And the winner is...
Marcus Ehning wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen
Germany’s Marcus Ehning gave the 40,000 patriotic spectators a reason to celebrate at CHIO Aachen, as he clinched the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix title aboard his 15-year-old chestnut gelding, Pret A Tout. Although this is the fourth Major Ehning has won, his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has only just begun, as he becomes the new live contender. We spoke to him following his incredible performance, which left him two seconds clear of his closest rival, Portugal’s Luciana Diniz:
What were your thoughts when you walked the course?
I thought it was a really good course, I thought there would be about 10 clears and, in the end, there were 11. There wasn’t anywhere specifically that I thought would be too challenging or that my horse couldn’t jump, but my horse has performed amazingly in past years here, and he gave me a confidence that I could really trust him and believe that we could go all the way. He is a very flexible horse and I am very lucky to be riding him.
Which round was more difficult, the first or second?
For me the first round was more difficult, a few times I didn’t have the perfect rhythm that I wanted but I was very happy to be clear. The second round was amazing from the first jump to the last we were fast but there was a lot of control and I really enjoyed it.
Where you nervous watching Luciana’s round?
I was nervous watching Luciana, she is a good rider and has come close to winning her a few times.
You are now the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, will you be competing at the CSI Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September?
Before this win today I was only focusing on the World Equestrian Games, but obviously now this is a very different situation. I need to speak to my team and my owners to work out a strategy and think about what we do.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Marcus Ehning’s groom, Mel Obst
Can you tell us about Pret A Tout?
Pret A Tout is the easiest horse we have, he has a super character and is so brave. He is very calm, you can give him to anyone to hold and he will behave, he is just lovely and easy. When he is jumping he is like ‘I am doing my job and focused’ after he has finished he is like ‘I am chilled, I just want to eat’ when he is eating he is very happy, I think he even had a bit of grass in the prize giving! In the stable he is so relaxed and such a wonderful horse to be around, I am so lucky to work with him.
How will you reward him tonight?
We will reward him with a lot of food, he loves food. He loves carrots, apples, everything, so he will be getting all of those tonight for sure.
Do you get nervous watching Marcus compete?
No, I am usually ok actually. When I watch I usually stay very calm, I think whatever happens it will be ok! When he is inside the arena I start to get a little bit nervous, but I always try to hide it!
How did you feel when you realised Marcus had won?
I felt unbelievable, it is so exciting for us! We have had an amazing week here at CHIO Aachen and to win the Rolex Grand Prix tops off an incredible Show for us, to win this and the Mercedes-Benz Nation's Cup, it feels like a dream. It took some time to sink-in that we had actually won, I suddenly realised Luciana’s time was slower and worked out we had actually won, it was unreal.
Now you are on the Rolex Grand Slam journey, do you think you will go to Spruce Meadows?
We have some amazing horses that could certainly compete well at Spruce Meadows. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something I every rider wants to win, and I would really love for us to go to Spruce but we will have to see!
Walk the Course With:
Frank Rothenberger, CHIO Aachen Course Designer
Could you talk a bit about the Rolex Grand Prix course?
It’s the biggest class I build every year, it’s scheduled up to 1.70. We have thirteen jumps with a big water jump and a triple combination. It’s a very tough course in a big arena, and there is always such an exciting atmosphere. There will be two rounds with a tricky jump-off too, we have built a course almost to the maximum we can build so it should be very interesting.
What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be?
I think today the double ditches and the double oxer. You never know how spooked the horses will get and how they will react when they see the water beside the lake. The last line is also very difficult, with three big jumps from the entrance. It requires seven long and five short strides. These will probably be the most challenging aspects of the course, but we will have to see.
Do you feel extra pressure when having to design a course that is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I’m starting to sweat at the moment. I’m already getting nervous and my hands are already getting wet. Of course, it is a very nerve racking experience. The closer we get to the Rolex Grand Prix the more nervous I feel. But I am looking forward to seeing how the riders do on the course.
What is your favourite part about your job?
My favourite part is to design the courses, to start designing big classes like the Rolex Grand Prix and the Nations Cups. I love to start from the beginning and see how the courses grow and develop. There is so much pressure because you never know what the results will be, sometimes you want ten riders in the jump-off but you end up with fifteen, or you want ten and you only get two or three. Then you have to question why this has happened and why we have ended up with so many people in the jump off. We have to consider what was wrong and how we can change the course next time. Every course is different, I’ve been doing this job for 40 years and no course has been the same.
How big is your team?
In Aachen, we have 60-70 people. It is such a big show with so many different classes, including the Nations Cup and the Rolex Grand Prix so we need a big team to manage everything well.
How many clears are you expecting?
It would be nice to get 10-12 clears and end up with around 3 or 4 riders in the jump-off.
How long does it take you to build / design the course? What goes into that?
Sometimes, twenty minutes to half an hour and sometimes we need three or four hours. It depends how the course is flowing. I also prepare other courses for Aachen in March and April, so then I come back here and have the chance to consider what else I can do with the course.
CHIO Aachen: Rolex Rider Watch
USA's McLain Ward wins the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia
The second Rolex Grand Prix qualifier of the week, the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia, was won by USA’s McLain Ward in speedy fashion, finishing at the top of the leaderboard in 46.95 secs, shaving nearly two seconds off his closest rival, Kevin Staut, who took second place. McLain paid tribute to his stunning 11-year-old mare, Clinta, following his victory:
Can you tell us about Clinta?
I purchased her in February this year, I actually tried her for the first time right after Aachen last year. She performed really well here, and we were very impressed by her. We started competing together in Florida, in March, and felt fantastic right from the beginning, she won the first 5* Grand Prix in New York and the 4* in Devon, so we have certainly had a great start together. We are so excited for her career, she is a really spectacular jumper, she is as careful as any horse ever been and I think we are going to have a bright future.
Who will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I will be riding HH Azur in the Rolex Grand Prix, Clinta will ride the big class tomorrow and that will be her last for the week.
I am so lucky to have two such amazing horses here, they are both brilliant. They are slightly different in character – Azur has an ease and a blood, an athleticism about her, you can see it in the way she stands, Clinta is a bit quicker, moves a bit faster and her jump is a little more dynamic. The similarity between the two, is they have that wonderful quality of giving everything they have to you.
Do you feel extra pressure competing at one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I have extra pressure on myself as it’s the last big Grand Prix of the world I haven’t won, and I would like to get my name on that wall before I retire. So that’s my drive, I want to win here for sure, so we will do our best, hopefully have some good fortune and we will be in for a chance on Sunday evening.
Exclusive Interview With:
Israel's Daniel Bluman, ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix
How’s your experience of Aachen so far this weekend?
It’s been really good, it’s an unbelievable place to be at. Already from the get go, with the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe on Wednesday which is a qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix, (Ladriano Z) jumped really well, she finished in the rankings, so it gives me a nice chance to qualify for the Grand Prix on Sunday, so the week has been fantastic so far.
Which horses do you have here this weekend? And in particular for the Rolex Grand Prix?
This week, Bacara and Ladriano for the Grand Prix, Ladriano is a horse made for this kind of event, I normally ride him in the Grand Prix, that is usually how his schedule works. He started in Florida and won a 5* at the beginning of the year, recently I’ve been letting him lay low, he jumped in Calgary in preparation for this and he has been jumping here this week in preparation for the Grand Prix this weekend and then we will go to the Rolex Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows and hopefully the World Equestrian Games and then at the end of the year we will go to CHI Geneva.
So you have your eyes on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping then?
Yes, it means a lot to me, I really love the concept and I have always been a big fan of Rolex and what they do for our sport and I really try to aim for the big competitions. It’s really good that Rolex are coming into big shows, I was supposed to be at Windsor with another horse but unfortunately there was a minor injury so I couldn’t make the flight but there is Windsor, Rome, Spruce Meadows, Wellington which are all Rolex. It is a prestigious brand, with prestigious events, I want to be part of this, they are shows that are always in my calendar and that I really aim for.
Who do you think your biggest competition on Sunday is?
That’s pretty much an impossible question right now as the level of riders in the world is incredible, you have Eric Lamaze, who is first of all one of my mentors and an idol, he is strong, he has been really good in the last few months. But then again, you have Steve Guerdat who is fantastic, you have Philip Weishaupt and the rest of the German crew who are doing great, Marcus Ehning etc. the list goes on. There are so many people with unbelievable talent, it will be a tough competition and I think anyone can take it.
It’s quite a family affair for you, could you tell us a bit about having that family support network?
Yes, it means a lot. It is our first-generation equestrian family, our parents didn’t ride but with my cousins Elan and Marky and my brother Stephen, we have established an equestrian business, in America with clients and in Europe with all the operations of the young horses, breeding and everything else. It is really a great thing to be able to have because it allows me to be able to do the sport the way I dream of doing it and at the same time to be able to spend it with my wife, my brother and my cousins. It really makes the whole experience so much better.
You’re going to become a father in October, have you got hopes for the new arrival to follow in your footsteps?
I think about that a lot, we are very excited for our little son to be born in October! Most importantly I will try to teach him the love and passion for the horses as animals, if he catches that from his mother or from me, there is a big chance he will end up being a rider. The best approach will be to communicate to him what the horses mean to us and the life around the horses, perhaps then he will get into it and be here one day jumping with us.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s groom, Anu Harrila
You’ve worked with Meredith for a very long time, what are your favourite parts of the job?
My favourite part of the job is working with the horses. I have worked with a lot of horses over the last 20 years and there are always a few that stick with you and have a special place in your heart. I am so lucky to work with such amazing horses, so that’s definitely the best part. Meredith is lovely work for, I know her inside out now, so it works seamlessly, and I think we are a great team.
Meredith has won here in the past; do you think she can win this weekend?
Well that would be the dream come true, we have a really nice nine-year-old, he’s still a little green, but he is going well so we are going to give it our best shot!
Which horses do you have competing here this year?
We have a nine-year-old called Calle, he is a really good young horse, I hope he will do great this week. He’s a special guy, he doesn’t like to be alone, he always has to have a friend. He is sensitive to loud noises, so you always have to make sure he knows that it’s ok. We also have an eight-year-old mare, that she has only had for 8-10 weeks, so we don’t know her that well, but she is very promising and seems like a very sweet horse.
As a team, do you feel extra pressure when competing at one of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
There is always pressure when it is a Rolex Grand Slam Major because obviously you want to do well. Here now in Aachen, it’s Germany, it’s home crowd and a lot of prize money at stake.
What’s the routine for the horses once they have finished competing?
