Yuri Mansur & Miss Blue win the Turkish Airlines-Prize at CHIO Aachen 2023
Under the dazzling lights of CHIO Aachen’s iconic Hauptstadion, the world’s best horse and rider combinations gathered to contest the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, the first 5* class of the 2023 Show. The 1.55m competition was held over two rounds, with all clear rounds proceeding to the jump-off. Attracting 53 riders, including the reigning individual Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher, and the current World No.5, Martin Fuchs, the competition was set to be fierce.
The Frank Rothenberger-designed course consisted of 14 combinations in the first round and eight in the second, and provided a suitable challenge for the riders, all of whom had their sights set on early qualification for Sunday’s prestigious Rolex Grand Prix class.
Dutch rider, Marc Houtzager, was first to clear the obstacles, but heartbreak came when he collected just two-time faults. It was, however, the young Swiss rider Edouard Schmitz, who was eighth to canter into the historic arena, who mastered the technical course aboard the impressive 11-year-old gelding Gamin Van’t Naastveldhof. Faults came throughout the course, but much to the delight and cheers of the German crowd, three German riders produced faultless rounds including last year’s Rolex Grand Prix winner Gerrit Nieberg.
Of the initial 53 riders, only seven proceeded to the jump-off. Riders returned to the arena in the same order as the first round, so it was Schmitz once again who set the standard for those who followed, with a clear round in a time of 42.43 seconds. However, his lead was quickly usurped by the Brazilian Yuri Mansur, who crossed the line less than two-tenths of a second faster. The German crowd held their breath as their three representatives entered the arena one after another, but neither Richard Vogel, Philipp Weishaupt nor Gerrit Nieberg could produce the rounds that they may have hoped for, with all three riders accumulating penalties for knocked fences. Mansur’s lead could now only be beaten by one combination, the in-form Martin Fuchs and Conner Jei, but after a slight slip to the second fence, the former FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final winner could not make up the time to secure the win, resulting in the Brazilian claiming his first CHIO Aachen victory.
Speaking on his success, the emotional Mansur said: “This win is so special. In 2018, I came to Aachen for the first time, and I was clear in the first round of this competition, but in the second round things did not go as we wanted them to. But day by day, I’ve worked hard and wanted to be the best. Every year I have returned to Aachen and we have got better and better, and now I have won a class. This is the biggest win in my career.”
Thrilled with his partner, Mansur continued: “This mare [Miss Blue-Saint Blue Farm] is just unreal. She was only jumping 1.30m a year ago and she is only nine-years-old. She is still very inexperienced and so what she has achieved this evening is just amazing. I was one of the first people to import horses from Europe to Brazil at the beginning of my career. I am now the one promoting Brazilian bred horses, and my mare is the best example of how talented they are!”
Interview with David Honnet
Can you introduce yourself, tell us who you work for, and what your role is?
I’m David Honnet, I’m 35-years-old, and I have worked for Scott Brash for seven years now – previously I was the groom for Cameron Hanley. I arrived here on Sunday with Scott’s horses, I am going to be taking care of them all week, and hopefully we will have a good week!
Tell us a little a bit about your journey to CHIO Aachen…
I travelled with the horses on Sunday morning, we left the yard and took the ferry – in total it was a 10-hour trip. The trip went well, but since Brexit, everything takes a bit longer with the paperwork and checks. I got here to Aachen pretty late, and the show vets were really helpful. All the horses travelled well, they are all really used to it. Hello Jefferson has been everywhere in the world, so it was no problem for him. Hello Mango is also a very good traveller, she was in Spain for the beginning of the year, so she has done a few long trips. Hello Valentino is also a very good traveller.
If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?
Break it down, don’t do big days. Only do small journeys, never more than 600 kilometres at a time if the horse is bad at travelling. If possible, I would advise that you travel through the night, it is always quicker and smoother. You usually do not experience as much traffic or get stuck on the roads, so if it suits your plan and the person driving is able to drive through the night, I would definitely recommend travelling through the night.
Can you tell us about the horses that you have brought with you and what their characters are like?
Hello Jefferson, who is in really good shape, will be competing in the Rolex Grand Prix. He was very successful here last year, finishing second, so we hope to do just a bit better here this year! The Rolex Grand Prix is a tough test, but it is such an amazing experience to jump in it.
Hello Valentino is a nine-year-old and he is here to gain experience. He has a lot of quality and potential, but I don’t think we expect much from him this year because it is a big test and he’s only nine. He is here to gain experience and hopefully in the years to come he will be able to win the Rolex Grand Prix.
Hello Mango is eight-years-old and she is going to be a superstar for sure! She had a very good beginning to the year in Spain, we then gave her a bit of a break to try to get an embryo from her, but it didn’t really work, but she is back and feeling fresh and jumping well. At only eight-years-old, she’s one for the future.
