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.
On the way to becoming a legend: The Scottish rider, Scott Brash, is the first show-jumper in history to win two Major shows in succession. After his victory at the CHI Geneva in December, he also won the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen on Sunday. Now, at the coming Major show, the Spruce Meadows “Masters” (Calgary, Canada, from 9 to 13 September, 2015) he has the chance to go down in history – as the first Rolex Grand Slam winner of all time. We talked to the overjoyed, exceptionally talented rider.
Scott Brash, congratulations on this fantastic victory! Two days ago you said that you definitely wanted to achieve the second victory in the Rolex Grand Slam. You have now attained this goal. How does that feel?
Brash: Incredible, simply incredible. It really was my dream to win in Aachen. I think winning here in this impressive stadium, in this most beautiful arena is the best place to win in the whole world. The Rolex Grand Prix is extremely demanding. The obstacles were very high, the course demanding – and also technical. But that was to be expected, because the best riders and horses in the world compete in Aachen. And when seven riders reach the jump-off as well, that is of course fantastic for the spectators. Winning here is simply incredible.
You were the last to compete in the jump-off. Did that increase the pressure?
Brash: No, to be honest, I like riding last. When you enter the ring as the last rider, you know exactly what you have to do. That was true for the jump-off too: I knew, where I had to be careful and that made it easier for me. Daniel Deußer had already produced an excellent round. It was obvious that the last obstacle would decide who would carry off the victory. So, I had to simply do my best to stay clear in a very good time that would ultimately suffice for the victory. Luckily, it did suffice…
Last year you claimed that Hello Sanctos is not very happy in Aachen. You only came 29th in the Rolex Grand Prix. Has he changed his mind now?
Brash: Yes, definitely (laughing). Last year – for whatever reason – we didn’t do very well in Aachen at all. That is why I directly took part in the training session on the first day with Hello Sanctos this year, in order to get him used to the atmosphere. Yes, it is strange. He already felt better during the training than he did last year, on Saturday he was even a little bit better again, although still not ideal. And then on Sunday, he really surprised me in the Rolex Grand Prix. He jummped fantastically.
Will you ride Hello Sanctos at the FEI European Championships in Aachen or will you rather rest him for the third Major show, the Spruce Meadows “Masters”?
Brash: The Europeans will be very important for the British Team and they are counting on me, and the Rolex Grand Slam is definitely part of my main focus of the season.
Looking ahead to the future: Do you think you might be able to win the “Masters” and thus ultimately make history?
Brash: It is already very difficult to win one of the Major competitions, two in succession is incredible and three in a row is almost impossible. It is going to be really difficult, but of course I will give it my very best shot and will try to win.
What a triumph, what a sensation: Scott Brash is writing history. The 29-year-old Scottish rider is the first rider ever to win two Major Shows in succession. Previous to today’s victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Festival Aachen 2015, he also triumphed at the CHI in Geneva, Switzerland in December. If he also manages to ride to victory at the next Major competition, the Spruce Meadows “Masters” in September in Canada, Brash will become a legend – namely as the first winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Seven riders from five nations reached the jump-off. Scott Brash was the last to compete in the jump-off and demonstrated nerves of steel. Because Daniel Deußer (Germany) had put him under pressure with a fast clear round, the clock had stopped at 48.37 seconds. And then came Brash: At the tricky point before a vertical he chose the long route, “Hello Sanctos” raced forwards, one last jump over the Rolex obstacle, all eyes cast on the clock: 48.04 seconds. Victory! The spectators also played a big role today, because they fired on the Scottish rider enthusiastically: “I can quite seriously say from the bottom of my heart that you are the best crowd in the world,” stated Brash in Aachen.
The Rolex Grand Slam unites the three Major shows - Aachen, Spruce Meadows (Canada) and Geneva. If a rider wins the Grand Prix at these three competitions in succession, he wins the Rolex Grand Slam – a feat which no rider has managed to achieve so far. A Rolex Grand Slam brings the rider a bonus of one million Euros in addition to the prize-money, for two victories in a row there is a bonus of 500,000 Euros. After his victory at the CHI Geneva last December and today here in Aachen, Scott Brash has already secured himself half a million Euros in addition to the prize-money. “Of course, that was going through my head, but in the jump-off, I simply concentrated on one jump after the other.”
