New name picks up showjumping’s Grand Slam baton *H&H Plus*

  • Max Kühner becomes the latest contender to bid for the Rolex Grand Slam, while 19-year-old Jack Whitaker lands his first five-star victory at Indoor Brabant Horse Show, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands

    FIVE-star jumping made a spectacular return to Europe and although spectators were noticeably absent – the makeshift painted grandstands were a novel touch nevertheless – there were three days of top-flight sport to savour at Indoor Brabant Horse Show in the Netherlands.

    The new hero of the sport is Max Kühner, who triumphed in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix making him the first new live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping since Martin Fuchs lifted the baton in Geneva back in 2019.

    The Austrian rider, ranked 23 in the world, triumphed after an eight-way jump-off. Germany’s Christian Kukuk took an early lead with the 11-year-old gelding Checker 47 and it wasn’t until the penultimate partnership – Max and the 10-year-old Elektric Blue P scorched round – that his time was beaten, by over a second. Last to go was 32-year-old Brazilian rider Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (VDL Edgar M), who came to the final obstacle slightly behind the clock to take the runner-up spot.

    “The Rolex Grand Slam has always been a big aim for me so I’m very happy that it worked out today,” said Max, who collected a first prize of €231,000 (£200,227).

    Max has represented his country at championship level and bought the German-bred 10-year-old by Eldorado VD Zeshoek, out of a For Pleasure mare, as a two-year-old.

    “I saw him do one free jump on a video and I said I liked him,” remembered Max. “The auction was already running so we bought him.

    “He’s always done everything very well, he was always a very good horse, and he never disappointed me. He has unbelievable possibilities, as jumping is quite easy for him. He has a good character and likes to do the sport.”

    At home, Max says the gelding “gets bored quite easily” so the team have designed a special programme for him and the plentiful hillwork has done wonders at improving his condition.

    “We hack him and drive him to where he can climb a little bit in the mountains,” said Max.

    As the new contender for the Rolex Grand Slam, Max already has the next legs at Spruce Meadows and Aachen in September on his schedule, but there will be some juggling required with the European Championships also set to run the same month.

    “We will aim to take Chardonnay 79 to Calgary, as he finished third in the last Spruce Meadows Grand Prix in 2019, where he jumped very nicely, and maybe we’ll take Elektric Blue to Aachen.”

    Whitaker lands his first five-star prize

    WHILE 19-year-old Jack Whitaker completed with a creditable eight faults on Valmy De La Lande in his first attempt at a Rolex Grand Prix, he landed Saturday’s feature class, the 41-starter 1.55m Audi Prize, on the 11-year-old mare Scenletha.

    A confident and dazzling performance over Louis Konickx’s testing jump-off track claimed Jack his first five-star success as he topped the leaderboard ahead of US rider Kent Farrington (Creedance) and Scott Brash riding Hello Vincent.

    “The feeling is fantastic – it’s what everyone comes here to do,” said Jack. “But among some of these world-class riders, it’s a bit surreal to win!

    “Scenletha is unbelievable, she’s such a nice horse. She’s so consistent and she’s got a lovely character, but she’s also feisty. Tonight she fought for me a bit, and I can’t thank her enough. She’ll get plenty of Polos and pats later.”

    Jack credited the Young Riders Academy for helping to put him in this position.

    “I just hope that they can continue supporting and helping young riders like me,” he said.

    Daniel Deusser overcomes

    GERMANY’S world number two Daniel Deusser landed victory on day one after a nail-biting international showdown with the 12-year-old Casallvano.

    “Having walked the course, I was quite surprised that there were so many clear rounds,” explained Daniel. “I have to say, all the lines and the turns worked out really well. Casallvano is actually a really scopey horse. He’s a little bit shy when he comes into the ring, but that’s also a positive part of being very careful on the jumps.

    “Although he’s a very fast horse, I had in the last one or two weeks a couple of turns that didn’t work out like I expected. But I finally came to that point today where everything works out, which makes me very proud.

    “Considering the circumstances, it’s difficult that we can do our job at the moment. The organisation here and the sponsors did a great job to make that happen and let us ride again.”

    Among the other five-star winners was Ireland’s Denis Lynch, who took top honours in Saturday’s 1.45m jump-off class with his super-consistent 14-year-old stallion Cristello. He just pipped Laura Kraut to the post on Constable II, one of several good placings over the weekend for the US rider.

    This report is also available to read in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound, on sale Thursday 29 April

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