As the only pair with three clear rounds, Christian Ahlmann and Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz) won the 1.000.000 Euro Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen. A German win, three German riders in a five-horse-jump-off, thrills and spills – including a terrible fall in the first round and some dramatic exits in the second round – filled the most prestigious Grand Prix in the world with every thinkable ingredient needed to make a real thriller of a competition where the crowds covered their eyes, held their breath and erupted in wild applause for excellent performances from the world's best riders.
The first round track was as expected huge and extremely demanding. The line from the vertical at five to the open water at six followed by a vertical-oxer-oxer triple combination showed that course designer Frank Rothenberger was serious about separating the best from the rest. It did not stop there though as two verticals waited, before the dreaded double-of-water combination was up next. An imposing oxer, a tall upright and another huge oxer filled up the remains of the thirteen fence track on the other side of the lake.
In the end fifteen riders went clear. Six of them were German, so the chances for a home win looked pretty god – but the American riders also came strong in force into round two with three riders going clear. These fifteen riders were joined by Eric Lamaze – that ended the first round with a time penalty – and the fastest four-faulters from round one; Steve Guerdat and Lucy Davis.
The only 21 year old Davis opened up well on her double clear round-ride from Thursday's Nations Cup, Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve), showing no nerves to tackle the second round track clean ending on a total of four penalties. It did not go as well for the Rolex Grand Prix winners from Geneva though – Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) – they had a stop at the a-element of the combination placed as the third fence sailing through it and the Swiss rider retired his Olympic Champion.
And the exits continued. Eric Lamaze and Zigali P S (Kigali x Palfrenier) got the take-off to the fourth oxer totally wrong and more or less ended in the middle of it, and retired. After three down for Andre Thieme and Contanga 3 (Catoki x Contango) – the first of the clear pairs returning for round two, Paul Estermann retired Castlefield Eclipse (Obos Quality x Furisto) after a stop at 3a and then a bad landing in the middle-element of the triple combination. The next three riders – Jeroen Dubbeldam, Luciana Diniz and Yann Candele all had fences down – Jeroen and Luciana a pole each and Yann two, while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum chose not to jump the fantastic Fibonacci 17 (For Feeling x Corland) in round two.
Although a lot lighter than the first round track, the second one still took its toll on the horses. Thirteen fences waited, including a double early on and a triple combination half way with a wall towards the end, a giant of an oxer and the Rolex plank as the final fence.
Three strong bids for the win followed, as Christian Ahlmann on Codex One, Marcus Ehning on Plot Blue (Mr. Blue x Pilot) and Kent Farrington on Voyeur (Tolano Van´t Riethof x Goodwill) all rode clear rounds – with the two home riders making the roof lift as the crowds in Aachen went off the hooks. After one down for Henrik von Eckermann, it was time for another home clear – courtesy of Daniel Deusser and Cornet D'Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani). Three more riders had a poles down; Margie Engel, Ludger Beerbaum and Gregory Wathelet. An incredible second round from Lauren Hough and the tiny Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento) secured them a spot in the jump-off, making it a battle between Germany and the USA.
In the end it was more a one-man-show than anything else though, as Christian Ahlmann took control of the jump-off from start to finish. After the first oxer, the jump-off track opened for a long stretch to gallop to the Rolex plank before a turn waited back to the DHL vertical and then another turn back to the Turkish Airlines oxer. Then came a combination and a race to the final Rolex vertical.
And as always, Christian's accurate riding brought him in pole position. Opening up the 12 year old stallion's canter on the stretches, and then getting a perfect angel over the DHL vertical as well as the following oxer – before he cleared the final two challenges he stopped the clock on 46.59 seconds. It looked like it would be possible to beat, but Christian's round put plenty of pressure on those to come.
And the remaining four all tried, but without succeeding. Marcus Ehning and the oldest horse in the class – Plot Blue aged 17 years old – were faster at 46.01, but had the DHL vertical down. Then followed Kent Farrington who went flat out all around only to hit the final vertical. The time was amazing though with 2.68 seconds down to Christian, and Kent slotted in between the two German riders. Just like Marcus, Daniel had the DHL vertical down on his lovely grey partner and went into fourth. The last attempt belonged to Lauren Hough, but as she had the Rolex plank down – and also the last – the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen belonged to Christian Ahlmann who gets his name on the famous board of winners as well as in the history books – not to forget, we guess, on Otto Becker's shortlist for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
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