For Brash the journey continues in September. The next Major show will be staged from September 9th-13th, in Canada, at the Spruce Meadows “Masters” in Calgary. In order to secure himself the half a million, Brash merely has to take part at the “Masters”. “I will ride there – even if I have broken my leg,” joked Brash. Of course, there is much more at stake for the Scottish rider: It is his chance to take the last step on the way to the Rolex Grand Slam. If Scott Brash rides to victory in the “CP International presented by Rolex" he will win the third Major show in succession. What an amazing story!
Scott Brash. Christian Ahlmann. Kent Farrington. Beezie Madden. Steve Guerdat. Edwina Alexander. Ludger Beerbaum. It is the crème de la crème, the absolute world-class of the show jumping sport, who will be competing at the Aachen Soers at the weekend. The World Equestrian Festival is the first Major show of the year and with it the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enters its third year.
Which rider will begin his personal Grand Slam? Or will the journey continue perhaps? It could do for Scott Brash! After his victory in the Rolex Grand Prix of the CHI Geneva 2014, the British rider could notch up a second Major triumph in succession. In addition to the regular prize-money, a 500,000-Euro bonus is awaiting him in Aachen– a further victory in September at the Spruce Meadows “Masters” would turn him into a legend: He could go down in history as the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. As the first rider in history to achieve this feat, he would pick up an incredible one million Euros on top of the prize-money.
In 2013, the first year of the Rolex Grand Slam, Nick Skelton from Great Britain was able to win the Major in Aachen with his exceptional stallion “Big Star”. In 2014, it was a German athlete, Christian Ahlmann, who after winning at the Soers had the chance to claim the prestigious Rolex Grand Slam title. In the saddle of “Codex One“, he was the only rider to jump clear in the jump-off and was eternalised on the legendary winners’ board in Aachen for the first time in his career. However, Ahlmann‘s dream of winning the Grand Slam came to an end in Spruce Meadows, after unfortunately finishing in 18th place. The hope of claiming the “two-out-of-three” bonus worth 250,000 Euros, which a victory at the Major in Geneva would have brought him, is also over.
The Rolex Grand Slam also ended very soon for the winner of the Spruce Meadows “Masters”, Ian Millar: The Canadian rider, who has participated at the Olympic Games a record number of times, didn’t compete at the CHI Geneva, which meant he was eliminated. Because although the riders are allowed to compete on different horses in the Major competitions, they are obliged to compete at all three events, in order to remain in the running to win the biggest coup in the show jumping sport.
So, all eyes will be on Scott Brash in the afternoon of May 31st, 2015 when he enters the main stadium in Aachen! “It will be very difficult,” admitted the Olympic gold medallist up front. “But I am really looking forward to the Rolex Grand Prix. My horse ‘Hello Sanctos‘ is in fantastic shape and we have prepared him for Aachen in a targeted manner.” Last year, the bay gelding let himself get very distracted by the Soers atmosphere and knocked two fences down.
Whether “Hello Sanctos” will show stronger nerves this time? But even then, it will remain exciting to the very last moment! After all, when the international top riders compete against each other with their top horses, every pair can win, every canter stride, every breath taken can determine the winner.
Ultimately, the time decides it all! Time for unique victories, time for top sport in a league of its own, time for the opening event of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – time for the World Equestrian Festival Aachen 2015!
Quote Christian Ahlmann, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix Aachen in 2014.
“The Rolex Grand Slam is a series that is unparalleled. Each show is exceptional in itself. They are shows that look back on a great tradition with a Grand Prix that every show-jumper would like to win at least once in his life. The additional bonus on top is something very special. We are extremely grateful to Rolex and the organisers that they have made this possible. It moves our sport quite a few steps forward. It is extremely difficult to win all three competitions. I tried to pull it off again twice within one year, managed to reach the jump-off once, but unfortunately I picked up four faults. My chances of winning the Rolex Grand Prix Aachen in 2015? I will, of course, give it my best shot, but everyone is highly motivated and Scott Brash is in very good form at the moment and he will also try his hardest to win. One thing is definitely certain: It is going to be super sport.”
The brandnew Rolex Grand Slam Magazine is released. Learn all about the three Majors CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows "Masters" and the CHI Geneva. Furthermore we present the childhood heroes of the Major winners and interesting backround information about the perfect turf in the main stadium of Aachen.
He was the last rider in the jump-off and he went on to finish first:
Riding his Olympic horse, Nino des Buissonnets, the Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI in Geneva in 2013, relegated the 19-year-old Irish show-jumper, Bertram Allen with Romanov, into second place, beating his time by almost a second to take the victory in the Grand Prix in La Baule. The Brazilian rider, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli, came third with Rock'N Roll Semilly. In total, ten pairs reached the jump-off in the competition that was endowed with 200,000 Euros in prize money.