Normally, they have a shower then they have ice boots on to cool down the legs and keep them fresh. Most of them have either a massage blanket or a magnetic blanket. They have a good brush and maybe a walk to keep them moving. Maybe some bandages if they like those.
If you weren’t a groom, what would you be?
I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine doing anything else, I guess I have my dream job.
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special show for you?
There is a super atmosphere, everything is very well organised. The crowd is unbelievable, when somebody goes clear they cheers are so loud, it gives you goosebumps! I think it is one of the best shows in the world.
Rolex Rider Watch
After a highly competitive jump-off, Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann clinched the Turkish Airlines-Preis von Europa title with grey gelding, Castello 194. He spoke after his victory:
How did the course feel today?
The course was very long, it had three combinations, one triple, one double and of course the double plank which caused a few problems. The time was hard to keep inside of and with it being such a long course the horses were tiring at the end. I was happy with my horse’s performance and was excited to reach the jump-off.
What were your tactics going into the jump-off?
My tactics were to watch McLain’s round and work out were I could shave time off, as he is normally the one to beat in a jump-off like this. I saw a little hole where I could take him, it was the second last, he was little bit out to the oxer and I have a very scopey horse, so I thought if I stayed a little tighter to the jump, I could catch him, which we did.
How will you prepare for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
The horse will need to stay fresh and happy in the mind ahead of Sunday. It is a big wish to win the Rolex Grand Prix, but we all know how difficult the competition is. Of course, I want to chase the Rolex Grand Slam, I was second in the Geneva Grand Prix, so hopefully I can go one better on this weekend.
Word from the organisers with Frank Kemperman and Michael Mronz
Chairman of the Managing Board, Frank Kemperman, and General Manager, Michael Mronz, took some time out their busy schedules to talk about what makes CHIO Aachen such a unique show:
CHIO Aachen is such a historical Show, how do you keep evolving and improving it?
Frank: Aachen has a rich history, if you look at the list of winners it includes only the best riders in the world. It is regarded by the riders as one of the best shows to compete at and is the place they want to win. We do everything possible to be one of the best events in the world, we look at what’s happening in other sports and do what we can to produce the best facilities, competitions and sport for our riders and our spectators.
Michael: Social media is very important for the future of this event. Our audiences want to be able to receive information instantly from wherever they are, so it is key for us to focus on delivering this. We are investing a lot of time and money into the development of the app, it was started here in Aachen and we have seen other shows follow suit and develop apps of their own. I even learnt yesterday that a top fashion show is using a similar system as the judging app, so it is good to know we are one step ahead of them here at Aachen! Over the last few years we have grown the digital team and have five people dedicated to social media now. We want to make sure we are really focusing on our audience attending the Show, but also those who want to be a part of it from their homes.
This Show has been described as the Wimbledon of Equestrian, how does a Major in tennis compare to a Major in Equestrian?
Michael: Tennis is more well known of course, but the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam in equestrian enables the sport to become more accessible to people who do not follow it already. Like in tennis, the Rolex Grand Slam is made up of four Majors and spectators know that these are the four best competitions and the ones that the riders aspire to win. They bring the best sport and the best competitors which attract the wider audiences. It is a major step towards the development of show jumping and the strive to reach wider audiences and give people outside the equestrian world an understanding of the sport. Of course, it’s nice to be compared to Wimbledon, I would say we are quite different in terms of size and reach, but it means we need to be more creative and innovative to try and get to that standard.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix?
Frank: That is hard question! We have the world’s best riders compete here each year, so it could be anyone. Each year we try to predict who will win, but the talent is so good it’s just impossible to guess. Every rider wants to win the Rolex Grand Prix, it is always their main focus when coming to compete at Aachen. I have just received a message that Philipp Weishaupt is not taking part in the jump-off of this class, because he has now qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix and wants to focus on that. It is such an important competition for all the riders and with such great horse and rider combinations this year, it will be a highly competitive class.
Behind the stable door : Interview with Dale Hailstone, groom to Laura Kraut
Dale Hailstone, 26 years-old, was born in Glasgow and started working for one of USA’s top riders, Laura Kraut, four years ago. He has moved up the ranks and is now Kraut’s head groom, travelling around the world with her to the most prestigious events on the Show Jumping calendar. We spoke with Hailstone as he prepares Kraut’s team of horses ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday:
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special event?
For me it’s without a doubt the best show in the world. It’s amazing for the grooms, the riders and the horses. We go to so many shows across the globe but a lot of them aren’t very horse friendly. Aachen is so good for the horses, we have so much space to graze and exercise them, you can plan your day easily as the facilities are so accessible. The atmosphere is incredible, and the ground is super for the horses, so it is the perfect place to compete.
Which horses are competing this week?
This week, we have Confu, Deauville S., Zeremonie, and SFS Vincomte for the younger class. All the horses have great characters. Deauville is very special in the ring, he loves it in there! He always canters sideways to the jumps, I actually don’t know how Laura get’s over them, she is so good! As soon as he is out of the ring he becomes quiet and is very happy just to stand still and talk to people who come and say hello to him! Confu loves to whinny as he enters the ring, it’s almost like he wants to let people know he has arrived!
We think Zeremonie will be competing in the Rolex Grand Prix, Laura won Leading Rider of the Show last year and Zeremonie won Best Horse, so they are a great combination and we hope to do even better this year and win the Rolex Grand Prix. We are so lucky that we have a good selection of Grand Prix horses to choose from, but the plan right now is that Zeremonie will jump in the Grand Prix.
Do you have any secret grooming tips?
Actually, I do have quite a good tip; it sounds very basic but one thing I never go without is baby powder – especially with grey horses. It helps to cover up marks and does all sorts of wonders to their coats, I also put it inside their tendon boots, so they don’t rub which keeps them comfortable. It’s cheap and cheerful but something I never leave home without.
As part of a new advertising campaign, a 60 second promotional film will be showcased at CHIO Aachen for the first time. The campaign focuses on the dedication and passion required to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, a task so tough that only one rider has managed to complete the challenge. The 60 seconds edit was produced using filmed sequences from each of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam; The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva, showcasing the skill and talent each of the Majors demand from the world’s best horse and rider partnerships.
How did you start your career in equestrian sport?
I got my first pony before I could even walk, a Shetland called Uno! My Grandparents kept Uno at their home and when I went to visit them I would always ride him, even though I hadn’t started to walk yet – I just loved it so much.
I started doing shows with Uno and soon became more ambitious and wanted to jump higher, so I moved onto a bigger pony called Luki. He was amazing at jumping 50cm, we used to win everything, however anything above that was a bit of struggle so I ended up doing quite a lot of dressage with him. But I always knew my heart was with jumping, so I then moved onto my first proper jumping pony, Toby.
When I was 10-years-old I got my super pony, Jerome, and went to five European Championships with him, I owe him so much. When I was 12-years-old I rode in my first European Championships with him and won a silver medal with the team which was incredible. He passed away two months ago aged 28, it was very sad, but he had an amazing life and I will never forget what he has done for me. After he retired he had seven years eating in the field with his friends and growing his round tummy! We all miss him greatly now.
What was it like competing in your first European Championships?
I was only 12-years-old, and I was really small, so my parents were super nervous especially as I didn’t really have any experience, but I wasn’t nervous at all as I didn’t really have any expectations and at that age I was totally fearless! I still remember my parents’ reaction when we learnt we had won the team silver medal – my mother was crying, and my father was so emotional! It’s so strange, I can still remember the course in my head and I don’t think I will ever forget it!
Who inspires you?
My parents really inspire me, without them I would never be where I am now. They train me and my mum rides for me, with my studies taking up so much time I can’t ride as much as I need to, so my mother always steps in to help! They support me at every event and have made so many sacrifices for me, I am so lucky to have them.
Which riders do you look up to?
There are a lot of riders who I really admire but I think my top two would be; Marcus Ehning and McLain Ward. For me, when I see them riding it looks effortless, they are so smooth, and you never see them fighting with the horse. They always work as a team with the horses and you can see they really understand them.
Can you tell us about your favourite horses?
Catch Me If You Can is my best horse at the moment, she is amazing. I am really lucky, all the horses I have are really good. I have quite a new one, called, Bantou Balou, he is not that experienced in the bigger classes but last week he came third in Rotterdam, so I think he is one-to-watch.
Catch Me is very funny, when I arrive onto the yard, she stretches her neck as long as she can and is always looking for sweets and doesn’t stop leaning forward until I give her treats.
What are your expectations for CHIO Aachen?
Last year at Aachen, it felt like a dream come true, the atmosphere and facilities are incredible. I am so excited to experience the thrill of the home crowd and ride in the main arena again. Although it’s always great to win, for me the main thing is that my horse is happy and jumping well. I would like to do as many clear rounds as possible and see where we end – obviously to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix would be the icing on the cake.
What are your main aims for this year?
It would love to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Although this is a main focus of mine, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will talk with the Chef d'Equipe, make a plan for the horses and see how Aachen goes. Fingers crossed I make the shortlist!
What are you most looking forward to in the Rolex Grand Prix (if you qualify)?
It would be an honour to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix, what Rolex are doing for the sport is amazing and every rider wants to win a Rolex Major. It is one of the toughest courses in the world and really challenges your partnership as horse and rider. It really tests you but also gives you the opportunity to show your skills and prove how good you are. The atmosphere is electric, and you get goose bumps when you enter the arena. It’s magical.
How does it feel to have one of the Rolex Majors in your home country?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is what every rider wants to win, and for my home country to host one of the Majors is so special. Aachen is one of the best events in the world, as are the three other Majors that make up the Grand Slam, I hope I can win the Rolex Grand Slam one day!
Having grown up with the Young Riders Academy, what opportunities has this given you to progress in the sport?
The Young Riders academy is a great programme and really supports the young talent within our sport. Show Jumping is expensive, and many people struggle with the funding to progress their careers. The Young Riders Academy, supported by Rolex, has given me the opportunity to combine my training sessions with my educational demands. This programme supports educational needs and training in the sport, which not many do. I think it is great for our sport and for nurturing young talent, so they can reach the peak of their careers.
What is your biggest dream in Equestrian Sport?
Along with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, I would love to win a medal at the Olympics one day.
When you are not riding, what are you doing?
When I am not riding I am very busy with my studies as I am currently doing my Masters. But I also love to go out with friends, I especially love BBQs! I actually used to play hand-ball for 15-years but a couple of years ago I had to stop as it was too much, and I did not have the time.
How did you find the step up into seniors?
