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.