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"This victory was really for her”: Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga vh Dingeshof win the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule

Sunday, 11 June 2023
CSIO5* La Baule 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. “Katanga really deserved this victory, she has been so close so many times before,” Nicola Philippaerts said after his win in the €500,000 CSIO5* 1.60m Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



A breath-taking jump-off from Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga vh Dingeshof secured them the victory in the prestigious €500,000 CSIO5* 1.60m Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule on Sunday afternoon. “Katanga really deserved this victory, she has been so close so many times before,” Philippaerts said. “I always struggle a bit in the jump-offs because sometimes she can turn a bit difficult to the left, but today she felt great – this victory was really for her!” 

It was jam-packed for Sunday’s highlight at Jumping International de La Baule; the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable La Baule-crowd – which over the week has counted 45.000 spectators in total – created an incredible atmosphere in the François André Stadium, which was filled to the brim as 50 world-class horse-and-rider combinations tested themselves over Gregory Bodo’s masterpiece of a track. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga vh Dingeshof, winners of the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The horses and riders were challenged from the beginning to the end over Bodo’s fourteen-fence track. The course included a wall at no. 3 leading to the open water at no. 4 followed by seven strides to an oxer filled with four bushes, before the Rolex triple combination waited a little further out at no. 7abc – with an oxer on two strides to an upright and one stride out over an oxer – then five forward or six short strides to a skinny white vertical, a triple bar at no. 9 followed by a line on six or seven strides to a vertical-oxer combination, then an oxer on four strides to a Rolex plank, and finally an upright on six or seven strides to a huge liverpool oxer as the very last jump. Faults spread out, but the oxer at no. 5 as well as the triple combination caught out quite a few, as did the upright at 10a and also the plank at no. 11. 

Much to the delight of the La Baule-crowd it was Gregory Cottard (FRA) and his wonderful Bibici (Norman Pre Noir x Nelfo du Mesnil) – second into the ring – who were the first to post a clear round, making it explode at the François André Stadium. So, when Nicolas Delmotte (FRA) one rider later followed up with a clear on Ilex VP (Diamant de Semilly x Darco) to secure a jump-off, the spectators went wild. Joining these two French riders in the jump-off were Yuri Mansur (BRA) and QH Alfons Santo Antonio (Aromats x False Pass), Edouard Schmitz (SUI) and Gamin Van’t Naastveldhof (Chacco Chacco x Toulon), Marcus Westergren (SWE) and Fellaini de Liebri Z (Faustino de Tili x San Patrignano Corrado), Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Orelie (Emerald vh Ruytershof x Nabab de Reve), Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) and Deesse de Coquerie (Consul de la Vie Z x Papillon Rouge), as well as Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and Major Tom (Vagabond de La Pomme x Heartbreaker).

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. Runners-up: Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Half-way into the Grand Prix, the class got an abrupt break when Ben Maher (GBR) pulled up his Olympic champion Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet) who all of a sudden appeared lame on his left front leg after having cleared the five first fences of the course. Luckily, medical expertise came quickly to assist, and the 14-year-old gelding was driven out of the ring in an equine ambulance for a veterinary examination. The organising committee later stated Explosion W was “doing well” and that he would be “returning to his stables, surrounded by Ben Maher's entire team”.

When the competition resumed, Kevin Staut (FRA) and Dialou Blue PS (Diarado’s Boy x Chacco-Blue) posted the 9th clear of the Grand Prix – much to the delight of the crowds. World no. one Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and Iliana (Cardento x Gentleman) also joined the jump-off, as did Beth Underhill (CAN) – winner of the 2022-edition of this Grand Prix – and Nikka vd Bisschop (Emerald vh Ruytershof x Nabab de Reve), Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and Katanga vh Dingeshof (Cardento x Tornedo FCS), Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Ace of Hearts (Aliandro B x Ramanov ESH 17), as well as Jens Fredricson (SWE) and Markan Cosmopolit (Cohiba 1198 x Calido I) – making it a total of fourteen to battle it out against the clock for the prestigious title.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. The third place went to Henrik von Eckermann and Iliana. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

First to return for the jump-off, Cottard put pressure on the rest when racing around the shortened track to stop the clock at 37.58. Delmotte, next in the ring, could not match Cottard’s speed and finished with a clear round in 39.47. Third to go, Mansur had a brick down on the wall, but he showed there was room for improvement when bringing the time down to 37.09. 