It is really different, for the juniors you have the big competitions but nothing like the seniors. I remember watching the big events on television and admiring riders like Scott Brash and McLain Ward, thinking about how much I would love to ride at these shows one day. It is an incredible feeling to know my hard work is paying off and now I am competing against my heroes.
What is your advice for young riders hoping to start their career in Show Jumping?
When you are a rider you work with horses, not machines, so you really have to understand the horse. Every horse is different, and you should be a partnership, a team. You should never try to fight the horse; the horse might not understand you and it is your job to teach it and nurture it so that it does. Horses love you and you love the horses.
I would also say that is important to remember you will have ups and downs but when you have the downs you should never give up and as the highs are worth so much more than the lows.
CHIO Aachen : The Rolex Grand Prix's biggest contenders
The second Major of the year, the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, takes place on 22nd July and is expected to attract over 40,000 spectators to witness the prestigious competition. The course, set by Frank Rothenberger, is considered to be one of the most challenging and demanding 5* tracks. The sport’s finest horse and rider partnerships are tested to their limits, displaying enviable skill and talent, striving to make history and to be crowned the Rolex Grand Prix champion.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
With the world’s best horse and rider combinations set to take center stage for Rolex Grand Prix, there are some notable contenders whose recent performance would state they are on track for a Rolex Major win:
Niels Bruynseels, the current Rolex live contender, has continued his great form since producing a lightning jump-off round at The Dutch Masters aboard his 12-year-old mare Gancia de Muze in March. The notoriously fast duo took the top prize in the Rolex Grand Prix at Knokke Hippique following a speedy and faultless jump-off. With the next stage of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping very much in his sites, Bruynseels will be pulling out all the stops to make sure his Rolex Grand Slam journey continues.
One of the most experienced riders on the circuit, Swiss hero Steve Guerdat, has had a successful summer so far. His most notable victory was in front of HM The Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May. Seeing off top-class competitors, Guerdat rode an impeccable round to snap up the Rolex Grand Prix victory. Guerdat is no stranger when it comes to winning Majors; crowned champion at CHI Geneva on more than one occasion, Guerdat stays calm under pressure and will certainly be a formidable contender for the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen.
Fellow Rolex Testimonee, Eric Lamaze, has prepared well for the CHIO Aachen. At the Rolex Grand Prix in Windsor, he shaved time off Guerdat’s winning result, but a light touch on the pole resulted in four penalties. Fresh from his victory in the ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows with his 15-year-old mare, Fine Lady, Eric Lamaze will be hoping to continue his recent form as he eyes up the coveted Rolex Grand Prix trophy.
Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca is also looking strong, having won the Rolex Grand Prix in Rome (Piazza di Siena). De Luca and his chestnut gelding, Halifax Van Het Kluizebos, jumped two immaculate clear rounds, stopping the clock at 45.37 secs, making him one to watch.
Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum has tasted victory at CHIO Aachen once before, having won the Rolex Grand Prix in 2005 on her 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Shutterfly. Michaels-Beerbaum will have the patriotic home-crowd support, willing her to repeat her 2005 success thirteen-years on.
Rolex Testimonee, Scott Brash, the first and only rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, brings a wealth of experience and always performs well under pressure.
Exclusive Interview with Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington
Can you talk us through your incredible recovery process?
“I am a really active person, so I didn’t want to rest for too long. After the surgery I was walking around the hospital on crutches when everyone else was asleep – I think it was only 10 or 11 hours after my operation, but I felt I needed to move.
Once I was out of hospital I had a week of resting at home to recover. It was exhausting as I was unable to sleep properly and would often wake up in the night because of the medication and the pain, but I wanted to start my rehab as soon as possible so I could get back to my sport. In my mind I was in a hurry to recover and I didn’t want to sit back and wait for that to happen. I think that recovery is down to healing physically but also focusing mentally and that’s what I was determined to do. I started training every other day, doing simple exercises at home e.g. lying on the couch bending and straightening my leg in sets. I would repeat this every other hour, just doing these sets all day to build my strength.
As I got stronger, I frequently got x-rays to evaluate the progress. If you overtrain you can build too much bone and that can have a real negative impact on your healing and can result in you stopping your training altogether which would have been a disaster for me – it’s all about the right balance.
I also had another problem; when I fell the bone came out of my skin so I had a big wound and a high risk of infection. I had doctors working on that too and was sending photos to the doctors every day to monitor it.
As process went on and the rehab developed, I did a lot of weight resistance on my leg – gruelling exercises, elliptical machine routines, bounce exercises and putting my own body weight on one leg and teaching myself to walk again really. I started training 2-3 times a day, repeating all the same exercises, I also bought a rowing machine, so I could train at home in between sessions with my physical trainer.
I did training sessions at 5.30am or 9.30pm as I wanted to be on my own. I work better on my own as I like to do my own thing and focus on getting stronger. I was really grateful that my trainer would come in early or stay late just to focus on me.
That was my routine, eat, sleep and train.
As you go on, and you are motivated to get better, you learn to cope with it all. I am motivated on my own, so I didn’t need to extra help for that. Getting back to the sport, my amazing horses and my big team of riders and owners motivated me and made excited to get healthy again.”
Can you tell us about the team of people who helped with your recovery process?
“Firstly, I had a fantastic doctor, Dr Nicholas Sama. He is a pro at this job and really took an interest above and beyond what a normal doctor should. I was going to his office a minimum of once week and they took it on as a cause to get me back to my sport as quickly as possible with a full recovery physically.
Ed Smith from Athletes Advantage in Wellington, Florida – a training a rehabilitation centre – was another very influential person. I was going there before and after normal business hours and he was there for me, to train me through everything. These aren’t things those guys have to do, and I am so grateful for all of that support. Top of their field.
I have a really strong team at home. Claudio Baroni is a fantastic rider and helps me to exercise the horses and we made a plan together just two days after the operation. We made a calendar of what all my horses were going to do while I was recovering, and it was great to know they would be in safe hands. When you do things like that--putting your mind in the focus of planning for the future--it pushes me to do everything in my power to be as good as I can and as quick as I can in my recovery.”
The film you posted on Instagram has had a lot of interest, can you talk us through it?
“I think that is one of the things about social media today, people are very interested in what other people are doing. People kept asking me how I was, could I work and kept questioning if I would ever be able to ride again – so thought I would post that video up and would answers everyone’s questions and show everyone that I was on a good road to recovery.”
How did it feel to be back in the saddle?
“The first couple of times I was a little apprehensive – I thought ‘am I going to remember how to ride’ etc. I had a lot of pain the first time, I couldn’t ride in the stirrups, but I had to control my mind set and tell myself it was going to better. I had to accept I could only make baby steps and each day it would get a little bit better and a little bit better.”
When I first jumped a course for the first time it felt good, it felt ok to ride and jump and it felt exciting. I was like a little kid at Christmas, it’s weird because when you do something your whole life you take for granted how fun something is, for me be back in the saddle and riding made me feel alive again.”
Royal Windsor Horse Show was your first show back, how was the experience this year?
“I love Royal Windsor Horse Show, it is one of the most unique competitions and to be in the Castle Grounds is so special, so I really wanted to be able to compete there. I didn’t want to push myself too much in the first class, so I went at a medium speed and came third which I was really pleased with.
I told myself if I could ride, I could compete and if I was going to compete I wanted to do it properly and at a 5* show, so Windsor seemed the appropriate one to aim for. “
What advice would you have for anyone who was experiencing a similar injury to you?
“The first thing is acceptance of what your injury is, understand that you’re hurt and you won’t be better in a day or a week. I wanted to educate myself on my injury, so I worked out what I could do, what I could expect and how to be realistic.
I looked up other athletes who had similar injuries to see what they did to recover. One particular sports star stuck with me, a basketball player called Paul George. He suffered a horrific break very similar to mine and people thought he would never play again. He recovered and came back to be one the of the best players in the NBA, so I thought if he can do it, so I can I. That was really good for my moral and motivation.”
Now you are back from injury, what are your main focuses this year, are you eyeing up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
“For sure my eye is on all the big Rolex competitions and of course the Rolex Grand Slam. I was so disappointed to miss The Dutch Masters, but I will focus on getting back on track and aim for that ultimate prize. I am excited for Aachen in July, it is one of the best competitions in the world and I am looking forward to competing against the world’s best riders.”
Which horses do you have high hopes for this year?
“I am lucky to have so many great horses, but I have particular high hopes for Creedance, Voyeur, Gazelle, and Uceko. I also have some up-and-coming young ones. I don’t think they will be ready for Grand Prix level this year but definitely high hopes for the future.”
Which horses do you plan to bring to CHIO Aachen in July?
"I am not 100% sure yet by in my ideal world I would bring Voyeur, Gazelle, and Uceko."
Interview with Niels Bruynseels, the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender
What HAVE YOU been up to since winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters?
“Straight after winning the Rolex Grand Prix I celebrated with my team, we were all so excited! It was a late finish that evening, but because I only live an hour away from the show we went back to my house and continued the celebrations there.
We went to Paris a week later and came second in the big competition there, but since then my horse has had a bit of a rest. This week she will start competing again as we start our preparations for CHIO Aachen and the next stage of the Rolex Grand Slam.”
Can you tell us a bit about your horse?
“Gancia de Muze is a very special horse, she is a 12-year-old Belgian-bred mare and has a very unique character! She is very stubborn sometimes, and I have to do everything for her otherwise she gets in a bad mood! She receives a lot of special treatment, she has lots of time in the field and because she doesn’t like flat work, so she is lunged and jumped more frequently. She is very set in her ways! But she really loves her job and enjoys herself so much at the events. Every time we compete together, she really fights for me, she has a competitive nature and wants to win!”
Are you planning on attending CHIO Aachen? If so, how are you preparing for the next part of your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey?
“Of course, I plan to ride in the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen, it is one of my goals to win there. This week I plan go to Madrid and will see how my horse is performing on grass. I have scheduled some competitions on grass, specifically to prepare for the Rolex Grand Prix, with the hope to continue my Rolex Grand Slam journey.”
Do you have any superstitions?
“You could say I do have one superstition…. When I arrive at the hotel, I always layout my riding clothes in the same order, separating them out into ‘Day one’ ‘Day two’ and so on. It is a routine that I always go through. Aside from that I don’t have any other superstitions, just hope that my training pays off and I can perform to the best of my ability.”
Can you talk us through your daily routine when training?
