Maikel van der Vleuten blew the competition aside at the beautiful CSI3* event in Maastricht tonight when winning the Longines Trophy. The popular Dutch rider also won last year's edition – and on the same horse, VDL Groep Sapphire (Mr. Blue x Grand Veneur SF). With four home riders on the top, Timothy Hendrix finished second, Albert Zoer third and Frank Schuttert fourth the Limburg crowd got value for their ticket money and the atmosphere reached a climax in the ring at MECC.
Ten out of the fourty riders produced clear rounds over Loius Konickx first round twelve fence 1.55 track. It was a hard task that waited for the riders, especially the final four fences asked for special caution with a tight turn back by the in-gate from the VDL vertical at nine to the following vertical at ten before a bend line on six forward or seven short strides waited to an oxer at eleven that many had down. Then it was four more strides to the final oxer, before riders and horses could take time to breathe crossing the finish line.
As first to go Timothy Hendrix made it all look so easy though, and when Yuri Mansur – second in the ring – floated around to go clear as well it looked like that the track rode easier than it walked. In the end, the perfect number of riders reached the jump-off as the opening clear riders were joined by eight more.
Once again Hendrix had the hard task as path finder, but for a second time he made light work of the track aboard the bouncy Cedrick (Couleur-Rubin x Quattro B). Not once pulling back, and choosing a forward distance on every open stretch the Dutch rider recorded a great time as the clock showed 39.49 as Timothy crossed the finish line. It would prove very hard to beat, and it was not until the last rider that Hendrix would be pushed out of his pole position.
Yuri Mansur had the penultimate vertical down on the very well jumping Amor (Namelus R x Haarlem), while Annelies Vorsselmans went for a slow clear on Chambertino 2 (Contendro I x Dynamo). Home hero Frank Schuttert gave it a real go on the scopey Epleaser van't Heike (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve), but when making an inside-turn to the final oxer he lost a little rhythm and finished on a time of 40.30 seconds to slot into runner-up position. Judy-Ann Melchior also rode another clear round on the lovely As Cold as Ice Z (Artos Z x Carthago Z), eventually finishing sixth.
Albert Zoer slotted in between Hendrix and Schuttert when doing another great clear round on the only eight year old Gigolo (Cicero x Quickfeuer van Koekshof), to stop the clock on 40.13 to loud cheers from the home crowd. Katharina Offel also set off in a high pace on the power house Quebracho Semilly (Le Tot de Semilly x Eyken des Fontenis), but a light touch on the Audi oxer caused the front pole to fall. Offel was followed by Jessica Kürten on Arezzo VDL (Chin Chin x Heartbreaker) who did a great performance to go clear again, eventually finishing fifth. Sergio Alvarez Moya and Red Star d'Argent (Quick Star) suffered the same faith as Offel, and had one down in the attempt to catch Hendrix's time.
As last to go in the ring, it was a determined Maikel van der Vleuten who set off on VDL Groep Sapphire. Few is as fast as this couple, and Maikel left little doubt he was in the jump-off to win. The 15 year old mare responded to Maikel's wishes, and opened with a race down the first opening stretch before clearing the combination then turning tight back to the Audi oxer that lead to the Longines oxer. Coming speeding in on an angel to the penultimate VDL vertical, Maikel did an amazing turn inside the oxer in front of it to roll back in racetrack tempo to the final oxer – cheered on by the audience who gave Van der Vleuten a standing ovation when the clock stopped on 38.90 seconds to win the competition for a second year in a row!
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