strong competition: "Around 50 participants will try to win the Grand Prix. The riders from the USA and Canada have a small home advantage perhaps, because they already competed there in the summer. So they will be tough to beat, but then so will the Europeans."
The system of the Rolex Grand Slam is simple: The rider has to participate in all 3 Majors within the same cycle. If he wins the three shows, he picks up a bonus of 1 million Euros on top of the prize-money. In case of two consecutive wins out of three, he is granted a bonus of 500,000 Euros. If the two victories are non-consecutive the bonus totals 250,000 Euros. The rider can choose the horse he wishes to compete with. It is therefore possible to win the bonus riding different horses. This system is infinite, in other words it is not dependent on the calendar year. It is thus an endless story.