At the weekend we watched Scott Brash’s future star come of age – as well as his oh-so-close finish in the prestigious Aachen grand prix. There were international dashes between five-star shows for one Irish rider, groundbreaking team performances and a proud moment for connections of Cian O’Connor’s latest talent, who he thinks has all the credentials to go to the top.
Here is your weekly round-up of just some of the international sporting action from the world of showjumping.
BRASH IS THWARTED BY A SNEAKY SHORT-CUT…
Seven years after Scott Brash landed the prestigious Aachen grand prix with Hello Sanctos en route to winning the Rolex Grand Slam, he and top horse Hello Jefferson looked odds-on to repeat the feat when forging a strong lead with just one combination left to jump in Sunday’s five-way jump-off to decide the Rolex Grand Prix.
However, young German rider Gerrit Nieberg, son of Olympian Lars Nieberg, gambled with a short-cut to a formidable double on his scopey gelding Ben 431 and it was enough to secure a half-second advantage, which took them to the top of the leaderboard and made 29-year-old Gerrit the new live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping.
“Everything is still unreal – I really didn’t expect this. Dreams definitely came true today,” he said.
Runner-up Scott reflected: “Feelings are a bit mixed because everyone wants to win Aachen, so it was a bit disappointing not to snatch a win. But at the same time I have to be thrilled with Jefferson, he’s jumped fantastic all week — he did everything that was asked of him and more. We were beaten fair and square; Gerrit had to risk it all, so all credit to him. I saw the [inside] line he took but it was tight and it was tough so I must say Gerrit did it really well.”
…BUT ANOTHER “HELLO” STAR IS THE TALK OF AACHEN
Earlier in the week, however, Scott Brash and the eight-year-old mare Hello Vittoria (above) produced a an exceptionally smart double-clear winning performance in the Sparkassen Youngsters Cup Final where they were up against some of the best young horses in the world.
Michael Quirke and Shane Breen bought Vittoria originally from a Fences Auction and Scott spotted the Kannan mare as a five-year-old while she was jumping at Hickstead with Georgia Tame. He has been producing her slowly to this level since.
“I was really happy with how she took to the atmosphere; it was a full stadium on Saturday night under the lights,” said Scott. “The tracks were difficult enough and they had a small water jump in there one day, but it’s great experience for the young horses and she felt like she grew up over the week. We’ve been ticking along quietly with her, but when you’re in Aachen you try to win!”
Scott describes her as a “very level-headed mare”.
“She keeps her jump, she’s very careful and a very straightforward horse to do everything with,” said Scott. “So it’s just about producing her in a nice way and showing her the world.”
CIAN O’CONNOR’S “UNEXPECTED” WIN
Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and the nine-year-old Emerald stallion Taj Mahal (below) won the 1.55m CSI3* grand prix at Knokke Hippique, Belgium. Course-designer Gregory Bodo had presented the field of 57 competitors with “quite a few technical hurdles”, which he said required riders “to have their heads in the game” and Cian produced the faster of only two double clears for victory.
“I’ve really taken my time with this horse — he’s definitely the most careful horse I’ve ever ridden; he’s so clever,” said Cian, who has high hopes for Sue Magnier’s stallion. “I’ve done a whole season really of 1.40ms and two-star grands prix.
“I was not expecting a win today. Taj Mahal is still only nine years old. It is his first three-star grand prix and it’s under lights.”
Cian spotted the stallion competing at young horse shows and he was given the name Taj Mahal by his new owner Sue Magnier, who was there on the night to witness their success first-hand.
“He had been on my radar then we managed to secure him last year,” said Cian. “I’m very lucky that Mrs Magnier owns him — her huge interest in horses comes from racing but she is now breaking through into showjumping through her grandchildren, Tom and Max Wachman, who are obviously doing very well.
“I am so happy his previous rider Dieter Vermeiren got to see him win here. He made the horse and helped me a lot with him, so I was able to take him to the next level — it was great teamwork.”
An emotional Dieter added: “We started out together when we were both young. Now he wins these amazing competitions. We have a great relationship with Cian. They are an amazing combination, especially because instead of wanting to change the horse, he knows and reinforces his strongest assets.”
EMERGING TALENT SHINES IN YOUTH EQUESTRIAN GAMES
Also on the agenda at Aachen’s World Equestrian Festival was the Youth Equestrian Games for riders aged 15 to 18, where Great Britain’s representative Claudia Moore on borrowed horse Largo Van De Molenhoek jumped brilliantly to finish sixth individually and help Team Europe to second place after a thrilling three-way jump-off to decide the podium.
“I knew Mimi [Gochman, from North America’s winning team] had an incredible round and I wanted to match that,” said Claudia. “I kept quite cool, calm and collected and went in and I had so much fun. I had my entire team behind me and I think that was the thing that drove me the most! Some people in their professional career never get to jump at Aachen and for us to be able to do it at this age, and have this type of experience early on, is amazing.”
South Africa’s Thomas van Rijckevorsel claimed individual gold ahead of Morocco’s Jed Guerraoui in silver and USA rider Mimi in bronze.