Major winner, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, has added a further impressive chapter to his success story. In the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas, he won the World Cup Final with Albfuehren’s Paille. “I am overjoyed,” said Guerdat, who rode to victory in the Major competition in Geneva in 2013. In a dramatic final round, Guerdat crossed the finish line first ahead of Penelopé Leprevost from France and the Irish newcomer, Bertram Allen. Guerdat has already succeeded in reaching a place on the podium three times in the past, but this was the first time that he celebrated the victory.
An interview with Scott Brash, who has the chance to be the first equestrian athlete in history to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Question: Your victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva means that your personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun. What do you think about the initiative?
Scott Brash: This initiative by Rolex is incredible for our sport. We are athletes – we need goals. The Rolex Grand Slam gives us a clear goal and we give our very best for the bonus. We, the athletes, have top conditions, which means in turn the spectators can of course experience top sport, because naturally every rider wants to win these three shows. Rolex has been an excellent partner in the field of show jumping for many years. It is fantastic to experience how this commitment and with it also the sport further develop – we are all extremely grateful for this.
Question: Nobody has been able to win the Rolex Grand Slam yet. You may able to write history…
Scott Brash: Yes, that's right, but it is going to be very, very difficult. Winning one of these shows is hard enough, but to win all three… I think Eric Lamaze succeeded in doing so once, but not in succesion. And Eric Lamaze had an incredible horse…
Question: You also have an incredible horse, "Hello Sanctos".
Scott Brash: That's true. He is the horse of my life, I enjoy every second with him. But, I am also lucky enough to have other top horses too.
Question: Do you already know which horse you will ride at the next Major Show, the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen on the last weekend in May?
Scott Brash: I'll have to wait and see. "Hello Sanctos" usually feels at home in any ring anywhere in the world – but I had the feeling that he didn't feel totally comfortable in Aachen. Which is why I could imagine opting to ride "Ursula" in Aachen.
Question: What are your plans for 2015?
Scott Brash: Of course, the focus clearly lies on Aachen: The Rolex Grand Prix in May and the FEI European Championships in August.
See the video on facebook.com/rolexgrandslam
Scott Brash's personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun. The British show-jumper rode Hello Sanctos to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon at the third Major Show of the year, the CHI Geneva. The current number one in the world ranking list triumphed over twelve of the best riders in the world in the jump-off. He will now take on the ultimate challenge on the international equestrian sport circuit: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
8,500 spectators euphorically celebrated Brash in the sold-out "Palexpo", the impressive arena near Lake Geneva. In a top-class jump-off, he crossed the finish line clear in the fastest time, narrowly beating Roger-Yves Bost (France) and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (Sweden).
"It is fantastic now also being a part of the Rolex Grand Slam. I am extremely looking forward to the next leg in Aachen," commented Brash. He is particularly grateful to Rolex: "It is unbelievable what Rolex has been doing for our sport for such a long time." At the World Equestrian Festival on the last weekend in May, Scott Brash will attempt to become the first rider in history to win two Major Shows in succession – and be the first rider to claim a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
After riding to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in the summer, Christian Ahlmann from Germany also did his very best to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. After picking up four faults in the first round of the "CP International presented by Rolex" at the Major Show in Canada, the Spruce Meadows "Masters" exactly three months ago today, he jumped clear in the first round in Geneva and thus qualified for the jump-off. However, after knocking the penultimate obstacle, he ultimately finished eleventh in the competition.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been the beginning of a new era in the field of equestrian sport. The quest to win the most difficult-to-obtain trophies in the world of equestrian sport unites the top riders from all over the globe.
The Major tournaments Aachen, Spruce Meadows and Geneva – all prestigious names on the international equestrian sport circuit, which are now connected by a spectacular bonus system: Turning the Rolex Grand Slam into a truly infinite story, into one of the most exciting concepts in the history of international sport.
