Daniel Deusser wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender
The world’s most distinguished show jumpers and their equine partners contested the highlight class of 2021’s edition of CHIO Aachen: the Rolex Grand Prix. The third Major of 2021’s Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the 1m60 test, created by leading course designer, Frank Rothenberger, comprised 40 starters from 15 nations. Amongst them was current world number one, Daniel Deusser, current world number three and Rolex Testimonee, Martin Fuchs, winner of the 2021 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and fellow Testimonee, Steve Guerdat, reigning Olympic Individual champion, Ben Maher, plus another 11 of the world’s current top 30-ranked riders.
The tense action played out in front of approximately 19,000 knowledgeable show jumping fans in CHIO Aachen’s Hauptstadion, a truly iconic stadium which also hosted the sport’s World Championships in 2006 and European Championships in 2015. The format was simple: following the Rolex Grand Prix’s first round, the best 18 riders would qualify for Round 2, with a jump-off triggered should any riders' combined scores be tied. In the case of a jump-off, the rider with the fewest penalties and fastest time would be crowned champion.
Clear rounds combined with fast times saw three of the sport’s greatest riders comfortably progress to the second round: Great Britain’s Ben Maher and his 12-year-old megastar gelding, Explosion W; the first and only rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam, Scott Brash and his 12-year-old gelding, Hello Jefferson; and Steve Guerdat and his 12-year-old gelding, Venard de Cerisy. However, it was Mexico’s Patricio Pasquel, who topped the leader board at the end of the first round, after he and his 14-year-old gelding, Babel, finished over two and a half seconds ahead of next fastest rider, America’s rising talent, Brian Moggre.
Other riders of note to make the cut of 18, included the sport’s current highest-ranked rider, Daniel “Double D” Deusser of Germany, Frenchman Kevin Staut, Martin Fuchs from Switzerland, winner of the Rolex Grand Slam Major at CHIO Aachen in 2017, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet, and the next generation of show jumping talent, 22-year-old American rider, Lucy Deslauriers and 23-year-old Sanne Thijssen from The Netherlands.
Consisting of 15 fences, and over a very slightly shorter course than the first, home favourite Deusser soon assumed control of the second round, the first of the 18 riders to go double clear. He was followed by Belgian, Jérôme Guery, confirming a jump-off would decide who would become the new Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, after the last Major winner, Steve Guerdat, failed to record a clear round. Guery’s Tokyo 2020 Team bronze medal-winning teammate, Gregory Wathelet started a procession of double clears, with Laura Kraut from the USA, Scott Brash, Ben Maher and Brian Moggre all booking their places in the final showdown, thereby making it a mouth-watering seven-way jump-off.
First to go in the jump-off was Daniel Deusser and his 11-year-old mare, Killer Queen, meticulously navigating the nine-fence course and recording the first double clear. Deusser held on to top spot after Gregory Wathelet finished clear but was over a second off his pace, while Scott Brash, Ben Maher, Laura Kraut and Jérôme Guery all recorded faults. Last to go, Brian Moggre and his 15-year-old stallion, Balou du Reventon, were Deusser’s last remaining threat; however, despite an impressive clear round, the 20-year-old from Texas crossed the line 0.31s off Deusser’s time, which meant a new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender was crowned.
On his first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major victory, Deusser, commented: “The Rolex Grand Slam is part of equestrian history. So far, I haven’t been in this position of winning one of these four Major Grands Prix, but I’m now looking forward to trying my best at the next three stages.”
On his partner, Balou du Reventon, runner-up, Brian Moggre, commented: “I really think our personality types are similar. I didn’t really give myself a chance to not get along with him, so I’m glad he liked me. We have just gone step by step, and he wants this just as much as I do. He’s a really competitive horse and I find myself a bit of a competitive rider, so we mesh well and I’m very thankful for him.”
Meet the Next Gen with:
What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?
I really am hoping to have a great week this week at CHIO Aachen. This horse show is one I’ve dreamed of coming to for years, so to have a really great week would be a perfect end of the year.
What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?
