World of Showjumping
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Gregory Wathelet continues his winning ways with Kristalic in $32,000 CSI4* 1.45m Classic

Monday, 18 March 2024
CSI4* Desert International Horse Park 2024

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Gregory Wathelet and Kristalic. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.


Press release from Desert International Horse Park



Originally it was not the plan to step Kristalic, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, into the FEI ranks for the final week of Desert Circuit. But with the way the schedule worked out, the horse preferred the sand ring, so CSI4* action it was. And with Gregory Wathelet (BEL) aboard, the horse walked away with a second victory of the week in Sunday’s $32,000 Heavy Metal Equipment CSI4* 1.45m Classic, proving he’s a top contender for the higher levels.

“It was not the plan at the beginning to do the FEI,” Wathelet said of Kristalic’s schedule. “When we saw it was on sand, we thought better to do the 1.45m on sand than to try to do the 1.40m National on grass. We tried three weeks ago to jump on the grass and it was not feeling so good. I must say he has improved a lot. He’s really confident on the height because he’s very careful. Sometimes he needs to trust himself that he can jump this height.”

Wathelet took the ride aboard Kristalic and several other Morning Star Sporthorses-owned mounts while Karrie Rufer takes a sideline position awaiting her first child. With each of Rufer’s rides, Wathelet has produced excellent results.

“I rode him last year and I liked him because he has a big heart he wants to do well even if sometimes you have to fight for him,” Wathelet explained of the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Arezzo VDL x Baltic VDL). “He’s a super nice horse. I don’t know what he’s going to do in the end but for sure this level, and Karrie will have fun when she takes the reins of him.”

Wathelet has enjoyed his time in California not just competing in and watching top-level show jumping, but also getting out and experiencing other top sports in the area, including an NBA game and the tennis tournament nearby.

“In general I like many sports,” he explained. “I don’t really follow basketball but while we’re here it’s always good to see good sports. I went to the tennis [tournament] two days ago. It’s just amazing to see these amazing players.”

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo Gregory Wathelet and Kristalic in their winning presentation. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

Wathelet has his eyes on a big prize this year, and it’s the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but before then he has several other major events, like the upcoming FEI Longines League of Nations and FEI World Cup Finals, to help him be considered as a Belgian team member.

“I’ve always been a team rider for Belgium and I like the big championships and events,” he shared. “For sure the team events are a bit different. For sure the [Olympic] Games it’s something we want to do. We really do everything we can to be ready for going there to be part of the team.”

The strategy for making an Olympic team begins far in advance, as many top riders think about Olympic prospects before they even acquire them for their string.

“I’m lucky now I have two amazing horses,” he said of his top two, Bond Jamesbond de Hay and Ace Of Hearts, a horse that jumped in Thermal in 2023. “I think we have a big chance to get on. I have planned a program since December for my main horse, Jamesbond. He has proven already big things, but I still has to do good things at the next show he’s going to do and I have to feel like he’s fit ready good to go, otherwise I don’t want to go [to the Olympics] just to go.”

The Belgian squad has been one to watch for several years, and they’re in a bit of a building phase according to Wathelet, but they still shouldn’t be counted out, especially as their current horses continue to get older.

“I think Belgium has been quite good the last seven or eight years,” he expressed. “We are at a point where some horses are a little bit older, like mine, Nevados S, Jerome [Guery]’s Quel Homme de Hus, and a few others that have retired. We have a new set of horses. For me it’s not as strong as it was the previous year but I think we can have a good team. In Belgium there are maybe not enough horses for championships but very strong riders. If it’s not this year it will be very soon they’re going to get horses for that level.”

In second in the $32,000 Heavy Metal Equipment CSI4* 1.45m Classic was Kaitlin Campbell aboard Conova, owned by Sweet Oak Farm, while Vani Khosla secured third with Incitatus.

Overall, it’s been a successful season for Wathelet, peaking with several horses at the final week and taking home valuable miles and prize money.


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