“The grooms start at 6.30am, they do the morning feeds and prepare the horses. I arrive at 7.30am to begin riding the horses. Each morning, before I arrive at the stables, I make a plan for the whole day which outlines the team’s responsibilities. We have a total of 25 horses, so it is important that I stay really organized to make sure everything at the yard runs smoothly. I will then spend the day riding seven-to-eight horses, so I am very busy, but I love it! I concentrate fully on the training of the horses, so the days when I am not competing are completely focused on that.”
How did it feel to win a Major? What was going through your mind?
“Winning a Grand Prix is always nice, but to win a Rolex Major is very unique and so special, the feeling was unreal. The media hype is on a whole different level, and the attention I have received since then is greater than ever. Everybody is focused on the Rolex Grand Slam as it is one of the biggest parts of our sport, so everyone is talking about it which adds to the excitement. It was a magical moment and one of the best in my career so far, I hope there will be more occasions like this!”
If you weren't a rider what would you be?
“I have always loved horses, they are my absolute world. So, if I wasn’t a rider I would have to be something that is still horse orientated, therefore I think I would be a horse dealer.”
Do you have any hobbies?
“No hobbies, only horses! If I am at a show and have some free time I enjoy siteseeing and trying the food of the local area, but other than that it’s all about the horses.”
What is your advice for young riders?
“My advice to young riders would be; you can always keep learning from other people. Make sure when you are at events, you are watching the other competitors and seeing how they ride. If you want to improve and progress you shouldn’t rush or be frustrated when you don’t reach the top straight away, it is a step-by-step process and you can never stop learning.”
Do you feel that there is added pressure as the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender?
“I don’t feel too stressed right now, but there is certainly a different sort of pressure that comes with being the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender. You are aware of more people talking about it and I have had a lot of people ask me if I am going for the Rolex Grand Slam. It is a different feeling right now, but I am sure at Aachen I will feel the extra pressure as I don’t want to give up my position of live contender!”
What do you want to achieve in your career, what is your dream?
“Aside from winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, I want an Olympic gold medal, whether it is with the team or as an individual, that is a big goal for me. I also hope to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon this September and a medal there would be nice too!”
AND THE WINNER IS...
THE ROLEX GRAND PRIX WINNER: NIELS BRUYNSEELS
Niels Bruynseels is the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender following a sensational performance in the Rolex Grand Prix at the Dutch Masters, one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam.
Under the spotlights of the Brabanthal arena, the world’s best horse and rider combinations battled for the pinnacle prize of the weekend, all vying to start their Rolex Grand Slam journey.
The 13 riders clear and through to the jump off included Great Britain’s Scott Brash, the only rider ever to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which increased the pressure for the competitors. Eighth to go, Marcus Ehning raised the bar with a speedy clear round in 37.80 secs but it was Belguim’s Niels Bruynseels who shifted the pace up a gear to clinch the victory in 37.10 secs and his first ever Rolex Major win.
1st Place: NIELS BRUYNSEELS (BEL)
2016 and 2017 Stephex Rolex Grand Prix Winner
Horse: Gancia De Muze, a 12-year-old bay mare
2nd Place: MARCUS EHNING (GER)
Olympic Gold Medallist
Horse: Cornado NRW, a 15-year-old grey stallion
3rd Place: HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED)
World Number 2
Horse: Emerald, A 14-year-old chesnut stallion
WINNERS INTERVIEW WITH...
How does it feel to win your first Major?
"This has to be one of my biggest victories, I don’t even have the words to say how much it means to me. This show has always been great but the support of Rolex has made it even better and it is an honour for me to come here and compete against the best riders in the world. The atmosphere in the arena was incredible, it was a very special moment for me."
Your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping campaign has started, is CHIO Aachen going to be your focus now?
"Aachen is certainly the next stop for me. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the biggest prize in our sport and I hope I can come to Germany in July and repeat what I have achieved here."
Do you feel that the course lived-up to the Rolex Grand Prix standard?
"I think the team of course designers did a very good job, it was a tough course but good for the horses. There were 13 in the jump-off which is nice for the crowd and created top competition."
And what about your horse, has she done you proud today?
"My horse was a superstar today, I cannot thank her enough. She always tries her best for me and I couldn’t be happier with her performance this afternoon. I think I was at advantage going last in the jump-off, I was able to see all the other riders go before me and where the course was difficult. I had a plan in my head, I knew I would need a fast ride, and Grancia exceeded all expectations, she is a special horse for sure."
BEHIND THE STABLE DOOR WITH...
FRANK DELVALLET, THE ROLEX GRAND PRIX WINNER'S GROOM
How emotional are you right now after that sensational win?
"It is just amazing, the horse is unbelievable! It is my first win in a 5* event and just means so much to whole team. I have only been with Niels since July, but he is an incredible rider and I just feel so emotional and have a tear in my eye right now!"
You have all now started your journey towards the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, how do you feel?
"To be a part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is so exciting, we did not expect to do so well and we hope that we can make the journey last as long as possible!"
Gancia De Muze is an incredible horse, what is she like to look after?
"She is such a lovely horse, she is so easy to manage, she knows her job and she proved today again that she is one of the top horses on the circuit. She is going to get lots of rewards and kisses from us tonight, even though she doesn’t really like that!"
WORDS FROM THE COURSE DESIGNER...
LOUIS KONICKX - ROLEX GRAND PRIX COURSE DESIGNER
Talk to us about the process of designing such an important course like a Rolex Grand Prix?
"We first came up with the ideas and concept three weeks ago. My assistant and I are in constant communication, always bouncing ideas off each other, it is a team effort. Because the arena is bigger this year, we added longer combinations and more related distances. It is also very important to make sure you have the right number of verticals and oxers because if you are too defensive and have too many hard oxers, it asks too much of the horse and will not achieve the desired number of clear rounds. It needs to be challenging… but achievable"
Are there any particular tricky parts you put in?
"Yes, but we wanted to make sure that there was a variety for the different types of horses. If you just build big oxers it challenges the horses that don't have scope but is easy for the horses that do, so it is vital that we have diversity which will ultimately produce the best competition. In all cases we are wanting to test the tuning between horse and rider and their ability to work together in a partnership, that is what we are searching for as course designers."
Is there more pressure on you now that this Rolex Grand Prix is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
"Yes, there is certainly more pressure! Most of it comes from the riders, they really want to win this class and go after the Rolex Grand Slam which means we need to make sure the course gives them the opportunity to compete at the best of their ability. Now that this is part of the Rolex Grand Slam there is more at stake than just the result of this Grand Prix."
What makes you passionate about your role?
"Every day and every event is different. I have particularly enjoyed this year at the Dutch Masters as we have designed a lot of new fences and have created a sense of the Netherlands within that. We have focused on Dutch artists, for example Van Gogh, who we think represents a ‘Dutch Master’. We have also designed fences to represent the Dutch fruit, all small touches that I think make the course extra special."
EYE ON THE PRIZE : JOURNEY TO THE ROLEX GRAND SLAM
The first edition of the Dutch Masters has drawn to a spectacular close and now all eyes are on the next Major, CHIO Aachen taking place in July. With the biggest equestrian names in the world expected to attend, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping new live contender will no doubt be planning his path to victory to see if he can make history once more.
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
LORENZO DE LUCA, NUMBER ONE ITALIAN RIDER
Who do you think is your biggest competitor on Sunday?
"There were some great performances yesterday. I think Philipp Weishaupt is looking very good, of course Daniel Deusser was on top form last night and Luciana Diniz has been riding really well so far this year. It is going to be a very tough competition as there are a lot of good riders in the line up!"
Do you have any superstitions before you compete?
"Not really. I just stay relaxed and keep my horse nice and quiet, he is very sensitive, so I need to be calm for him. I just focus on my horse, myself and that’s it!"
What advice can you give to young riders who aspire to be in your position one day?
"My best advice would be ‘to not go too quick!’ That can cause all sorts of problems. My second piece of advice is to keep learning and growing. The Show Jumping world is such a magical place, every horse and every rider is different, so you can always expand your knowledge of the sport."
Thoughts on the course tomorrow?
"It is going to be hard! Last year I remember the course was very difficult, and now the prize money has been increased and it is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the competition is going to tougher than ever! I think the crowds are in for a treat!"
WORDS FROM THE ORGANIZERS...
MARCEL HUNZE - SHOW DIRECTOR
What changes have you made to this year’s show now that it has become one of the Majors?
"Well firstly we needed more space because the event is growing, and we wanted to enhance the facilities for the riders and spectators. We are lucky that we could build the new hall and add to the overall area by 7500 square metres. As a result, we have been able to increase the arena size and include more exercise areas. We have improved the riders’ accommodation, food and the facilities onsite to give them a VIP experience, they are our heroes, so we need to treat them very well. We have also improved the arena experience adding LED animated boards and enhanced the lighting and music to create more excitement and improve the spectator experience."
Do you feel under more pressure now the event is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
"Yes, of course we are feeling the pressure more this year! The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping consisted of three of the best shows in the world, so we are very honoured be chosen as the fourth. It is hard to compare us to the outdoor shows, but Geneva is indoor and such an incredible event so we want to make sure we are on the same level. I believe this year, with the improvements we have made, everyone is happy, and we are on the right track."
You work in tennis too, how do the events differ with the contrasting sports?
"The back bone for the events is the same, it is about the sport, the promotion, visibility for the sponsors and making sure you have top facilities. In terms of the detailed differences I would say that in tennis the competitors need more physio facilities and more practice areas so that is a big focus. Of course, in tennis the athletes only have their rackets, whereas the riders have their horses which adds a whole new dimension of careful logistics."
Who do you think is going to win the Rolex Grand Prix?
"Well, I think I need to vote for a Dutchman, so I am going to say Harrie Smolders. He is world number two and was recently awarded ‘2017 Dutch Rider of the Year’ so I think he has a good chance. "
BEHIND THE STABLE DOOR WITH...
SEAN LYNCH, GROOM TO DANIEL DEUSSER, TEAM BRONZE MEDALLIST IN 2016
Who is Daniel riding in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
"He is riding Cornet D’Amour on Sunday, a really special horse with a very big character. He is very sensitive to noise and when there’s lots of it, he’s not the easiest to control but he is one of the nicest horses to be around. All my horses are nice and normal though, so I never have a problem with them."
What is the horses routine immediately after a big competition like the Rolex Grand Prix at a Major?
"We give them a shower and some hay, so they can relax and cool down. We put the ice boots on and then follow up with the spa boots and as soon as they are dry we put a massage blanket on for 45 minutes! The massage blanket is amazing and has different programmes, so we usually put it on the programme designed for back treatment relief if they have jumped a big class. Cornet gets more spa treatments than any of us do!"