The best show-jumpers in the world have qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday at the Major Show CHI Geneva. There is going to be an exciting showdown in the Palexpo, this magnificent arena, which is the biggest indoor hall in the world. Moreover, the decision will fall as to whether Christian Ahlmann manages to go down in sport history as the first show-jumper ever to win a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. He immediately succeeded in qualifying for the Grand Prix on Thursday already: "That took a lot of the pressure off already and now I can really focus my attention on the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday." He will be competing against the best and most successful show-jumpers in the world, because the best of the best have already qualified themselves for the competition. Including Pieter Devos, who is also a familiar face in the running for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. After taking the victory at the Major Show Spruce Meadows "Masters" last year, the Belgian rider already had the chance to be successful in the Rolex Grand Slam. He succeeded in reaching the jump-off in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva within the set twelve months, but ultimately didn't quite manage to win. As last year's winner, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland will also do his best to win his home game. In addition to the current number one in the world rankings and new champion in the Rolex Top Ten Finals, Scott Brash from Great Britain, the top French stars Kevin Staut and Penelope Leprevost will also be striving to claim the victory in the Major competition tomorrow, together with Ludger Beerbaum, Daniel Deußer, Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum from Germany.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping
This alliance between the three Major Shows in Aachen, Geneva and the Spruce Meadows in Canada is the most prestigious and the most difficult trophy to win on the international equestrian sport circuit. The rider, who manages to claim the victory at all three shows in succession, wins the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – as well as one million Euros in prize-money. It is no longer possible for Christian Ahlmann to do that, because although he came first in Aachen, he didn't win in Canada. Nevertheless, if he rides to victory in Geneva, he will be the first rider in history to claim a bonus. Because the rider, who wins two out of three shows – albeit not in succession – receives a bonus of a quarter of a million Euros in addition to the prize-money.
Christian Ahlmann put in a strong first appearance. The German show-jumper succeeded in qualifying for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday straight away at the CHI Geneva. After jumping clear, he finished in eighth place with "Codex One" in the "Credit Suisse Grand Prix". In the summer, he also competed in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen with his top horse – where his personal "Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping" began. This alliance between the shows in Aachen, Geneva and the Spruce Meadows in Canada is the most prestigious and the most difficult trophy to win on the international equestrian sport circuit. The rider, who manages to claim the victory at all three shows in succession, wins the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – as well as one million Euros in prize-money. It is no longer possible for Christian Ahlmann to do that, because although he came first in Aachen, he didn't win in Canada. Nevertheless, if he rides to victory in Geneva, he will be the first rider in history to claim a bonus. Because the rider, who wins two out of three shows – albeit not in succession – receives a bonus of a quarter of a million Euros in addition to the prize-money. Which doesn't exactly ease the pressure on the rider: "The Rolex Grand Slam is the icing on the cake," said Christian Ahlmann. Of course, the pressure is high, but "I am very satisfied with our first performance. Codex is in good shape and I have a very good feeling about the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday."
The CHI Geneva starts today. In the concluding Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, the decision will fall as to whether Christian Ahlmann succeeds in becoming the first rider in history to win a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. However, prior to this we will be taking a look back at the beginnings of the show and its long tradition.
They were courageous and had a great idea. 90 years ago, a delegation from the Geneva-based "L'Etrier" club visited an equestrian show in France – they returned home with the idea of organising an indoor show in Geneva too. On November 10th, 1926, two years later, on a Wednesday, the bold intention had become reality. The first show was organised at the "Palais des Expositions" parallel to the international automobile exhibition – the CHI Geneva was born. One could hardly suspect at the time that it was going to develop into one of the biggest success stories in the history of the international equestrian sport. The economic situation was poor; it was difficult to impress the people with a big international event. And yet the enthusiasm of the first organisers helped overcome the difficulties and turn the first event into one of the most traditional and most prestigious shows worldwide. 85 riders with 158 horses competed, Sandro Bettoni won the first Grand Prix with Scoiattolo. Between five and eight thousand visitors watched the individual competitions, the people stayed until late in the evening, the show was accepted. In the meantime, 40,000 people make their way into the arena on the days of the show – a fantastic success and a thoroughly solid basis for the famous and traditional history that followed that premiere event. The CHI has shown constant development, after an intermezzo in the Vernets Sports Centre, the event relocated to the huge Palexpo Arena at the beginning of the 1990s – which has remained the venue of the world's most famous indoor show ever since.
The "Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping" is returning to the foot of the Alps. As traditionally scheduled during the pre-Christmas period, the CHI Geneva is the third and last Major Show of the year. The most famous show-jumpers in the world meet up here at Palexpo, the legendary arena of huge dimensions, to see who will be crowned as the best of the best.
It was one of those magic moments that only happens in the world of sport, when the Swiss Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat won the "Rolex Grand Prix". He withstood the immense pressure here, in this tremendous arena in front of this unique, euphoric audience, his audience, and rode to victory with "Nino de Buissonnets". Wildly acclaimed by 8,500 fans in the sold-out arena.