The World Championships being next summer is a huge goal of mine, so I’m starting to really focus on that. Otherwise, just focusing on the young horses stepping up and developing them.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
There have been a few, for different reasons. But I’d say one that’s very special to me was my first 3* Grand Prix win at Live Oak, which was on my junior jumper, who I’d had for several years, so it was a big win for both of us.
Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?
So many different people, it would be hard to just pick one. Currently, there’s Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton, who are both helping me – they’re a huge inspiration. My parents inspire me, and Lesley Leeman, who takes care of my horses – she inspires me every day, she works so hard, and she take such good care of the horses. All of those people have inspired me to be my best self.
What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?
My love for the horses. It’s been my passion since I was a little kid, and I’ve never really known any different. I didn’t really come from a horse family, so it all starts with me. I’d say horses motivate me the most.
Tell us a little bit about the horses you’ve brought to CHIO Aachen this week…
I have two horses here, who are both owned by Ann Thompson – Balou Du Reventon and Gelano. Gelano is a newer mount to me, who I got a few months ago, so I’m still getting to know him. Balou has been with me for under a year. They’re both fantastic horses, so I think I have a good shot for this week.
Which of your young horses are you most excited about?
There’s one who I own myself called Mtm Los Angeles. He’s not really a young horse, but he had a really big seven-year-old year, so we took it really slow. He’s nine now so we’re getting him back on the scene again, and he seems really promising. There’s another one I ride called Nolo Contendere, who’s owned by Lindsay Maxwell. He’s a six-year-old and I think he’s got everything.
How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?
I think atmosphere is everything at horse shows like this. I live for the crowd and the overall experience, so I think for the horses and myself, it really puts us in our game zone.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
In terms of riding, I would say smooth is fast. It’s a good piece of advice.
How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?
It great for the sport, and it’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. To now be a part of it and showing at these shows, it’s really a dream come true. I think a lot of riders look up to it and it’s just great!
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special show for you?
There’s no horse show like Aachen in the world. I’ve been to Spruce Meadows a few times and it’s a great atmosphere and a great ring, but you come to Aachen and your jaw drops. The atmosphere and all the ring, the ground is just incredible. You feel as though you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to come and what you’re going to get. You can rely on it, it’s one of the best – it is the best!
Word from the Organiser with:
Frank Kemperman, Show Director
You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?
We are very happy that we have managed to stage a CHIO this year, which has included all five disciplines, because the situation has been so difficult. On the one hand you can say we’ve had a long time to prepare, but on the other hand we’ve faced so many challenges, including changes to the programme and changes to the date. Then there is the situation with the spectators’ tickets, which were first moved from 2020 to 2021, with people given the choice whether they wanted their money back or to retain their tickets for this year’s event. Then we had to postpone the show from June to September, so we gave spectators the choice to defer their tickets to CHIO Aachen 2022, because we had no idea if 2021’s show would go ahead. Maybe it’s a little bit later in the year, but a CHIO with fewer spectators is better than no CHIO at all.
Do you take any positives from the last 18 months?
The main positive is that we’ve always looked forward and we’ve managed to stage this great event. There has also been so much goodwill from the fans. The reaction from the public to the situation that CHIO Aachen has faced has been amazing – their response has been really good for the soul, so we must thank them.
For you, what makes the CHIO Aachen so special?
Normally, I would say the crowd, because the crowd is at the heart of the event’s atmosphere, along with the riders and the horses. But for me, we always try to organise and create something superb, which has to be of the highest quality. For me and the organisers, the key word in everything that we do is quality, which is always more important than quantity. We always ensure that every element of the CHIO Aachen is 100% – for the spectators, the media, the sponsors, the officials, the athletes, for everyone.
How positive is the Rolex Grand Slam for the sport of Show Jumping?
We created the Rolex Grand Slam to differentiate it from the rest, and for many people it’s regarded as the very best in the sport. It’s four unique events: one in the winter, one in the spring, one in the summer and one in the autumn; two indoor shows and two outdoor. It’s a valuable concept with top quality events - 4 Majors -; it’s the Rolex Grand Slam, it works, it’s great for the sport of show jumping and we’re extremely happy to be part of it.