Perhaps Westergren took this as inspiration when posting the next clear – easily shaving the time down to 36.87 seconds with a lightning-fast round on the quick and clever Fellaini de Liebri Z that wasted no time around the shortened track. Two riders later, Pessoa and his powerful Major Tom gave it a good shot, and were slightly ahead with two fences left, but lost a bit time in the roll-back to the penultimate vertical – and slotted into preliminary second with a time of 37.23. 

The crowds in La Baule then got a demonstration of why Henrik von Eckermann for the last eleven months has been world no. one. Slightly behind when landing after the Rolex upright, with three jumps left, the Swedish rider really tightened the turns to the next two fences and went flat out to the last – not once pulling back – to cross the finish line in an incredible 36.47 seconds, 0.40 faster than his compatriot Westergren.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. The podium in the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule: Nicola Philippaerts, Jens Fredricson and Henrik von Eckermann. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Last year’s winner Beth Underhill could not match the times of the top four, leaving the door open for the three remaining riders. Not intimidated by von Eckermann’s round, Nicola Philippaerts threw the gauntlet down from the beginning – putting Katanga in a gear worthy of a F1 vehicle. Cheered on by the crowds, Philippaerts raced down the last line at an unbelievable speed, and crossing the finish line the clock showed 36.06 seconds – it exploded in La Baule and the Belgian rider punched his helmet in the air in celebration! In his chase of Philippaerts, Wathelet had to see one pole fall to the ground, but Fredricson came dangerously close when going flat down the last line to stop the clock at 36.38 seconds – pushing his compatriots von Eckermann and Westergren to third and fourth, and Pessoa to fifth.

“First of all, I thought there were so many clears and that this was never going to be a jump-off for me,” Philippaerts said. “When I watched Henrik’s round, I just thought I would have to go as quick as I could. She’s a fast horse by nature, our turns turned out well and she gave me everything.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. “We have a fantastic partnership, and over the years I really built up a lot of trust in her," Nicola Philippaerts said about his fantastic Katanga vh Dingeshof. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Over the years, Phlippaerts and Katanga have developed a special partnership, but it’s no secret that the mare is not the easiest. “In the beginning I had to compromise a lot with her and I struggled a bit, but with age and experience she has gotten a bit easier – I think she really has a fighting mentality and if she would not be like this, I don’t think she would jump as good as she does. It’s her strength, even though it sometimes makes it a bit difficult for me,” Philippaerts smiled. “We have a fantastic partnership, and over the years I really built up a lot of trust in her. Although she sometimes makes it a bit difficult for herself, she then only jumps even better – so I just try to stay quiet and let her do the work.”

“I was thinking no gas, no glory,” Fredricson laughed about his round as last to go. “I saw Rodrigo doing a holding nine strides to the last, so I decided to try to do the eight. I did eight to the wall, seven to the combinations, and then I did not really know and so I just said to myself ‘go on!’ He did it quite easy, so I was very happy with my horse and also actually with my own riding today.”

“Today, I did not have the jump-off I wanted; I knew I left the door a bit open but at the same time I was so delighted with my mare – she is only 10-years-old and is just starting out in the top sport. Everyone knows King Edward, but with a second horse like her – it’s a great feeling, I’m really, really happy,” world no. one von Eckermann said about his third place finish that concluded a great week of sport for the Belgians, Swedes and Brazilians in La Baule. 



11.6.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

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