Nick Skelton and Big Star’s three clear rounds in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen will give them not only a place on the winners’ wall here, but also a place in the history books as one of those true super couples in the sport. Big Star is an extra ordinary horse; a dream to watch in the ring – and with Nick in the saddle the 10 year old stallion took home one of the biggest – if not the biggest – Grand Prix wins if the sport. It was only Nick and Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor) that managed to produce three clear rounds in the huge grass arena in Aachen, and they left Janika Sprunger and Palloubet d’Halong (Baloubet du Rouet x Muguet du Manoir) to second and Patrice Delaveau on Orient Express HDC (Quick Star x Le Tot de Semilly) to third.
Frank Rothenberger had build two imposing courses, and the fences were as expected – huge and wide. In round one it was the combination placed by the lake with water beneath that caused plenty of trouble half way in the thirteen fence track, and also the triple combination at 9abc (oxer-vertical-oxer) gave the riders a real challenge. The final line towards the entrance also had poles falling frequently as some horses ran empty of fuel.
Eight riders managed to ride clear rounds though; the first one came from Beezie Madden who was nr. one to go on Cortes ‘C (Randel Z x Darco) – the pair made it all look relatively uncomplicated. Five riders later it was Nick and Big Star that produced an amazing clear with fantastic rhythm around the track, making it look like a walk in the park. Half way in the class Janika jumped a fantastic round to go clear on her chestnut partner, who looked fresh and full of energy all the way. Patrice was the next to clear the course, before Harrie Smolders and Marc Houtzager both produced clear rounds for Holland. Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz) jumped great under Christian Ahlmann, and the packed stands in Aachen exploded for their home rider when he went clear. The last clear came from the winner from Thursday; Ben Maher on the incredible Cella (Cento x Chin Chin).
Daniel Deusser was really unlucky to record a single time fault on a very well jumping Cornet d’Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Daimiani) – while both Hans-Dieter Dreher and Billy Twomey saw the last Rolex plank fall much to their frustration.
The second round consisted of twelve fences and included a triple combination at 4abc and a Rolex combination as the final challenge at 12a and b. The first clear in the first round came from Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and the powerful Bella Donna (Baldini I x Calido I), and then Ludger followed up with a great clear on the Chiara (Contender x Coronado) – much to the home crowds joy. Shane Breen also joined in on Balloon (Baloubet du Rouet x Landcapitol), as did Steve Guerdat on Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) – but as all had penalties from the first round it was a case of wait and see what the clear round riders from round would be up to. When Daniel Deusser left the fences intact again he took the lead on Cornet d’Amour – and in the end his one time penalty overall earned him fourth place.
Out of the clear riders from the first round, it was only Janika, Nick and Patrice that managed to produce second clears – and with these three riders in the jump-off it was bound to be fast. Janika was first out and set off with incredible determination and speed around the shortened eight fence track. This Swiss girl has no fear, and went all in – but it came at the expense of the last element in the combination down as it simply got to short out for Palloubet d’Hallong. The time was the best of the day though at 53.48 seconds.
Nick was next and having watched Janika he took his time and slowed his wonderful stallion down into the combination that was half way in the jump-off, before he speeded up again to cross the finish line clear on 56.41 seconds putting some serious pressure on Patrice Delaveau who had the daunting task to chase Nick in front of a sold out house in Aachen. And Patrice tried, but unfortunately a pole fell in the combination and with a time of 53.75 the French rider had to settle for third. Nick could celebrate his fourth win in the Aachen Grand Prix, and a back-to-back for Great Britain who had Michael Whitaker winning here last year. With his win, Nick is also one step closer to the Grand Slam-title and a chance to write even more history.
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