The mission "Defending the Title" is going to be more difficult than ever this year, since the world elite is travelling to the famous Geneva Lake in an attempt to replace Guerdat as the titleholder. The World Champions from the Netherlands, both the Individual Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam and his equally successful team members, comprising of Jur Vrieling, Maikel van der Vleuten and Gerco Schröder, will be competing in Geneva. The "Oranjes" won the World Championships ahead of the team from France that comprised of the Vice World Champions Patrice Delaveau, Pénélope Leprevost, Kevin Staut, Simon Delestre and their reserve rider, Jérôme Hurel. The extremely strong French delegation will also be supported by the European Champion, Roger Yves Bost. Currently number one in the world rankings, Scott Brash from Great Britain, has also confirmed his participation, as well as the World Cup winner and "Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final" Champion, Daniel Deußer from Germany.
Steve Guerdat's victory last year marked the start of his personal "Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping". However, he made mistakes at the following CHIO Aachen and Spruce Meadows "Masters" Major Shows, which meant the dream of becoming the first rider to win the "Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping" was over. The same applies for Christian Ahlmann - he namely picked up four faults in the first round of the "CP International presented by Rolex" in Spruce Meadows. Nevertheless, when he travels to Geneva, Ahlmann still has the chance to pick up a bonus of a quarter of a million Euros – in addition to the prize money. Canada's Ian Millar won't be able to pursue his personal Rolex Grand Slam. After winning the "CP International presented by Rolex" in Spruce Meadows, Canada, his horse "Dixon" is currently in training to qualify for the Canadian Olympics – and Millar hasn't got another top horse at his stables, so he is reluctantly not going to be able to compete in Geneva.
Incidentally, the chances of a Swiss victory at the Palexpo are very good: Each of the last three Major Shows was won by a local hero - Steve Guerdat (CH) in Geneva, Christian Ahlmann (GER) in Aachen and Ian Millar (CAN) at Spruce Meadows. Whoever writes the next chapter in the traditional history of the CHI Geneva, which has been staged since 1926, whoever wins the "Rolex Grand Prix" at the CHI 2014 – will also go down in history as the next rider, who has the opportunity to win the "Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping", this ultimate equestrian sport challenge.
Prestigious riders and horses’ names are recorded on the prize list of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, created almost two years ago. The prize-winner of the Grand Prix of the Grand Slam in the CHI Geneva last year with Nino des Buissonnets, the Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, tells us about the competitors who won the classes of the Rolex Grand Slam until now.
"Nick Skelton is a rider who has won his fair share of classes and he deserves a huge respect. He has crossed generations; he always won and has succeeded in adapting himself to various types of horses all through his career. He proved it in Aachen by winning the Grand Prix of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping with Big Star, a real phenomenon. He’s able to do everything and he demonstrated that people can still count on him. He already won on numerous occasions the Grand Prix over thirty years ago (in 1982, 1987, and 1988). That’s simply incredible! Nick is the perfect winner for the first event of the history of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping."
"Pieter Devos is maybe not the most famous rider for the public. But as riders, we have known him for a long time. He’s a real fighter and he has succeeded many times before his victory in Calgary. We could not really imagine him listed in the top 10 in the final ranking of this Grand Prix. But, when we think about it in hindsight, it isn’t such a surprise when we know everything he achieved before succeeding in the arena of Spruce Meadows. Candy does not have what we could consider as a “crack” style, but we only need to look back on her results to know that she’s definitely a crack. She feels at ease in the biggest classes in the world and so it’s not so surprising that the competition in Calgary suited her."
"Christian Ahlmann is someone that I really appreciate as a rider but also as a person. He’s a really good guy. He’s very kind and open-minded. He’s an exceptionally gifted rider, who has won so many classes and it’s fabulous that he won the Grand Prix in Aachen this year. It is an amply deserved victory, a great present for him. Christian has had a lot of Cracks in his career, but he’s missing a real phenomenon like Shutterfly, Hickstead or Nino. A few riders would not have has such a success with the horses he has had. Codex One is a great horse, complicated, with a lot of ability."
"Ian Millar is incredible. At the World Equestrian Games in Normandy already, he made an amazing run. What is surprising is that in comparison to other riders, who get older, Ian does not change at all with the years that pass by and he’s still winning classes. He is an example, an incredible competitor and a great sports lesson, but also a human one. I would like to say that Ian Millar is a rider who refreshes our sport, in spite of his age. I confess, I do not know his horse very well, because Ian does not come very often in Europe, but he has a lot of excellent results. It only takes a look at his recent performances at the World Equestrian Games and in Calgary to be conscious of the reality."