Are you and Daniel thinking about the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
"I am hoping that Sunday goes well and then we can really start to focus on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. It has made show jumping more interesting for the riders and the public, and it is certainly the thing that riders talk about wanting to win the most. So, if we have success in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday we will be planning our schedule around the next Majors for sure. "
How do you cope with the pressure of a Rolex Grand Prix? Does Daniel feel the pressure?
"I do feel the pressure a bit! I have to do my job well enough to make sure Daniel has the best chance on Sunday. We have to work together to make sure the horse is fit and is in peak condition. With Cornet D’Amour I always get quite nervous, especially when he has won a class already like he did in the Grand Prix qualifier last night. Sometimes I just stay quiet for the whole day and don’t talk to anyone!
Daniel is Mr. cool! He doesn’t let the pressure get to him, he knows what he needs to do and does the job. For me he is one of the best riders around, very relaxed and very calm."
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
WORLD CHAMPION JEREON DUBBLEDAM AND TEAM OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST KEVIN STAUT
What does it mean to you as a rider to come back and try and win this Rolex Grand Prix, which is now part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Kevin Staut: "It is very emotional, I am very motivated, as is everyone else, especially Jeroen who is on his home ground. I appreciate this show for all of the different atmospheres in the ring – It is amazing. It is difficult for indoor shows to have comfortable areas for the horses and now the stables are really quiet and peaceful, we have enough time and space during the day to ride our horses. Sometimes we don’t mention this enough, but for the top sport we need this kind of comfort. Back to the sport – I am motivated, I have my most experienced horse here, so I hope I can get a good result on Sunday."
Jeroen Dubbeldam: "This show was already one of the best indoor shows in the world but this year in particular, the progress has been incredible. They have done a fantastic job, you can almost ride everywhere and the set up is very chic. It is the first time here for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping which is something new and special, it brings something extra to the show for us. In terms of my success, this has not been one of my favourite shows. I haven’t been successful at this show yet but things can change. Expectations are very dangerous, you can only try to prepare yourself as much as you can and hope for the best."
What attracts you to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
"The first thing that attracts me is the sport itself. And then at a show like this, with such a high level of riders, a great atmosphere and with this beautiful brand Rolex as the main sponsor, if that doesn’t attract you as a rider then you had better stop riding."
WORDS FROM THE ORGANIZERS...
ANKY VAN GRUNSVEN - SHOW PRESIDENT AND DRESSAGE LEGEND
What does it mean for The Dutch Masters to be hosting the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the first time?
"It makes me happy and very proud, and now we have tried to make it look even better than before. We are very happy to be in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping with the other big names, Geneva, Calgary and Aachen. We are very honoured and very proud."
What was your reaction when you were told that The Dutch Masters would be part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
"Yes! I think it works out well for both sides, we are happy with Rolex and we hope that they are happy with us, not just now but also in ten years’ time. The pressure is very good – if you think you’re done, well that is the beginning of the end. After Sunday we can start to think what ‘what can we do better next year’. That is the only way to stay at the top."
BEHIND THE STABLE DOOR WITH…….
DAVID HONNET, GROOM TO SCOTT BRASH, THE ONLY RIDER TO HAVE WON THE ROLEX GRAND SLAM OF SHOW JUMPING
How do you prepare the horses for a Show like The Dutch Masters, and especially looking ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix?
We have to make a detailed plan three to four months in advance. A Rolex Grand Slam show is very important to Scott, and the team, so we know we have to prepare really well. It is not just me, there is a really big team behind Scott so we all work together. Ursula is pretty easy to prepare because she’s naturally good for the show, she has a lot of experience, is a very calm horse and loves to compete at the Majors especially CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva. She is older now, so needs extra work ahead of the events to make her fit and lean because she likes her food and can get a bit fat! She also needs to be lean because the jumps are big and its easier for her to jump if she is lighter.
And Hello Shelby?
What are your thoughts on the Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
For me, even before I worked for Scott or before Scott became a Rolex Testimonee, they have been the best shows. When you go to any of the four Majors you feel history, even if you are just a groom you get a feeling that you don’t get at the other shows. I like that they are tough courses too! You can’t have these shows every week because it is too hard on the horses but three or four times a year, when you know it is going to be hard for the rider and the horses, but the prize is big, it is great. For me the Rolex Grand Slam is the pinnacle of the sport and is almost untouchable which makes it so exciting. Knowing how hard it is to even win one Rolex Grand Prix, to win the Rolex Grand Slam will really stay in people’s heads and is recognised and respected by everyone.
EYE ON THE PRIZE : JOURNEY TO THE ROLEX GRAND SLAM
The 5* jumping action kicked off in style at The Dutch Masters with Germany’s Daniel Deusser proving to be on top form to take the VDL Groep Prize, a qualifier for the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix taking place on Sunday 11 March.
With only three horse and rider combinations competing in the jump off, they are ones the to watch as the journey towards the Rolex Grand Slam edges a step closer:
1st Place: DANIEL DEUSSER (GER)
Olympic Team Bronze Medallist in 2016
Horse: Cornet D’Amour, a 15-year-old grey gelding
2nd Place: PHILIPP WEISHAUPT (GER)
Winner of two Majors, the Rolex Grand Prix in CHIO Aachen in 2016 and the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2017
Horse: LB Convall, an 11-year-old grey stallion
3rd Place: HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED)
World Number Two
Was honoured as the ‘2017 Rider of the Year’ in the Netherlands
Horse: Emerald, a 14-year-old chestnut stallion
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has released a pioneering new commercial to coincide with the opening Major of the year, The Dutch Masters, which takes place in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, from 08 – 11 March.
With the theme, ‘Surpass yourself and become a legend’, the 60-second-long film promotes the dedication and passion required to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which is made up of the four most internationally renowned show jumping events in the world, The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva.
The commercial will premier at The Dutch Masters, with a shorter 30-second film also due to feature on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping social media channels. The commercial will then make its television debut to coincide with CHIO Aachen in July.
The highly emotive film, which is made up of footage from previous Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping events, is part of a wider new advertising campaign to promote the Rolex Grand Slam, which will also feature creative new advertising artwork and an enhanced social media presence.
Sophie Mottu Morel, president of the Rolex Grand Slam steering committee said, “We wanted to demonstrate the passion and determination required to reach the pinnacle of the sport and the honour and esteem bestowed upon those who achieve success.”
With current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping contender, Kent Farrington, out injured, the quest to win the most sought-after prize in the sport will begin in earnest at The Dutch Masters this weekend, with a stellar field, including eight of the world’s top 10 riders set to contest the much-anticipated Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday 11 March.
As the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping first event of the year starts tomorrow, the Dutch Masters have finalised their list of riders.
Sadly, American rider Kent Farrington was forced to officially withdraw from The Dutch Masters due to injury. Farrington won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva last year and with this victory he started his challenge for the Rolex Grand Slam. Unfortunately, his chance to win the Rolex Grand Slam title is now gone for now.
Local riders, Harrie Smolders and Maikel van der Vleuten, currently ranked second and seventh in the world respectively, will be looking to give the home crowd something to cheer about, following in the footsteps of compatriot Leopald van Asten, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix in 2017.
A strong contingent of Rolex Testimonees will be attempting to emulate the achievement of fellow Testimonee Scott Brash, who remains the only rider so far to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, following his emphatic victories in 2015. Kevin Staut (FRA), a winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in 2014, heads the challenge, with Canada’s Eric Lamaze, currently ranked world No. 9, making the trip from his winter base in Florida, USA for the competition. World No. 10 Steve Guerdat (SUI) will be making his 16th appearance in a Major, the only rider to have competed in all Majors since they began in 2013, with Britain’s Scott Brash also competing as he seeks to repeat his remarkable Rolex Grand Slam feat.
Reigning European Champion and Olympic silver medalist Peder Fredricson (SWE), world No. 6 Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and the in-form Henrik Von Eckermann, fresh from victory in FEI World CupTM Qualifier winner in Gothenburg last weekend, will add to the stellar line-up of riders taking part.
Congratulations on your victory in the Rolex Grand Prix of the CHI Geneva 2017! You came close a few times before, now you have finally succeeded in winning a Major.
Kent Farrington: I am overjoyed, but to be honest I am still in a state of shock. I have been trying to win this Grand Prix for so long. Now that I have finally done it, I find it hard to believe that it really is all over and that I left the show as the winner. It has brought the year to a fantastic close for me!
How difficult is it to assert oneself in the Rolex Grand Prix?
Farrington: I have jumped this class here many times and it is always very difficult. You compete against the top riders and the best horses in the world. The course is always very demanding and the time is tight. When I watched the first pair in the ring, I realised straightaway that it was going to be particularly hard this year. It really was a tough competition and that makes the victory even more valuable for me.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun for you. The next leg is taking place in `s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands in March. Have you already been there?
Farrington: I took part in the World Cup final in `s-Hertogenbosch several years ago, but I have never ridden at The Dutch Masters. So, I am especially looking forward to it! It is one of the biggest indoor shows in the world and as is customary for a Grand Slam Major, the best horses and riders in the world will be competing there. So, I will make sure that I am well-prepared.
What is your plan up until then?
Farrington: First of all, I am flying to Florida where I will spend Christmas at home. We will certainly celebrate my Major victory there too. I have a wonderful team behind me, this victory wouldn’t have been possible without them. I will probably stay in Florida for the whole of the winter and then come back to Europe for The Dutch Masters. It will be a very tough job to win the Grand Prix there too, but I love challenges. I will definitely try my very hardest to master the next step in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Kent Farrington won the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva 2017. In the last leg of the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the US American jumped to victory on Sunday afternoon at the sold-out Palexpo and thus celebrated the first Major victory in his career.
“This is the one I’ve been aiming to win for years. I came close a couple of times and I am so happy at having won here in Geneva today. My horse jumped incredibly, the crowd was amazing, really supportive. A great way to finish the year for me,” commented Kent Farrington, who had saddled the eleven-year-old mare, Gazelle, for the Rolex Grand Prix.
The 36-year-old can now take on the ultimate challenge in equestrian sport, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: The rider, who wins three Majors in succession, goes down in history as a Grand Slam Champion and picks up a bonus of one million Euros. “That’s a tall order and I am going to try best,” promised Kent Farrington with a view to the coming Grand Slam legs. The journey continues for him in March at The Dutch Masters in the Netherlands, when he will strive to claim his second Major victory in a row. If he triumphs there as well, he would be riding to take the Grand Slam title in July at the CHIO Aachen 2018 in Germany.
