Nicolas Delmotte and Urvoso du Roch win the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia
Fifty world-class horse and rider combinations entertained CHIO Aachen’s crowds over one round and a jump-off in Friday’s feature class, the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, the final chance for those riders not already qualified to book their place in the week’s pinnacle event, Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.
Second to go, Germany’s Jana Wargers made the 17-fence Frank Rothenberger-designed course look straightforward, effortlessly going clear with her 12-year-old Eve Jobs-owned bay stallion, Limbridge in 87.02s. The 30-year-old – currently ranked number 361 in the world – was to hold on to top spot for the majority of the first round, after many of the sport’s very best were unable to emulate her performance and go clear, demonstrating how difficult the course was. However, reigning Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Great Britain’s Scott Brash and his 12-year-old gelding, Hello Jefferson, and Nicolas Delmotte of France and his 13-year-old gelding, Urvoso Du Roch, both demonstrated their talent, confidently navigating the course without accruing any penalties, thereby triggering a deciding three-horse jump-off.
First to go in the jump-off, it looked as though the crowd favourite, Jana Wargers, would make it a fairy-tale ending after going double clear in a time of 47.03s. Next up, Scott Brash was to also go double clear, but over a second faster than the German managed, slotting into top spot with just one rider to go. Last to go, July’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at the Chantilly Masters, Nicolas Delmotte breezed the jump-off, eventually eclipsing Scott Brash’s time, finishing double clear in 45.03s.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, current world number 25, Delmotte, commented: “I’m very happy about this season’s results that I’ve had with Urvoso du Roch and also today. I’m feeling confident with him, but this will be the very first Major of his career, so I am looking forward to the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.”
On his 13-year-old gelding, Urvoso du Roch, who he competed with at the recent Tokyo Games, the Frenchman, said: “He’s very sensitive, but he didn’t start very well with his previous rider, and would sometimes refuse jumps. Now, he has a bit of a funny technique, and I think he has to really grow into these classes with their heights. I will have to be very careful with how I ride him, to make sure I give him the opportunity to jump well, so he can use his technique to the best of his ability.”
Rider interview with:
Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash
Tell us a little bit about the horses you’re competing with this week at CHIO Aachen…
I have Hello Jefferson here, who I have qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix, which was a bit difficult as an individual, so the plan is to now jump it on Sunday. A seven-year-old of mine called Hello Vittoria has also travelled here to Aachen, who will compete as a Young Horse – it’s nice to get experience for the young horses in a ring like this.
You won the Rolex Grand Prix here in 2015 – CHIO Aachen must be an incredibly special show for you to compete at?
Absolutely. Aachen is a special arena – there’s a lot of history that’s been made in that ring. We all want to jump here, the conditions are excellent, the ground is amazing, the jumps are fantastic, and you really feel that the horses give something extra in this arena.
There are many world-class riders here at CHIO Aachen; who do you think will be the one to beat in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?
I really don’t know, as the field is fantastic and there are many top horse and rider combinations. I think Daniel Deusser is going very well, and he’s been second many times here in Aachen, so I think he’ll be really hungry to make it a win. He looks to be on top form and his horses look in great shape, so if I had to pick one rider, I think he’s the one to beat.
Why are Majors so important in sport?
I think Majors bring out the best competition. The best horses and riders come to the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors of the year. The four Majors are the competitions that everyone wants to win. From what I can see, this is also the case in tennis and golf, and all the other sports. It’s the best competitors that are there, and everyone is giving their absolute all. They don’t come around every other weekend, which makes the Majors extra special to win in a place like CHIO Aachen.
Do you watch other Grand Slam events, for example in tennis and golf?
I try to watch them. I caught the highlights of the Djokovic US Open final match last week. I do try to catch up on all of the sporting Majors, and I also enjoy watching Formula One, as well. Every sport is in its own bubble, so its great to witness some of the other top sport that’s going on around the world and appreciate the incredible talent on show.
Walking the course with:
Course designer Frank Rothenberger
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?
Absolutely delighted! We’ve been waiting for such a long time to have another big event like this again. We managed to stage a 3* jumping show in the dressage stadium this time last year when some COVID-19 restrictions were in place, but it was absolutely not comparable to what we have here now. I’m so glad we’re finally back. Last night we nearly had a full stadium for the Nations’ Cup, which is a very nice class and for me one of the best classes of the year, alongside the Rolex Grand Prix, of course.
I’m not working at CHIO Aachen for the whole year – I’m only coming here to design courses. We have to prepare the courses for the CHIO months in advance, which we completed in February and March this year. However, we didn’t know if the show would go ahead and what the schedule would look like. We decided we would work to last year’s schedule, but we still had to wait for the authorities to tell us how many spectators would be allowed to attend. But it’s happening, so we are extremely grateful for everyone’s hard work, especially the organising committee.
It must give you a real boost having spectators back watching top sport at CHIO Aachen?
Yes, it’s so cool! On Wednesday we had a big class and the stadium was almost without any spectators – it was so strange and it felt like a training competition. But yesterday the stadium was much more full and there’s a great atmosphere here with the crowds every day, and hopefully on Sunday it will feel almost back to normal.
What makes CHIO Aachen so special for you?
The organisation of the event is top. CHIO Aachen is run by 25 or 30 full-time employees all year, and what they’re consistently doing is absolutely perfect. They really focus on every little detail and in the end the product is just quality, it’s class.
Tell us a little bit about the course that you’ve designed for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix…
It’s a competition over two rounds with a jump-off. We will have 40 horse and rider combinations. Five riders have pre-qualified already and another 18 from yesterday evening’s Nations’ Cup. There are then two more classes where riders were able to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix. As it is every year, I hope it will be a spectacular class. We have 13 jumps in the first round and another 10 in the second round. We will hopefully end up with a jump-off including just a few riders, which is what the crowd here would like to see, but you never know and this is what makes the sport interesting. For me, between three and five riders in the jump-off would be perfect.
Which rider do you believe has got what it takes to win Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?
I think there’s just one name: Ben Maher. He and Explosion W are a top, top partnership and my favourite for Sunday. But that’s not just my opinion, it’s everyone’s opinion. It’s an unbelievable horse. But you never know, he could have a pole down and that makes things interesting. There are lots of other top horses here, but at the moment Ben is on great form, and he was brilliant in Tokyo.
How positive is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the sport?
I’ll give an example. Recently, seven international riders between the ages of 25 to 30 were asked what their career goals and ambitions were. They all said the same: winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. No one mentioned the World or European Championships or the Olympic Games, simply Aachen and the Rolex Grand Prix, so I think that goes to show that the Rolex Grand Slam is the pinnacle.