"This success will stay etched in my memory for the rest of my life. The CHI Geneva represents so much for me and to win the Grand Prix with Nino is extraordinary. Such a victory is exceptional and it is even more than that because it is a rare thing in a career. This victory is the success that has the biggest value for me after my Olympic victory. It is now two years that the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping exists and we can say that only exceptional couples achieve his name. It proves that the Grand Slam has a big value and that it is important. I always liked classics and history of our sport. I can only be motivated by this concept which brings a new dimension to Show Jumping. My season is based on these three events, they are my priority. To be able to participate at such important events and to be able to win one of them is a childhood dream. I do my best during the season to arrive in the best condition at the different events of the Grand Slam, no matter which classes there are before or after; the Rolex Grand Slam is the most important."
The Concours Hippique International de Genève (CHI Geneva) is offering an exciting show with high-end classes, outstanding competitors, and for the very first time, an Indoor cross country course to the public at Palexpo from December 11th to December 14th. Equestrian sports will never have been under such a strong spotlight in Geneva!
The very best riders will be reunited on the worldʼs biggest arena over four days, from 11th to 14th December, to compete in high-class competitions. And all the world champions have answered favourably to the invitation; the Swiss Steve Guerdat, Olympic champion, the recent team World champions, the Dutch riders Gerco Schröder, Maïkel van der Vleuten and Jur Vrieling, the European champion, the Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost, the individual World vice-champion 2014 Patrice Delaveau, as well as the current number one, Scott Brash and Daniel Deusser, winner of the World Cup and the IJRC Top 10 Rolex Final. The same final that will again be taking place in Geneva on Friday evening. The ten best riders on the planet will compete a two-phase class. Germany with Daniel Deusser, Ludger Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, as well as France with Patrice Delaveau, Kevin Staut and Pénélope Leprévost, will be the nations the best represented. The American, Kent Farrignton who is very comfortable in Geneva, as well as Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash and Maïkel van der Vleuten will try and play mediator.
The Grand Slam as main target
The Rolex Grand Prix, taking place on Sunday afternoon, will of course be the highlight of
this yearly equestrian rendezvous in Geneva. Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping with Aachen and Calgary, Geneva and its Rolex Grand Prix have grown to a new dimension. The German rider, Christian Ahlmann, winner in Aachen last July, has well understood this. Victory in Geneva will allow him to pocket CHF 300ʼ000, awarded to the winner of the Grand Prix, as well as the substantial amount of EUROS 250ʼ000, which he could touch as the bonus for winning two sequential Grand Prixʼs.
Tailor made shows
Last but not least, various shows will punctuate the sportier side of the programme in Geneva. To ensure the spectacle, the Basel Top Secret Drums Corps, with their 20 crazy drums will provide a stunning show. In a more equestrian register, twelve riders from the Maison du Roy, dressed in Louis XV period costumes will ride accompanied by ten hunting horns. Six traditional carriages, drawn by horses from the Swiss National Stud Farm and two riders from Garde Républicaine française will also feature in the show.
After riding to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen 2014, Christian Ahlmann has the chance to be the first show-jumper in history to win a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
4 months ago, you won the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen…
Every rider in the world wants to compete in Aachen. It is something very special, particularly for the German riders. It is the best show in the world! I have been riding there for many, many years and I came close a few times. But winning there was the best thing ever!
The next Major Show was the Spruce Meadows "Masters" – where you had the chance to write history if you would have won. Were you very disappointed, when it didn't work out?
It wasn't so bad. Codex jumped well in Calgary, he was fit. But, unfortunately, we picked up four faults, which meant we didn't manage to pull off the sensation. Nevertheless, I wanted to give it my best shot.
How do you rate your chances in Geneva?
Of course, that depends very much on whether Codex is in good form. I hope we have taken the right path and that we have trained enough so that we are fit, but not too much so that we are tired.
What is special about Geneva?
The size! It is comparable with an outdoor show. The atmosphere is always fantastic, it is nearly always completely sold-out. Furthermore, the focus is very much on the jumping sport: Geneva offers many classic competitions with high prize money. It is one of the best indoor events in the world.
Measuring 5,200 square metres, the Palexpo is the biggest indoor arena in the world. What is it like riding in an indoor arena like Geneva?
