It was a difficult task that faced the 39 riders in the Rolex Grand Prix in Den Bosch on Sunday afternoon, but that did not get to France's leading rider Kevin Staut – who after two fantastic clear rounds took home the win by the tiniest of margins with 0.01 seconds down to runner-up Marco Kutscher. It was a good day for the French, as Kevin's long time girlfriend Penelope Leprevost ended third.
The class opened quite dramatically as Pius Schwizer looked set for a clear round, but his rein snapped after the wall at fence ten and the Swiss rider sadly had to withdraw. One rider later Leprevost set the first clear of the day though, riding Nice Stephanie (Cardento x Ralme Z) determinedly around the thirteen fence track – the mare had a small rub on the b-element of the triple combination but the pole stayed in the cups. Five riders more left the ring with faults, and when the next clear round came it was from Staut and Silvana HDC (Corland x Widor) – securing a jump-off with two French riders in it. Then more drama followed as Maikel van der Vleuten left the ring with two refusals, and Hamad Ali Mohamed A Al Attiyah fell off Bellan Donna 66 (Baldini II x Calido I) at the wall.
The faults spread out around the thirteen fence track, but many had light rubs on the Rabobank oxer that was fence three – to see the front pole fall – and the middle element of the triple combination at 8abc also fell frequently to the ground. In the end no less than six riders were placed on four faults.
The next clear came from Great Britain's Joe Clee who continues to impress aboard Diablesse de Muze (Baloubet du Rouet x Nabab de Reve). It was a very happy Clee that crossed the finish line on a clean sheet after superb riding. Edwina Tops-Alexander looked set to join the jump-off on Old Chap Tame (Carthago) but when she stopped the clock she was over the time allowed and in the end the Australian rider had to settle for sixth place. The two last riders to move forward to the jump-off was Ireland's 18 year old Bertram Allen who on Molly Malone (Kannan x Cavalier) demonstrated his riding skills with an amazing clear round. And as third last to go Marco Kutscher and Cornet's Cristallo (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot) secured the ultimate position in the jump-off with the last clear of the class. The class ended in the same dramatically way as it started when Christian Ahlmann's horse Aragon Z (Askari x Kolibri) stopped by the entrance on the way to the combination and went up on two legs – nearly losing his balance. It was Christian's horseman skills that saved the situation, and he managed to get the gelding going again and completed the course.
Penelope opened up the jump-off on Nice Stephanie and went all in from the beginning. A race to the penultimate vertical and to the final oxer gave her a fabulous time at 43.11 and the pressure was on the rest. Next in was Kevin, and he showed no mercy on Silvana HDC. When he landed after the combination he was already ahead of Penelope, and with an extremely fast turn back from the penultimate vertical to the final Rolex oxer he took over the lead by 0.15 seconds. When Joe had the front pole on the first oxer down, and Bertram had two down the door was left open for Marco Kutscher. Putting Cornet's Cristallo in top gear Marco showed he was in it to win, and it looked like he was about to until he put in an extra stride to the final Rolex oxer loosing valuable time – and when he stopped the clock it proved the decision to do so had cost him the win by a mere 0.01 seconds and the German rider had to settle for second between Kevin and Penelope.
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