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Henrik von Eckermann and Castello 194 fly to the win in dramatic Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
CHIO Aachen 2018

Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle Henrik von Eckermann and Castello 194 won the eventful Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen. Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle.

In what turned out to be a truly dramatic competition, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Castello 194 (Cristallo 7 x Lifestyle) went off with the victory in Wednesday’s 1.60m Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe at CHIO Aachen.

There were eleven clears in the first round, but dominating were the many poles down, refusals, eliminations, crashes and later on also falls when it was time for the jump-off – illustrating how unpredictable this sport can be and how quickly things can turn.

For Henrik von Eckermann the win was perhaps a surprise, although not completely unexpected. “I knew the horse would fit this ring very well, it is a big, scopey and really straight-forward horse. I did not know that I would win, but I had a good feeling,” Von Eckermann said.

The first-round track set by Frank Rothenberg was certainly not an easy one, but as first to go Philipp Weisshaupt and L.B. Convall (Colman x Cascavelle) – previous winners of the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen and at Spruce Meadows – made it look deceptively so. When it took another eighteen riders before the next clear came, delivered by Leopold van Asten (NED) on VDL Groep Miss Untouchable (Chacco-Blue x Aldatus), it slowly became evident that this would be no walk in the park: Aachen is after all Aachen.

Counting thirteen fences, which included a triple combination at 4abc, a tricky line from the open water to a Rolex vertical and then to a skinny white gate, a combination with a vertical to a wide oxer at 10ab – and then finally a line from the penultimate triple bar which asked the horses to really stretch before they had to come back again for a very difficult double of uprights consisting of two wavy black planks – the course was a marathon of challenges. Again, and again the uprights in the last combination fell to the ground – and it also at its most extreme caused elimination.

Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle McLain Ward and the incredible HH Azur finished second. Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle.

Home heroine Laura Klaphake made light work of the course however to produce the next clear on the lovely Catch Me If You Can (Catoki x Acordplus), and the crowds went wild – but neither she nor Weishaupt would return to the jump-off later on, opting to save their horses. Following another seven clears, Marcus Ehning also joined in for the hosts riding Funky Fred (For Pleasure x Pilot) as last to go – much to the joy of the enthusiastic Aachen-crowds that counted 29.000 in total for the main ring today.

First to go in the jump-off, Leopold van Asten had to see two poles fall over the shortened course – that counted eight fences and nine jumps as it included the first part of the former triple combination.

As next to go, Yuri Mansur (BRA) had a very unfortunate accident with Vitiki (Valentino x For Expo) when having a fall at the third oxer – luckily the Brazilian rider could get up after taking a real tumble but the 10-year-old stallion had to be brought out of the ring by horse ambulance to receive veterinary treatment. Event Director Frank Kemperman could later inform that Vitiki had sustained an injury on the pastern bone, and had been brought on to another clinic for further examinations.  

The unexpected brake might have cause Luciana Diniz (POR) and Fit For Fun 13 (For Pleasure x Fabriano) to lose a bit of their focus, and the two had an unfortunate rail coming out of the combination – finally ending fifth.

Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle Best for the hosts: Marcus Ehning and Funky Fred. Photo (c) Tiffany Van Halle.

It looked really good for Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento), who raced around the track convincingly until the penultimate oxer where they had a misunderstanding causing the impressive mare to jump more of less through the fence – luckily it looked like both horse and rider got away with only a bit of scare.

The first double-clear round would come from McLain Ward (USA) and his power-house HH Azur (Thunder v. Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui), that made both rounds look rather easy – eating both the fences and the ground in the huge grass ring in Aachen to take the lead with a time of 47.56 seconds. Long-lasting it was not however, with Henrik von Eckermann following next on Castello – moving quickly across the ground to bring the time down to 47.30 seconds.

Laura Kraut (USA) brought more undesired drama to the class, when parting ways with Confu (Contact Me x Camebridge) at the Rolex vertical – thankfully the two left the ring intact. Darragh Kenny had an early rail down on Westbrook (Jaguar Mail x Cardento), still good enough for fourth in the end while Marcus Ehning closed off the jump-off with a clear in 48-72 seconds to take the third place with his home-bred Funky Fred.

“My first time here in Aachen I rode his mother, Panama. A couple of years later, his father For Pleasure so it’s a quite nice story for me. He was born at our yard, so in a special way it’s a special horse for me,” said Ehning about Funky Fred.

About the dramatic jump-off, Ehning explained: “The first round was really long, already seventeen jumps. It was warm, and I think a few were tired.”

Von Eckermann filled in, saying: “It was quite a risky turn back to the blue oxer, perhaps not so nicely build – down in that corner the sun is not coming on so much and the ground goes a little bit away so it’s not such a nice turn back there. For my horse, I could keep the turn short and keep him balanced there on his back legs so I did not have the risk to slip. But, I’m lucky, I have a scopey horse that can jump an oxer out of nothing – with another horse you need to go out of the turn with a bit of speed and that is when it gets a bit critical as to whether they slip or not.”

Von Eckermann and Castello 194 will return for Sunday's Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen, open to fourty horse-and-rider combinations, that will battle it out for the 1.000.000 Euro prize purse.


Text © World of Showjumping

Pictures © Tiffany Van Halle

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