The ring is bigger than at some outdoor shows, so it is very nice riding there. You have a much better rhythm than in a small ring. There are specialists, who regularly ride well there, better than anywhere else. Horses that feel at home there, always perform 20 percent better. For example, it was obvious as soon as Codex entered the main stadium in Aachen that he felt at home.
You could go down in history as the first show-jumper to claim a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. How important is this goal for you?
If it doesn't work, the world won't come to an end for me. But, of course, it is important to win prize money: One has expenses, one has to give money back to the owners. The chance of winning 250,000 Euros in Geneva is a great bonus and I will naturally do my bests to win.
What significance does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping have for the equestrian sport in general?
It is great that it exists. The Rolex Grand Slam unites the best shows in the world at the moment. Next to the respective Championships, it is the biggest sporting achievement one can attain.
What is your personal assessment after the first year of the Rolex Grand Slam?
Very good. I was able to win the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen and now have the opportunity to pick up a bonus. A rider doesn't have the chance to win what the Rolex Grand Slam offers anywhere else. I am realistic: It is only a small chance, all of the good riders will be competing with their horses in Geneva and everyone wants to win! Nevertheless, I will certainly do my best.
What shape is Codex One in at the moment?
He is in very good shape! First of all, he had a break after Calgary, then he competed in Doha and now Geneva. He feels great at the moment.
How are you preparing for Geneva?
I don't implement any specific training methods. How we train depends on what has happened beforehand. His fitness has to be right at the first show, then we reassess the situation from show to show. If we notice problems with a certain jump, we practice that type of jump more intensely. But it is always important that the horses have time to recover properly between the shows.
If you had to name the biggest goal in your career, what would it be?
(Smiling) Definitely individual Olympic gold.
What are your strengths?
I would say that I am very flexible and that I can adapt to a new situation very quickly. But other people should perhaps be the judge of that!
And your weaknesses?
I admire people, who are very hard on themselves – I am not like that. But I do strive to realise my goals!
Is the CHI Geneva your last show this year?
I am competing in Mechelen between Christmas and New Year. It is a great show, but I participate there more for personal reasons: It is my partner's favourite show, she comes from Belgium.
In the meantime, you are the father of a small son. How easy is it to unite family life with the professional sport?
One can't compare our family life to normal family life. But we do try to make sure that we don't lose sight of each other. And it works very well, but one still has less time for each other compared to other people. But my partner and I knew that before: We both compete. One's partner has to be very familiar with the profession – otherwise it wouldn't work out over a longer period of time.
It is Christmas soon. How will you be spending the festive days?
With the whole family – and in the meantime we are quite a large group! First of all, we eat together, then we exchange presents – quite classic. We are not often all together, so it is always very nice. Since the staff are always off over Christmas, we then have to tend to the stables ourselves! So, we don't have much time off... (he says, laughing).
Just a month to go until the Concours Hippique International de Genève (CHI) kicks off and the participation is looking top notch with all the current champions responding present: Olympic champions, individual and team World champions, the European champion as well as the previous winner of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the actual leader of the World ranking. Geneva is an essential date in the agenda at this year’s end.
The public in Geneva will be spoilt rotten from December 11th through December 14th 2014! All the title holders have planned to attend. With the Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, also a participant in the 14th edition of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final. Facing him, a strong Dutch delegation comprised of the World Champion 2014, Jeroen Dubbeldam, surrounded by his three World champion compatriots, Jur Vrieling, Maikel van der Vleuten and Gerco Schröder, all silver medallists at the Olympic Games in London.
Patrice Delaveau Patrice Delaveau France, vice World champion in Normandy last August, will also be present in Geneva with the identical team comprised of Patrice Delaveau, also the individual world vice-champion, Pénélope Leprevost, Kevin Staut, Simon Delestre and their reservist, Jérôme Hurel. The tri-coloured delegation will be reinforced with the presence of Roger-Yves Bost, European champion and recent winner of the World Cup Grand Prix in Lyon.
To top off this exceptional tableau, the German rider, Daniel Deusser, winner of last year’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final as well as the World Cup champion in 2014, and the British, n°1 in the world, Scott Brash will ride the Palexpo arena, an arena that shines the brightest stars in the world.
From the 11th to 14th of December, the best riders and drivers in the world will again competing in the CHI in Palexpo on the biggest indoor arena in the world.