“I have three top open horses at home that jump at 1.40m and three young horses as well as a dressage horse”, said the winning rider from Johannesburg, who was competing in Europe for the first time. “After this week I definitely want to come back and jump at Aachen again — I’d love to have a career in this sport, it’s my life!”
SAYWELL’S RISING STAR COMES OF AGE AT BOLESWORTH
Back on home soil, Louise Saywell and Kingsborough Kasper triumphed in the CSI3* grand prix at the Dodson & Horrell Bolesworth International Horse Show. The nine-year-old Kannan stallion “wants to win”, his delighted rider said.
“He loves being competitive as much as I do,” said Louise. “This was a big step up for him as he hadn’t done a 1.50m before, but he has a lot of talent.”
You can read the full report from Bolesworth in this week’s H&H (in the shops Thursday 7 July)
DARRAGH KENNY COMMUTES BETWEEN FIVE-STAR SHOWS
Not content with competing at one five-star show this week, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny commuted between Aachen and the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco, competing at each venue on alternate days. It was an ambitious strategy, which paid off with an impressive runner-up spot in the Monaco grand prix riding Volnay Du Boisdeville. He reached round two of the Rolex grand prix in Aachen on VDL Cartello, where they just picked up four faults to be placed ninth.
“Second seems to be my position and it’s not exactly where I would like to be,” he said from Monaco. “But Volnay jumped unbelievable. He has been a great horse for me since I took him over from Teddy Vlock. I was a little slow in the jump-off and that is where I lost it. I definitely knew I left the door open, I did one more stride to the vertical then I would have liked and then I was a little slow to the last and I knew I was behind today.”
The winner in Monaco was Austria’s Max Kühner, securing his first LGCT grand prix and a ticket to the Super Grand Prix at the Prague Playoffs at the end of the season. Amazingly, the top three riders on the podium — Max, Darragh and Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Miro) — were the same three riders as the previous year, with Max just going one better this time.
“It was really important for me to catch Darragh this year because last year I was in the lead but he was just a bit faster than me, so this year I really had the mission to beat him,” said Max. “In this sport, we don’t expect things we fight for it and of course, the golden ticket is something all the other riders are also fighting for and I am very happy to have it now.”
A MILESTONE NATIONS CUP — WITH A DOUBLE CLEAR FROM HARRY CHARLES
It’s been five years since Great Britain last fielded a team for the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup of Aachen but the Union Flag flew proudly as the quartet of Ben Maher, Harry Charles, Scott Brash and John Whitaker finished on the podium after a hard-fought contest on Thursday night (30 June).
“I’m absolutely over the moon with the performances tonight,” said Di Lampard, Great Britain’s performance manager. “To come here to this stadium and have those rounds — we’re going the right way towards the end of the season.”
FROM MOUNTED GAMES TO MONTE CARLO GLORY
A few weeks ago, British teenager Isabella Beecroft-Luckett was representing England in the Pony Club games at Royal Windsor but this week she was leading a prize-giving ceremony in front of royalty and celebrities at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco.
The 14-year-old rider teamed up with speedy Frenchman Olivier Robert to win the Longines Pro-Am team relay.
“I COULDN’T BE PROUDER OF MY HORSE”
USA rider Giavanna Rinaldi may have had her “dream come true” when winning the Pan American Grand Prix presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows, Canada, but she gave full credit to her horse Cosmona for her first five-star win, which came after a tactical two-way jump-off.
“I’ve always dreamt of coming to this show — it’s been a big dream of mine,” said Giavanna. “I couldn’t be prouder of my horse and the team behind us.”
The two-star equivalent went to Kent Farrington on new ride Chato Lou, just two hundredths of a second quicker than Robert Blanchette of Ireland (pictured top).
SAMPSON CONTINUES HIS WINNING STREAK
Fresh from his first five-star grand prix victory, British rider Matt Sampson landed the 1.40m winning round at Spruce Meadows, Canada, once again riding Curraghgraigue Obos Flight. He posted the winning double clear in 51.23sec.
“IT’S AMAZING TO JUMP MY FIRST DOUBLE CLEAR FOR THE TEAM”
Great Britain’s Lily Attwood (Calvaro’s Up To Date) teamed up with Olivier Philippaerts for the Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses to clinch victory in the Global Champions League of Monaco. The London Knights pair of Mike Kawai and team debutant Sam Hutton finished second, ahead of Berlin Eagles, represented this week by Eoin McMahon and Philipp Weishaupt, in third.
“It felt amazing today to jump my first double clear for the team, my mare really lit up in this arena and to have this win with Olivier feels amazing,” said Lily. “Ginger is quite a small horse so I think this arena suits her so much.”
A DOUBLE WIN FOR MCLAIN WARD – WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NEXT?
USA rider McLain Ward landed a brace of big class wins at Aachen – Friday’s 1.60m RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia and Wednesday’s Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe, both riding Contagious.
“He’s on really good form and we’re aiming him towards the world championships – it’s one of the reasons we had this week planned for him, so we’ll stick to our plan and hopefully be in the mix,” he said.
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