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Gregory Wathelet wins €1.000.000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen

Sunday, 23 July 2017
CSIO5* Aachen 2017

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson. The winners, Gregory Wathelet and Coree, showed off at the prize giving in Aachen. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

After a spectacular jump-off, Gregory Wathelet went off with the victory in the € 1.000.000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen following three beautiful clear rounds on the 11-year-old mare Coree (Cornet Obolensky x Liberty Life).

The first round track was as tough as can be expected for the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen, and in the end only seven of the 40 riders managed to produce clear rounds. It was the open water placed as jump no. five that claimed the first victim of the competition, when in a very dramatic opening round Bernard Briand Chevalier’s (FRA) Qadillac du Heup (Helios de la Cour II x Thurin) had a bad fall after hesitating slightly ahead of the take-off. A full medical team came into the ring to help, but luckily both horse and rider left the ring on foot without the horse ambulance having to assist.

As usual in Aachen, the open water played its part placed on six strides from a set of wavy black planks. But, it was the next line that would prove the real heartbreaker of round one. An airy oxer out of a right turn coming from the water followed by five strides to a vertical-oxer combination with water trays beneath, saw the horses and riders making mistakes again and again. The combination’s massive wide oxer jumping out put top horses such as HH Azur (Thunder v. Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui v. Zuuthoeve), Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) and Good Luck (Canturo x Furioso II) in trouble – all faulted here with Cian O’Connor (IRL) almost parting ways with the latter. Also Bertram Allen (IRL) was close to biting the dust when Hector van d´Abdijhoeve (Cabrio van de Heffinck x Utrillo van de Heffinck) put his legs in between the top poles on the oxer at six, and made the crowds gasp for air as he took the rails down with him. Maximum unlucky, Allen was one of the few riders that fell victim of some serious downpour as the skies yet again opened over the Soers showground – and eventually he made the choice to retire.  

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Coree and Gregory Wathelet en route to victory in Aachen.

The first clears of the competition came from two young and talented riders: First Frank Schuttert (NED) made it look easy as no. seven in the ring on Chianti’s Champion (Champion du Lys x Capitol I), then Laura Klaphake (GER) made the home crowds go crazy when posting the second clean sheet on the lovely Catch Me If You Can (Catoki x Acordplus).

One rider later, three clears followed straight after each other: First from Luciana Diniz (POR) and Fit For Fun (For Pleasure x Fabriano), then from Gregory Wathelet (BEL) on Coree as well as Marc Houtzager (NED) on Sterrehof’s Calimero (Quidam de Revel x Libero H). It was close to being one more as well, but unfortunately for Andreas Kreuzer and Calvilot (Calvaro Z x Quilot) they crossed the finish line with a time fault after clearing all thirteen jumps.

Despite losing a shoe on the water jump, Eric Lamaze’s Fine Lady 5 (Forsyth FRH x Drosselklang II) jumped around easily to go clear although her rider really worked it on the final line consisting of a triple combination with two enormous oxers and a vertical and then seven or eight strides down to a massive oxer as the last fence. Also this line claimed many victims, such as Rolex Grand Slam-winner Scott Brash (GBR) who nevertheless proceeded to round two with his four faults.

The last clear in the first round came from a couple that also were double clear in Friday’s Nations Cup: Laura Kraut on the lovely Zeremonie (Cero x Quick Star), making it a total of seven without faults for the seconds round joined by Kreuzer on a time fault and ten riders on four faults – making it 18 overall. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Runners-up: Luciana Diniz and Fit For Fun.

The second round saw clears coming from Cian O’Connor, Scott Brash, McLain Ward (USA), Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) – but a little over half-way it was Andreas Kreuzer that took the lead when he went for the safest option and recorded another time penalty to take the lead with two faults overall.

As next to go, Marc Houtzager entered the ring as the first rider with a clean sheet from round one. The Dutch rider produced yet another beautiful clear, going into pole position. Neither Schuttert or Klaphake managed to repeat their clears from the first round, each having a fence down – so by the time Luciana Diniz entered the ring, Houtzager had the only double clear of the class. However, Diniz kept her calm and guided Fit For Fun around the twelve fence track without errors – and a jump-off was secured.

Gregory Wathelet took his time around the second track, and made sure the wonderful Coree continued to jump full of confidence – and crossing the finish line the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen had three contenders for the jump-off. Next to go, Laura Kraut also joined in with the lovely Zeremonie jumping yet another double clear in Aachen. As last to go, Eric Lamaze could have made it a total of five for the jump-off but that was not to be as Fine Lady 5 clipped the a-element jumping into the triple combination – leaving the pair out. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof's Calimero were the third and last triple-clear couple.

First back for the jump-off was Marc Houtzager, who produced yet another masterful clear on Sterrehof’s Calimero – but left the door open for those to come with his time of 53.6 seconds.

Luciana Diniz showed from the outset that she was in it for the win, setting off in a high pace on her lovely chestnut mare. Halfway, it was looking good for the Portuguese rider but then, in the turn towards the Mercedes-Benz oxer, Fit For Fun stumbled and the crowds gasped for air. Diniz managed to push forwards though, and still got a good stride to clear the jump before she took on the penultimate combination and then cleared the final Rolex oxer to take over the lead in 47.40 seconds.

It looked extremely hard to beat Diniz’s time, but Wathelet somehow managed to make the turn back to the Mercedes-Benz oxer even shorter and kept on urging his lovely white mare forwards over the last jumps being whistled and cheered on as he approached the last Rolex oxer. Crossing the finish line, Wathelet had managed the seemingly impossible and shaved off 0.80 seconds on Diniz’s time to go into the lead.

Laura Kraut was the only one who could threaten Wathelet, and it looked good until the final fence where a pole fell – with the American rider having to settle into the fourth place while Wathelet could celebrate winning no less than 330.000 Euro for his first Major victory. The victory also marked the beginning of Wathelet's Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping-hunt, which includes a possible bonus of an incredible one million Euro should he triumph at Spruce Meadows and in Geneva.

 


Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson

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