In all, 21 classes are on the program and there will be something for everyone. The Grand Prix of Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be the highlight on Sunday, 14th of December, at 2.15 pm. Other prestigious classes are planned for the public and the competitors: 14th finale of the Top 10 Rolex IJRC on Friday, the Credit Suisse Grand Prix on Thursday, the Credit Suisse Geneva Classic and the first and unique Cross Indoor in Switzerland on Saturday, the World cup of Driving on Sunday, the horse-pony relay, the Six-Bar, Speed and Handiness, Swiss horses, the attractions and more.
The Swiss team manager Andy Kistler has announced the official Swiss selection to take part in the Concours Hippique International de Genève taking place from 11th to 14th December 2014. In total , 24 Swiss riders will be on site.
Headed by the Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, the Swiss delegation cuts a fine figure. In addition to the rider from the Jura region, Pius Schwizer, the Swiss champion Martin Fuchs, as well as Paul Estermann and Romain Duguet, both in the Swiss team at the past World Equestrian Games, have been listed as team members. Alain Jufer, who acquired a wild card this season has been upgraded to the official selection thanks to his impressive results. This consequently allows for Christina Liebherr, up next in line, to be allocated a wild card.
The concept that came about in 2001 at the Concours Hippique International de Genève, the world’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 final is back again in December at Palexpo.
The first seven editions took place in Geneva then migrated to Brussels in 2008, to Paris in 2009 and 2011 and to Stockholm in 2013. For the fourteenth edition, the celebrated class in back in Geneva for the tenth time.
Last year in Stockholm (SWE), Daniel Deusser was victorious with Evita van de Veldbalie. The German rider stole the show from Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso HDC, who were also to satisfy themselves with second place in the Champions Challenge, presented by Rolex a few weeks later in Geneva. The third place was awarded to the British rider Ben Maher on Triple X III, currently the number two worldwide.
Canada's equestrian sport legend, Ian Millar, won the Spruce Meadows `Masters´. His personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun after the victory in the "CP International presented by Rolex". In an interview, Millar told us what he is particularly looking forward to and how one can become the hero of all heroes in the field of equestrian sport.
Question: Your Rolex Grand Slam has now begun, how do you assess your chances at the coming Majors in Geneva and Aachen?
Millar: Of course, we all know how difficult it is to win the Rolex Grand Slam. But we all believe that we can succeed in climbing the highest mountain. So why shouldn't it be possible to master this challenge too? Anyone, who has the opportunity, will endeavour to pull it off. And one thing is sure: The first rider to succeed will become a legend, he will be the hero of all heroes.
Question: What is your opinion of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Ian Millar: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is a fantastic initiative. Such ideas are simply incredibly important for our sport. Not only for us athletes, but also for the promotion of the show jumping sport. We are extremely grateful to such a prestigious brand as Rolex for their commitment.
Question: It is going to be the first time you compete at the CHI Geneva…
Millar: Yes, that's right, I have never competed in the Palexpo. I have often took part in the show in Aachen, which I loved every time, but the CHI in Geneva never really fitted into my schedule, so I am really looking forward to it.
Question: What do you think will await you there?
Millar: I have been following the show from a distance for a long time. And after everything I have seen and heard, the indoor hall in Geneva is like an open-air show, like Aachen or Calgary – purely with the difference that it's got a roof on top. They even have a pond there, incredible. It is going to be a great pleasure competing in Geneva in December.
The Canadian rider Ian Millar's personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun. In a first-class and dramatic finale, he took the victory in the "CP International presented by Rolex" at his home game in Spruce Meadows, Canada, ahead of Reed Kessler (USA) .
In the end, it turned out to be a battle of the generations at the Spruce Meadows `Masters´. On the one hand, the 67-year-old Millar, on the other hand the just 20-year-old Kessler. Ultimately, experience prevailed in the jump-off: The show-jumper from the USA, who had saddled Cylana, did indeed manage to clock up a clear round, but the experienced Millar stayed calm with Dixson, also jumped clear beating her time by over two seconds.
Christian Ahlmann and Steve Guerdat, who had had the opportunity to go down in history as the first riders to win a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, were left disappointed. After his triumph in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen 2014, Ahlmann had travelled to Canada with high hopes. However, in the first round he picked up four penalty faults after lightly knocking a fence with his top horse Codex One, which meant he didn't qualify for the second round. Things went slightly better for Steve Guerdat, however after collecting nine penalty points in the second round, his hopes at taking the victory at the Spruce Meadows `Masters´ 2014 were dashed.
We will now have to wait and see if Ian Millar manages to win the CHI Geneva and thus continue on course for claiming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Christian Ahlmann also has the opportunity to pick up a bonus in Geneva.