Philipp Weishaupt competed in Geneva as the current Grand Slam contender. Riding Asathir, the German show-jumper unfortunately did not reach the jump-off of the Rolex Grand Prix.
The Dutch Masters, the next Major of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is being staged in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands from March 8th-11th, 2018.
The last qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix came to an end on Saturday evening and now we know which 40 riders will battle it out to claim the Major victory at the CHI Geneva on Sunday afternoon.
Starting with the two current contenders for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Philipp Weishaupt from Germany and Grégory Wathelet from Belgium, the starting list includes the current number one in the world, Kent Farrington from the USA; the reigning individual European Champion, Peder Fredricson from Sweden; the Canadian Olympic gold medallist, Eric Lamaze; the reigning double World Champion, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands as well as Ireland’s top rider, Bertram Allen.
The Swiss Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat, who has already jumped to victory in Geneva three times, is also on board together with last year’s winner, Pedro Veniss from Brazil, and the French Olympic team gold medallist, Kevin Staut.
Luciana Diniz will be representing Portugal in the ring and after coming second twice this year, both in Aachen and in Calgary, she will be fighting to take the first Major victory in her career.
The Rolex Grand Prix begins on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (CET). The complete competition will be broadcast live and for free on the website of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at www.rolexgrandslam.com.
At the CHI Geneva 2017 Philipp Weishaupt and Grégory Wathelet have the chance of claiming their second Major victory this year. An interview with the two Grand Slam candidates about fighting spirit, headstrong partners and prestigious Grands Prix that every rider wants to win once in a lifetime.
The competitions at the CHI Geneva began yesterday. What was the atmosphere like here at the Palexpo?
Grégory Wathelet: Simply super! The atmosphere here is fantastic, the crowd is incredible. It is simply a really good show.
Philipp Weishaupt: Absolutely fantastic. We are really enjoying coming here every year, because we simply know what awaits us.
Yesterday the first qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix already took place. How did it go for you?
Wathelet: It went really well for me. I wanted to qualify for the Grand Prix as soon as possible and coming fourth yesterday meant that I succeeded in doing so. As such, a bit of the pressure is off and now I can concentrate on the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Weishaupt: I rode a young horse in the qualifier yesterday, the eight-year-old mare, Call me Eva, and I was a bit unlucky. The first half of the course went well then I risked too much in the turn to the upright and had a refusal. That was my mistake. But I am optimistic that I will be able to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix this evening, when I ride my top horse, Asathir.
Does one have a different attitude when competing at such a show as the current Grand Slam contender? Is there more pressure?
Wathelet: Of course. Philipp can win more money here in Geneva than me, so he is under more pressure. (both laugh) No, seriously: Of course, we think about the Grand Slam, but at the end of the day it is the important Grand Prix that we want to win, whether we get a bonus for it or not.
Weishaupt: That’s exactly how I see it too. The prize money always plays a role, but primarily as a top rider you want to win the Grand Prix of Geneva once in your life. The bonus would be super, but all 40 riders will give it their best shot to win. I will do the same, but without thinking about the bonus. If I succeed, then so be it. And if not, life carries on and I will try again next year.
Which horses do you plan to ride in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
Wathelet: I will ride Corée, whom I won in Aachen with in July. I have been taking things a bit easier with her over the past weeks so that she is top fit here in Geneva. I will ride her in the Credit Suisse Grand Prix this evening, then she will have a day’s rest and on Sunday we will take on the challenge in the Grand Prix.
Weishaupt: If I qualify for Sunday, I will ride Asathir. She has performed very well over the last few weeks and she loves such big indoor halls like the one here in Geneva. Yesterday I jumped her in a small class and she felt great. I will also be competing with her this evening in the Credit Suisse Grand Prix, and we will hopefully secure our ticket for the Rolex Grand Prix.
If you compare your two top horses with each other, are they similar?
Wathelet: To be honest, I don’t know Philipp’s horse that well, so I can only speak for my mare. She is simply incredible, but incredibly complicated too. So, a real woman! (laughs) But I know she can jump all courses and win everything, if she only lets me ride well enough.
Weishaupt: I don’t think the two of them have much in common, rather the opposite. Perhaps one could say that both have a very strong character. They like to go their own way. But I am in the fortunate position that my mare is very easy to ride. Grégory has to work a bit harder there.
How about the two of you? Are you similar types of riders?
Weishaupt: It would be great to ride as well as Grégory one day. He can simply steer a horse two seconds faster round a course than anyone else and this is a gift that only very few riders have in the world. It is amazing when you look at the number of different horses he has ridden to victory with. I hope I will be able to keep pace with him one day.
Wathelet: I think we are actually quite similar. Every rider at this level has to dispose of certain attributes: He has to be well-organised. He has to take what he does really seriously. But, above all, he has to be ambitious, very ambitious! A real fighter. If you don’t seriously want to win at this level, then you will never have a chance of winning. I think Philipp and I have this fighting spirit and that is why we have already been able to win important Grand Prix’s now and again.
How difficult is it going to be for you on Sunday to win the Rolex Grand Prix and thus a further Grand Slam Major? about the two of you? Are you similar types of riders?
Weishaupt: I don’t think anyone will succeed in doing what Scott Brash did two years ago with his Grand Slam victory, any time soon. There are perhaps five active riders who succeeded in winning three Majors in their career and in some cases 20 years lay between the victories. Winning more than one Major within one season is a huge challenge. But I have a really good horse and will do my very best.
Wathelet: When the Rolex Grand Slam was brought to life and we riders heard about the mode for the first time, we thought it would be impossible to achieve this. Then came Scott and succeeded in pulling this feat off straightaway. So we learned that it is indeed possible. But as Philipp already just said, it is very, very difficult. Every rider dreams of winning these Grands Prix at least once in their careers. We can see that this weekend: All of the big names are here with their top horses. Of course, we all hope and dream of winning the Grand Slam Majors and ideally within one year. But even if several years lie between, it still remains a fantastic achievement. Just like coming fourth or fifth in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. That would also be a wonderful result considering the line-up of riders.
Weishaupt: It is definitely going to be a tough competition in any case and whatever the end result is going to be, I am sure we are going to see excellent sport.
The last Major of the year 2017 is in full swing: The best show-jumpers in the world have been competing against each other at the CHI Geneva in Switzerland since Thursday. The first starting places for the Rolex Grand Prix that is endowed with prize money of 1.2 million Swiss Francs have already been allocated.
In the first qualifier, the Credit Suisse Geneva Classic on Thursday evening, the four best riders secured themselves a ticket for the Grand Prix on Sunday. The Dutch show-jumper, Harrie Smolders, rode to victory with Zinius. Abdel Said from Egypt with Hope van Scherpen Donder, the US American Laura Kraut with Deauville S and Grégory Wathelet from Belgium with Eldorado van het Vijverhof secured second to fourth place, respectively.
Grégory Wathelet, the winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at this year’s CHIO Aachen, has the chance of claiming a Grand Slam bonus in Geneva: If he wins the Grand Prix on Sunday, it will be his second non consecutive Major victory within his Grand Slam cycle and he will collect a 250,000-Euro bonus.
Whereas Wathelet proved to be in top form in the opening class of the show, the first qualifier didn’t go well for the current Grand Slam contender, Philipp Weishaupt. After his triumph in Calgary in September, the German rider, who has the prospect of winning his second Major in succession here at the CHI Geneva, wasn’t yet able to secure himself a place on the starting list for the Rolex Grand Prix on the first day.
The riders still have three further occasions to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday at 2.30 p.m : The Credit Suisse Grand Prix on Friday at 7.15 p.m, the Coupe de Genève on Saturday at 12.15 p.m and the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final at 8:30 p.m. It´s only after this last class that we will know the names of the 40 qualified pairs competing for the Major of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
“Claiming the victory in Geneva will be a huge task”
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is returning to Switzerland for the last Major in the year: The best show-jumpers in the world will be competing against each other from December 7th-10th at the CHI Geneva 2017. An interview with the current Grand Slam contender, Philipp Weishaupt, who will be striving to claim his second Major victory in succession.
You won the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in 2016. And recently in September you jumped to victory in the Grand Prix at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. 32 years old and you have already notched up two Major victories – that is an impressive achievement …
Philipp Weishaupt: Definitely. Everyone, who starts show jumping, dreams about two things: About Championships and about the legendary Grands Prix like Aachen and Calgary. I am extremely proud to have already won these two competitions at my age.
What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping represent in the jumping sport?
Weishaupt: The four Majors that the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping encompasses, are indeed the four best shows on the show jumping circuit. Assessed individually, each of the shows enjoy a special reputation, has its own charm and specific challenges. Anyone, who wants to win the Grand Slam, has to prove himself under completely different conditions. That is what makes the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping so unique in the jumping sport and what makes it so very special for us riders.
You will be competing in Geneva as the current Grand Slam contender. What is different about the two indoor Majors compared to Aachen and Calgary?
Weishaupt: Aachen and Spruce Meadows probably have the largest grass arenas in the world. Due to this fact alone completely different conditions prevail there compared to at the indoor shows on sand in Geneva and ’s-Hertogenbosch. In ’s-Hertogenbosch, for example, the arena is much, much smaller, so the agility of the horse and rider are much more decisive here. Geneva on the other hand has relatively little to do with the typical character of an indoor show in terms of the riding feeling. Due to the huge arena it is more like a roofed outdoor show, just like in Aachen or Calgary there is plenty of space to canter forwards. That suits me and my horses very well.
How difficult will it be for you to assert yourself against your fellow riders in Geneva and win the second Major in succession?
Weishaupt: That is a huge task, but precisely because it is so difficult, is what makes taking on this challenge such particular fun. Qualifying for the Grand Prix is the first big obstacle you have to overcome, because you have to ride against the strongest pairs in the world and ultimately only the best 40 from the qualifiers of the previous days can make it onto the starting list for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. Once you have mastered this obstacle, you have to make sure that your horse has enough energy left for the actual highlight of the show and that it is top fit when you enter the ring for the Grand Prix. Only if this is the case, is it possible to ride flat out and with a little bit of luck leave the ring as the Major winner.
CHI Geneva 2017: December 7th-10th, Palexpo, Geneva (SUI)
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is entering the next round: The best riders in the world are travelling to the banks of Lake Geneva for the last Major in the year to face the ultimate challenge of the equestrian sport once again.