What are the facilities like for both yourself as a groom and the horses at CHIO Aachen?
They are perfect. My main concern when I get to shows is always safety first, and here everything is very safe and comfortable for the horses. I have been to this show a number of times and there are always little improvements and the attention to detail for the horses is incredible. This morning I noticed a new wash bay and it’s things like this that make the show great.
How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, and CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?
I have to say it’s the Sunday afternoon in Calgary and Aachen, that have the most amazing feeling. Then when you go clear, it is incredible – it is only an afternoon, but it feels like a week, there is so much emotion. It is really very special! Both Spruce Meadows and Aachen have two rounds and a jump-off, so those two Grands Prix feel really unique, there is so much emotion in an afternoon.
‘S-Hertogenbosch and Geneva are also incredible Grands Prix. CHI Geneva is the last big event of the year, so you want to finish on a high. The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final also adds to the prestige of the show.
How special was it to join Scott’s team after he won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015?
I remember exactly where I was when Scott won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – I was watching with my girlfriend at that time on the sofa, hoping for him to win it. At the time I had no idea I was going to work for him one day. The year after he won at Spruce Meadows, I was working for him. In 2016, when he once again won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in Calgary we were watching at home with his mother and we went crazy when he won. Scott and I are both calm people and there is rarely any tension. We have some very sharp horses, and so the cooler you stay the better it is for the horses, they don’t need you to put any stress on them.
What qualities do you think that your team has that enables Scott to be so successful?
I think the main thing would be trust. We all trust each other and that is what makes our team so strong. Within the team, you need so much quality and skill, I have some, Scott has some, and then the people at home do as well. Our team trust each other and this probably is what makes the difference between our team and the others.
What is the most important and useful piece of kit that you carry when Scott is competing?
It is really simple! Something that is common to all the groom and horses is that we all give them treats when they come out of the ring, so that I think is something that I always have in the bag. There is no lucky charm, they just need a treat when they get out.
What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?
Yes, it is a small and close community. Obviously, you cannot like everyone, and you need a strong character to do this job as there are a lot of big characters, but once you’ve got your friends, everybody helps each other. Once you find people you trust, you can ask them if you are struggling or if you need advice, like ‘how should I do that’ or, ‘what should I do if I have this problem’. I have been doing this job for years, but I remember at the beginning of the year I went to ask for advice from another groom because I had a difficult horse I needed help with, and that is what is so great about this community.
Interview with General Manager at CHIO Aachen Michael Mronz
How has planning been going for this year’s event?
We are looking forward to it, I think it is going to be a great show and we have a fantastic partner country this year, Great Britain. We are delighted that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal joined us for the opening ceremony, I think that it was very important for the sport, as well as the fans from Aachen, Europe and around the world – we are incredibly excited about the upcoming days.
This year CHIO Aachen is partnered with Great Britian, can you tell us about this relationship and what spectators can expect to see.
It was always a dream for us to have Great Britain as a partner country – they have a tremendous relationship with horses, especially the Royal family. The Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry performed in the opening ceremony, and we asked spectators to dress themselves in the ‘British way’. We also included a number of the fantastic British riders in the opening ceremony, including Nick Skelton, the first winner of a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major in Aachen ten years ago. We are also delighted that a very strong dressage team from Great Britain will be competing here including Charlotte Dujardin and current FEI World Champion Lottie Fry – it is going to be a great week.
Is there anything new that CHIO Aachen has introduced this year? Will you be doing anything special to mark the 10th anniversary of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
This year, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will celebrate its 10-year anniversary, and there is a chance that McLain Ward will win the Rolex Grand Slam and become only the second rider to achieve this feat after Scott Brash in 2015. It would be unbelievable for this to happen on the 10th anniversary – if you were to write a story, you would write it like this. There will of course be a very strong field of competitors, on one hand the riders want him [McLain Ward] to win, but on the other hand the riders want to win themselves. There will be some very competitive classes, especially on Sunday with the Rolex Grand Prix.
Away from the competition, we have really focused on our digital innovation and new products. This year we launched a new app with a lot of new services for the spectators. Fans can now plan their own customized special CHIO Aachen day, and highlight classes they don’t want to miss, access all the start lists and can follow all the riders around the course, for example in the SAP Cup on Saturday. Communication with our spectators is one of the team’s focal points this year and we think the app will be a great addition to CHIO Aachen.
The first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major happened at CHIO Aachen 10-years-ago. How has the initiative positively impacted Aachen as a show?
We are extremely honoured and happy to have such a strong relationship with Rolex, and incredibly lucky that the brand is so supportive of the sport. CHIO Aachen also incredibly fortunate to be supported other brands such as like Allianz and Turkish Airlines. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping gave CHIO Aachen an amazing opportunity to place the show together with three other elite shows; Spruce Meadows, Geneva and ‘s-Hertogenbosch to create a new level in show jumping.
