The International Division at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show ended with a seven-way foot-race tonight, and it was Belgian Nicola Philippaerts who emerged victorious.
The initial track of 16 jumping efforts set at 1.60m by course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil, was set with a tight time allowed of 79 seconds. The first two riders in the ring (Canada's Ian Millar and Quentin Judge for the United States) both jumped clean, but for one single time fault. Fortunately American Todd Minikus was able to show everyone how to do it, leading a select group of riders to a second round tie breaker.
Unfortunately the double-clean proved elusive, for Minikus and nearly everyone else in the jump-off - the angles, wide-open gallop and even a little bad luck worked against many. Although Minikus had the fastest time of the second round, he also pulled a rail in the process.
For Philippaerts there was never an option - going third in the order he knew he had to go fast and leave the jumps up if he was to have a shot with Challenge Vd Begijnakker (or Challenge, for short.)
"In the World Cup my horse was a bit spooky in the jump off," explained Philippaerts, "But tonight he jumped very well. I knew McLain was still to come, as were Beezie and Darragh - so many quick ones - I knew I would need a bit of luck and for them to have a fault. My horse jumped very well and I'm very happy."
Switzerland's Beat Mandli, competing at The Royal for the first time, opted for the conservative clear for ZaZa Harvey in the jump-off, which served them well, slotting into the runner-up position.
"ZaZa is quite a young horse at this level, this is basically his second grand prix," related Mandli. "It was a big test for me, there were some big questions, and he's a very careful and very honest horse. This was the biggest class he has jumped and that's why I didn't go fast in the jump-off."
The remainder of the field although fast, each pulled a rail - in fact all were faster than Mandli but in the end it was the clean round which mattered most.
$70,000 GroupBy Big Ben Challenge
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Faults : Time
1. Nicola Philippaerts / Belgium / Challenge Vd Begijnakker/0 : 36.90
2. Beat Mandli / Switzerland / ZaZa Harvey / 0 : 42.76
3. Todd Minikus / Loxahatchee, FL / Quality Girl / 4 : 34.80
4. Daniel Bluman / Columbia / Apardi / 4 : 35.16
5. McLain Ward / Brewster, NY / HH Carlos Z / 4 : 35.72
Source; Press release from the Royal Horse Show
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