Since the first international show in the year 1926, the CHI Geneva has been considered a synonym for jumping sport at the highest level and tradition that comes to life. The names of the winners of the famous Rolex Grand Prix will certainly remain unforgotten.
Last year a Brazilian showjumper wrote history in Geneva: Riding his top horse Quabri de l’Isle, Pedro Veniss asserted himself against the international superstars and celebrated his first ever Major victory at Palexpo, the biggest indoor arena in the world. “It is the best thing ever, the biggest achievement in my career,” is how the 34-year-old Veniss described his outstanding performance almost exactly one year ago, which “made a childhood dream come true” and ensured that his name hit the headlines.
However, recently the name of a young German rider made the headlines in connection with the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: In September, Philipp Weishaupt won the Grand Prix at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017 and will thus be competing in Geneva as the current Grand Slam contender. A scenario that the 32-year-old is already familiar with, since he also won the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in 2016. Back then, he didn’t succeed in picking up a Grand Slam bonus, because he didn’t finish first at either of the subsequent Majors. However this is all going to change now: “The fact that I have been able to win the two outdoor Majors has awaken my ambition all the more to win the two indoor Majors. It is going to be difficult, but I am going to try my very hardest,” assured Philipp Weishaupt. If he succeeds in jumping to the top again in Geneva, he would be riding for the Grand Slam title in the Netherlands at The Dutch Masters in March 2018.
So, it goes without saying that all eyes will be cast upon Philipp Weishaupt, when he enters the ring for the Rolex Grand Prix on December 10th. But he won’t be the only rider the spectators will be keeping a close eye on: Grégory Wathelet from Belgium was able to win the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen in July and thus has the opportunity in Geneva to claim a 250,000 Euro bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle. Not to mention the public’s favourite, Steve Guerdat: The Swiss Olympic gold medallist has already managed to ride to victory in the Geneva Major three times, most recently in the year 2015. He will no doubt be extremely keen to have his name eternalised on the winner’s list of the Rolex Grand Prix again. Who is going to go down in history as Major winner at the CHI Geneva in 2017?
Upcoming Major: CHI Geneva
What makes the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping so fascinating?
How do you celebrate a Major win?
“It isn’t possible to describe the feeling in words”
On Sunday, Philipp Weishaupt won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, the Grand Prix of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017 and was able to celebrate the second Major victory in his career after his triumph in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen 2016. An interview with the 32-year-old German rider about his latest sensational result in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Congratulations on your victory in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, the Grand Prix of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017! Other riders dream about winning a Major their whole lives long, you are now celebrating your second win. Are you as elated as the first time round?
Philipp Weishaupt: Definitely! Aachen and Calgary, these are two Grands Prix that every rider wants to win once in their life. I simply can’t describe in words the feeling of having won both in my comparably young career! My sincere thanks go to my horse LB Convall, who contributed so much towards these victories. Without him they wouldn’t have been possible. He has simply incredible quality! When we won in Aachen, LB Convall was just nine years old and at the start of his career. The victory came as a surprise for many people and made him famous on the international circuit overnight. In Calgary, we were among the favourites from the very beginning and it wasn’t exactly easy for me to fulfil this role. But LB Convall actually did make it easy for me. He gave me a fantastic feeling throughout the whole week of the show and he jumped superbly on Sunday.
After all he knows Spruce Meadows very well…
Weishaupt: Indeed. At the young age of ten LB Convall has already been to Calgary five times. LB Convall simply loves the “International Ring”. He feels particularly at home on such a huge grass arena. We spent five weeks competing at the summer show series here in Spruce Meadows this year and last. That was always great preparation for the CHIO Aachen and of course also for the ‘Masters’.
In the next two legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping you will however have to assert yourself in an indoor arena and on sand. How do you rate your chances at winning a further Major?
Weishaupt: I believe in LB Convall’s quality, also indoors, and will of course prepare him as well as I can for the indoor shows. But we can train as hard as possible and be in fantastic form, but at the end of the day we still need that extra bit of luck on top to win a Major. What Scott Brash pulled off two years ago, namely three Major victories in a row, was sensational and probably no one will be able to repeat this feat in a hurry. But the Grand Slam legs are the four best shows in the world. Uniting the two best indoor shows and the two best outdoor shows is something very special and every rider dreams of winning the Grand Slam. I will certainly concentrate all my energy on this goal!
Philipp Weishaupt and "LB Convall" winning the "CP ‘International’ Grand Prix presented by Rolex" at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' 2017, Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Pascal Renauldon
Philipp Weishaupt has won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, the Grand Prix of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017. The German rider asserted himself in the saddle of LB Convall on Sunday afternoon after two rounds against the top stars of the international show jumping sport and thus triumphed in the second leg of the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. After having won the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in 2016, this was the second Major victory in the career of the 32-year-old show-jumper.
“It is impossible to describe the feeling of winning here in words! My sincere thanks go to my horse LB Convall, without him I certainly wouldn’t be standing here as the winner. He has simply incredible quality,” stated Philipp Weishaupt, who was the only rider to finish double clear after both rounds, relegating Luciana Diniz (POR) with Fit For Fun 13 and the American McLain Ward with HH Azur into second and third place, respectively. Philipp Weishaupt will now once again take on the ultimate challenge in the show jumping sport, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: The rider, who succeeds in winning three equestrian Majors directly in succession, goes down in history as the Rolex Grand Slam Champion and receives a bonus of one million Euros. So, should Philipp Weishaupt manage a further Major victory in December at the CHI Geneva 2017, he will be riding to take the Grand Slam title in March 2018 at The Dutch Masters in ´s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. “What Scott Brash pulled off two years ago, namely three Major victories in a row, was sensational and probably no one will be able to repeat this feat in a hurry. But I will certainly concentrate all my energy on trying to do so,” promised Philipp Weishaupt with a view to the next legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Grégory Wathelet also gave it his very best shot in Calgary, nevertheless the winner of the Rolex Grand Prix of the CHIO Aachen 2017 simply wasn’t able to claim his second consecutive Major victory at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’: The Belgian rider excelled with convincing performances in the ring throughout the week of the show. However, on Sunday Wathelet and his stallion Eldorado van het Vijverhof finished 29th in the rankings of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex after picking up eight faults in the first round.
The outcome of the Grand Prix wasn’t optimal for Pedro Veniss either, who after claiming the gold ribbon in the Rolex Grand Prix of the CHI Geneva 2016, could have picked up a 250,000 Euro bonus in Calgary for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle: the 34-year-old had one fence down in the first round with his top horse, Quabri de l’Isle, and also collected one penalty point for exceeding the time, which ultimately meant 22nd place for the Brazilian show jumper.
The qualifiers are over, the starting list has been printed: 50 world-class pairs will take on the ultimate challenge on Sunday in the legendary “International Ring” of Spruce Meadows and will battle it out to claim the victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex that is endowed with prize-money to the value of three million Canadian dollars.
Two rounds in the ring at five-star level have to be mastered in this leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. If at the end of the two rounds several pairs are still clear, a jump-off will decide, who carries off the Major victory.
The field of participants promises a competition of superlatives. First and foremost, the current Grand Slam contenders Grégory Wathelet from Belgium and Pedro Veniss from Brazil, the present number one in world ranking list Kent Farrington from the USA, the Grand Slam Champion of 2015 and last year’s Major winner Scott Brash from Great Britain and the Canadian Olympic gold medallist Eric Lamaze have all qualified for the Grand Prix. The spectators can additionally look forward to the team Olympic gold medallist Kevin Staut from France, the Major winner of Aachen 2014 Christian Ahlmann from Germany, the recent team European Champion Cian O’Connor from Ireland, the Italian Lorenzo de Luca (current number two in world ranking list), the Swiss Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat, the reigning team World Champion Maikel van der Vleuten from the Netherlands and the top female show-jumper Luciana Diniz who rides for Portugal – to mention just a few of the biggest names of the jumping sport that are also found on the starting list of the Grand Prix.
The first round of the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” starts at 12 noon local time (UTC/GMT -6:00) on Sunday. The entire competition will be broadcast live on the Internet: All of the spectators from Canada can watch who is going leave the arena as the Major winner of Calgary on CBC (www.cbc.ca/sports), starting at 12 noon local time (UTC/GMT -6:00.) or on the website of Spruce Meadows (www.sprucemeadows.com). For viewers from all other countries in the world, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is also making a livestream available on its website at www.rolexgrandslam.com also from 12 noon local time onwards (UTC/GMT -6:00).
Over the coming days the best riders in the world will be competing at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017, the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, in Calgary, Canada and on Thursday the current Grand Slam contenders Grégory Wathelet and Pedro Veniss were already able to secure themselves a starting place in the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Grégory Wathelet, winner of the last Grand Slam leg in Aachen in July, finished third in the “Cana Cup” on Thursday afternoon and thus claimed one of the 50 tickets available for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”, which is endowed with prize-money totalling three million Canadian dollars. “My horse ‘Eldorado’ is in fantastic form and now that we have succeeded in qualifying for the Grand Prix, my top priority over the next few days is to keep him fresh and motivated to ensure that we enter the ring on Sunday under optimal conditions,” was how the Belgian rider described his plans up until Sunday, when he will strive to claim his second Major victory in succession. If Grégory Wathelet manages to triumph in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”, it would mean he will be competing for the Grand Slam title at the CHI Geneva in December.
Pedro Veniss, the winner of the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHI Geneva 2016, has the chance to win a 250,000 Euro bonus in the Grand Prix of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017 on Sunday for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle. The Brazilian show-jumper was also able to prove that he is one of the favourites to win the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”: He namely came fourth in the “Cana Cup”, which means he has also secured himself a starting place in the Grand Prix on Sunday. “I am very satisfied with today’s result,” said Pedro Veniss after the “Cana Cup”. “My horses are in good shape and I hope I will be able to put in a good performance in the Grand Prix on Sunday.”
Four qualifications for the Grand Prix have already taken place, there are still three to come: On Friday the riders have the opportunity to jump their way onto the starting list for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” in two different classes – in the “Friends of the Meadows Cup” and in the “Atco Six Bar”. The last tickets will be awarded in the “BMO Nations’ Cup” on Saturday. Then, we will know all 50 pairs, who will be battling it out on Sunday to seize the Major victory in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Tomorrow, on Wednesday, the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary, Canada, the second leg in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, kicks off and the first starting places for the Grand Prix on Sunday will already be awarded on the first day of the show.