There are now over 100 5* shows on the calendar, and those spectators who aren’t so familiar with the sport don’t understand which are the best shows. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping helps to identify the top four shows on the calendar, as it easy to compare them to the tennis and golf Majors, which is helpful for the spectators. In addition, it helps the riders because they can plan their season with their horses around these four Majors. I think the Rolex Grand Slam has made a tremendous change in the sport.
What has been your personal highlight from the first 10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
At the press conference, held in Gothenburg in 2013, we launched the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and I think it was a real surprise for the equestrian world – from the idea to the concept, and our presentation. That was an incredible moment.
Of course, when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in Spruce Meadows the atmosphere was unbelievable. Nick Skelton’s victory in 2013 on Big Star at the very first Major was also incredible. Each Major has its own special moment, for example, last year in Aachen, Gerrit Nieberg had an unbelievable round in the jump-off and everybody was surprised when he won – nobody knew how good he really was and he then went on to finish fifth at Spruce Meadows too over an incredibly tough course. I think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping showcases new talent and new stars, which is special.
What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?
Well, it depends, I would say if you look to the Aachen team, we have a nice spilt between members who are passionate about equestrian sport and those who are into marketing and communication. I think you need decide what direction you want to go in before you try and enter the industry – do you want to be more involved in the sport, or the marketing? I think it is difficult try and focus on both areas and so in the beginning of your career it is important to decide for yourself which is more important. I think my main piece of advice is just to be yourself and decide what you want, and then you will be successful.
For you, as well as CHIO Aachen, what are the key components that make a successful sporting event, or sporting major?
Firstly, and most importantly, the riders and the horses are essential. Secondly, the infrastructure has to be in the perfect shape, so that the world’s best horses and riders can compete at their best. Another point is the atmosphere – ensuring that the spectators have everything they need and the facilities are up to standard. I think if you want to present professional sport there has to be a professional infrastructure. Professional infrastructure means a professional media presentation, but at the same time also a professional atmosphere with a huge crowd of spectators. Then of course entertainment for the spectators, not only the sport but the food and shopping villages.
Like the tennis legends Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, who have dominated the tennis world and its Majors, how important is it to Aachen to have the best in the world competing at your event?
Well, of course, it is important to have the best horses and riders at the showground, but due to the nature of the sport sometimes you have to accept that the best horses and riders are injured. We are fortunate that at Aachen we have a very strong field in all five disciplines.
Riders are different from other athletes who compete in, for example, tennis or Formula One, where you will have a few athletes who dominate for a couple of years and then the next generation will then come up through the ranks. In equestrianism, the rider can be 60-years-old and still compete at the top level. Therefore, the riders have a longer time in the sport, and so I think you have a larger number of top names than you do in other sports.
Aachen is known as the Wimbledon of the equestrian world, how do you ensure that you continue to innovate and adapt to ensure you maintain this status?
It is a privilege for both myself and the team to work for Aachen. We have the possibility and the honour to ride on the heritage and the history of the Aachen show. The club was founded 125 years ago, and next year we celebrate 100 years of show jumping classes.
There is also the responsibility to develop the show, and always look for what could be the next step. For example, when we held the FEI World Championships in 2006, we installed a floodlight system. Today, on four out of six days of the show we have night classes, which reach more spectators than the afternoon performances via television broadcasting. We have also built new infrastructure, grown our number of facilities, spectators, and so-on.
In the past we have done a lot of investment and have ideas in mind for the future. We started Aachen CAMPUS during the Covid-19 Pandemic, where we train and educate those who are in the equestrian industry or who want to join it, offering classes and over 100 training days during the year.
In the future we would like to include para-riders and other things at the Aachen show. So, I think we have a lot of strong ideas in place which we are looking forward to realising and developing to take the Aachen show to the next level. We have a big responsibility to ensure that Aachen continues to be the best of the best, and I am delighted that we have a very open-minded operations and advisory teams.
Do you and CHIO Aachen organisers take inspiration from any of sport’s other major competitions, e.g., in tennis or golf?
I personally think you can learn from the smallest show and from the biggest one – it also doesn’t matter what sport it is. It would be arrogant if I, for example, thought I knew how everything works and how everything runs. There are always small events that I go to and see things and think wow, that’s a great idea. I don’t instantly think ‘I have to copy that for Aachen’, it is more that I take the idea and join it with one or two other ideas, so it comes out as a new idea that is applicable to Aachen. I really like to go to other sporting events, including the Grand Slam tennis tournaments and major golfing events, but also to smaller equestrian events – you can always keep learning!