The riders have the opportunity to qualify for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”, which is endowed with prize-money totalling three million Canadian dollars, in two competitions every day from Wednesday to Friday. The last tickets will be earned during the Nations’ Cup on Saturday. Hereafter all of the 50 pairs that are allowed to battle it out for the Major victory on Sunday will be known.
The top riders from 19 nations in total have announced their participation. The two equestrian sport legends Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar are heading the field for the host country, Canada. Among others, the current number one in the world ranking list, Kent Farrington, as well as Beezie Madden, this year’s World Cup Final winner McLain Ward and Lauren Hough have travelled in from the neighbouring country, the USA. The entire European elite has also made the long journey to Canada: Last year’s winner Scott Brash (GBR), Kevin Staut (FRA), Christian Ahlmann (GER), Lorenzo de Luca (ITA), Steve Guerdat (SUI), Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP), Henrik von Eckermann (SWE), Cian O`Connor (IRE), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Luciana Diniz (POR) are just a few of the famous names that will be representing the European flags in Calgary.
Of course, the two current contenders of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will also be on board in the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’: The Belgian rider Grégory Wathelet could succeed in taking the next step towards winning the Grand Slam here in Calgary. If, after his victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” of the CHIO Aachen in July, he is now also able to win the “CP ‘International‘, presented by Rolex”, this would be his second Major victory in succession, which would mean he would be riding to claim the Grand Slam title at the CHI Geneva in December. At the latter Major, Pedro Veniss was on the top step of the winner’s podium last year. A triumph in Calgary would thus earn the Brazilian rider a bonus of 250,000 Euros for two Major victories within one Grand-Slam cycle.
However, first of all each of the athletes has to master the qualifying phase: Everything kicks off on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. local time with the “Telus Cup”, where the three best placed riders can win a direct ticket for the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex” on Sunday.
“Everyone has respect for a Major victory!”
It is time once again! The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is welcoming the best riders in the world to the second Major of the year in Calgary, Canada: At the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ from September 6th-10th the Belgian show-jumper, Grégory Wathelet, will particularly be the focus of attention, because as the current contender of the Grand Slam title, he will be striving to claim his second Major victory in succession. The 36-year-old reveals in the following interview what goals he has set himself for the coming leg of the Rolex Grand Slam, what challenges the horse and rider are faced with in Spruce Meadows and why September 10th is to be his big day on two counts.
Your triumph in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017 was your first Major victory. A special milestone in your career?
Grégory Wathelet: Definitely. It is the dream of every rider to be eternalised on the winners board in Aachen and for me it is something really special to have my name on that list. A Major victory is different to other Grand Prix victories. Something that everyone has respect for, everyone congratulates you. To see my team and my horse owners so happy in Aachen, was the best feeling in the world for me.
With this victory your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun.
Wathelet: I am delighted to take on this challenge! It was a great thing for us riders when the Grand Slam was brought into being, after all it unites the best shows in the world. Everyone tries to perform even better in the Majors, ride even a little stronger. I now have the opportunity to really prove myself in the Grand Slam and I am very much looking forward to the coming legs!
What is special about the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
Wathelet: It is a very exceptional show in a place that we riders actually aren’t used to any more: The atmosphere is unique, full of history and tradition, as is the case in Aachen for example. Spruce Meadows is nevertheless different to all the other Grand Slam Majors: The obstacles are built differently, the course design is extraordinary. Everything appears bigger and mightier, for the horses too. You need a horse that isn’t overwhelmed by these dimensions. That’s why I rely on “Eldorado”. He already demonstrated his quality in Calgary last year and in the meantime we have added several very good results to the list at other shows. He is a horse that can jump over everything, anywhere.
It is Grand Prix day in Calgary on September 10th – and your birthday! What do you want for your birthday?
Wathelet: The victory, of course! (laughing) No, seriously it is pure coincidence that these two events fall on the same day, but I try not to think about it too much. I simply want to be as good in the ring as I can and then see what happens. The class will be difficult, the competition will be tough. To be honest, my chance of winning the Grand Prix is exactly as high or low as it is for any of the other riders. Everyone wants to win, everyone will compete with their best horse. But I will certainly exploit my chance to the full. I don’t want to regret anything later! I will arrive in Calgary with top-trained horses and will fight hard to make sure that September 10th is going to be a really big day for me!
International Ring of Spruce Meadows
When sport writes history, then an athlete has become a hero, a victory turns into a triumph, a venue into a symbol. In this respect Spruce Meadows is legendary.
The best riders in the world have been meeting up at the impressive equestrian centre at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Canada since 1976 to compete against each other at the highest level. The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September, a leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is the pinnacle of the show season. The rider, who leaves the “International Ring” as the Major winner after the Grand Prix, has secured himself a place in the hall of fame of the equestrian sport.
In 2016, it was Scott Brash, who was able to carry off the victory in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”. Just like the year before, when the British rider succeeded in claiming the legendary triumph in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2015: As the first rider ever, Brash won three Majors in direct succession and thus secured himself the Grand Slam title.
Grégory Wathelet would be only too delighted to follow his lead: After riding to victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017, the Belgian rider will head for Calgary as the current Grand Slam contender. If he is allowed to not only celebrate his 37th birthday on September 10th, 2017, but also his second consecutive Major victory, it will mean Wathelet would be competing in Geneva in December to take the Grand Slam title.
“Every rider dreams of winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The Majors are the best and most difficult shows in our sport. You have to compete against the strongest pairs in the world and I know that it will be very difficult to also win in Calgary. But for me this is now perhaps a unique opportunity and I will put all my energy into it,” promised Wathelet, who was able to notch up his best placing in Calgary so far two years ago, when he came sixth in the Grand Prix.
Pedro Veniss also has nice recollections of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2015, because he finished third in the “CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex”. In 2016, the Brazilian rider also put in a highly successful performance at the show and ultimately ranked eighth in the Grand Prix. This year, he was already able to record a Grand Prix victory at five-star level at Spruce Meadows during the summer series.
There couldn’t be a better time for Veniss to jump to the top in Calgary again. Since he won the “Rolex Grand Prix” at CHI Geneva last year, he now has the chance of picking up a bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle. “My horses are well prepared and they already jumped fantastically here in the summer. I believe in our chances,” the 34-year-old stated. “But ultimately the decision will be taken in the ring.”
Scott Brash, Grégory Wathelet, Pedro Veniss – these are just three of the big names, who want to prove themselves at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017. But who will indeed succeed in claiming the Major victory on September 10th? In the end, the sport will write its own history and a new chapter in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Interview with Major winner Gregory Wathelet
On Sunday, Gregory Wathelet claimed the victory in the “Rolex Grand Prix” at the CHIO Aachen 2017. In an interview, the Belgian rider talked about the fascination of Aachen, the material that Major winners are made of and his birthday plans.
Congratulations on winning the Major in Aachen! Tell us about your “Rolex Grand Prix” experience!
Gregory Wathelet: It was simply fantastic! The atmosphere in Aachen is always unique, just like the crowd. It is a really special feeling every time when one rides into the Stadium, not at all comparable with the other shows one competes at every weekend. Everyone knows in advance that the “Rolex Grand Prix” is going to present difficult challenges and it was no different this time either. The horses have to convince with their scope, technique and speed. I am incredibly proud of my mare. I don’t think one could put it down to luck. I believe “Coree” simply jumped exceptionally. Today’s victory was down to her. Thanks to her my name is now entered on the winners’ board in Aachen and that is the most magnificent gift ever for me!
When did you realise that Sunday could perhaps become your day?
Wathelet: To be honest not until the final rider, Laura Kraut, had taken the last obstacle in the jump-off. Everything was open until the very end, all competitors were highly-motivated. The Grand Slam Majors are the best and most difficult shows in the world. It doesn’t suffice to give just 100 percent. One has to give 500 percent and simply hope that it is enough. This time we pulled it off.
This victory means your personal Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has now begun. So, where does it go from here for you?
Wathelet: The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is a great challenge for us riders. We are extremely grateful to Rolex for their huge commitment to our sport and for enabling such fantastic shows like Aachen, Calgary, Geneva and `s-Hertogenbosch. I believe every rider dreams of winning the Grand Slam and it goes without saying that I will give it my best shot and prepare myself as well as possible for the next Major. But first of all I want to savour this victory here in Aachen. Over the next few days, I will then draw up a plan for Calgary together with my team.
It is your birthday on September 10th. It is coincidentally the very day on which the Grand Prix is taking place in Calgary. But, wouldn’t a second Major victory in succession be a wonderful birthday present?
Wathelet: Yes, of course (laughs). But, as I said, at the moment I am still overjoyed about my victory in Aachen. We will have to wait and see what happens thereafter. But one thing is sure, I will certainly be celebrating my birthday in Calgary this year.
Gregory Whatelet with the Rolex Grand Slam signpost (picture: Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping/Kit Houghton)
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has begun for Gregory Wathelet
40,000 spectators were there live when sporting history was written at the CHIO Aachen 2017: After two rounds and the subsequent jump-off in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”, Gregory Wathelet was able to assert himself against the entire world elite with “Coree” and win the first leg in the year of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Incidentally, this was the first Major victory in the Belgian rider’s career.
“It is simply a dream come true to see my name on the winners’ board in Aachen! It doesn’t suffice to give 100 percent to win a Major. One has to give 500 percent and that is what we did today. My horse was simply incredible,” stated an overjoyed, Gregory Wathelet, who will now take on the ultimate challenge in equestrian sport: The show-jumper, who succeeds in riding to victory in three consecutive Majors, wins the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and one million Euros in addition to the prize-money. So, Gregory Wathelet’s full focus will now be on Calgary, where at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters” 2017 from September 6th-10th, he will be striving to claim his second Major title.
The winners of the last Majors weren’t able to redeem their chance of claiming a Grand Slam bonus: Scott Brash, who secured himself the top step of the winner’s podium at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2016, had the opportunity of claiming a 250,000 Euro bonus for two Major victories within one Grand Slam cycle here in Aachen. However, the British rider picked up four faults in the first round with the mare “Ursula XII” and finished the class in ninth place after the second round. Indeed, the winner of the CHI Geneva in 2016, Pedro Veniss, could not participate in the “Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen”. Over the course of the show week, luck was not on his side, so the Brazilian rider didn’t succeed in qualifying for the Grand Prix. However, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is not over for Pedro Veniss yet: In September at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017, for him 250,000 Euros will be at stake for the second Major victory within a Grand Slam cycle.
Gregory Wathelet, winner of the "Rolex Grand Prix" at CHIO Aachen 2017