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Inside The Rolex Grand Slam: With Ben Maher, Peder Fredricson and Gerard Lachat

Saturday, 11 December 2021
CHI Geneva 2021

Ben Maher wins the 20th Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Ben Maher and Explosion W. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

 

Edited press release from the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

 


 

Ten of the world’s very best show jumping athletes battled it out in the headline class on day two of CHI Geneva 2021, with each partnership vying to be crowned Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion in the 20th edition of this epic encounter. Contested over two rounds the Gérard Lachat- and Louis Konickx-designed course would be the ultimate test of horsemanship, requiring a perfect balance of speed, precision and harmony between horse and rider.

First to go, Frenchman Kevin Staut and his 14-year-old mare, Tolede de Mescam Harcour, were unlucky to put one fence down. Next up, current world number eight Jérôme Guery and his stallion, Quel Homme de Hus, crossed the finish line fault-free, much to the delight of the Belgian. Great Britain’s Ben Maher and his superstar gelding Explosion W followed Guery’s lead, making no mistake around the 12-obstacle test. Sweden's Henrik von Eckermann on the incredible King Edward also jumped a magnificent clear, and was followed by a procession of four Rolex Testimonees, Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, Kent Farrington and Martin Fuchs who were all unable to record a clear round. The last two riders out of the 10 starters – Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Swede Peder Fredricson – showed their class, breezing the course with ease, each without a fault. 

A slightly shortened second round, made up of nine obstacles, awaited the evening’s competitors. As well as the half-time break giving the volunteers an opportunity to modify the course, the Geneva Arena’s spectators were treated to some sad but celebratory words from legendary Canadian rider, Eric Lamaze, as his adored 18-year-old mare Fine Lady 5 was retired. Lamaze and Fine Lady won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in 2016, so the setting for a final goodbye was very fitting. 

First to go in round two, home favourite Martin Fuchs picked up another fault, while compatriot Steve Guerdat and partner Victorio Des Frotards were also unable to record a clear round. Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Scott Brash, made amends for his first round penalty and time fault, going clear, but accumulating a total of five penalties. 2017’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion, Kevin Staut and his stunning grey received a huge cheer from a delighted crowd after they went clear. Current world number one Peder Fredricson wasn’t to be so fortunate, picking up a second fault to finish on eight penalties. A stunning and assured round by Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward was enough to knock Staut off top spot. Uncharacteristically, Deusser’s mount Killer Queen VDM refused the second fence putting him out of contention. The penultimate pair to go, reigning Individual Olympic champion, Ben Maher and Explosion W went brilliantly clear, beating von Eckermann into second place by nearly two seconds. All eyes were then on Jérôme Guery to cause a late upset; however, a fence down and a slower time saw him slot into third, meaning Maher would be crowned 2021’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion, rounding off a truly memorable year. 

On the part that his team played in his victory, Maher, commented: “My team plays a huge part. My owners are here to watch this evening, and without them I wouldn’t be able to be riding Explosion W over the last few years. My groom Cormac has been with me since he was 16-years-old, so he’s grown up together with me, and it’s very special for me to see him take big moments like this, and it wouldn’t be possible without him.”

 


 

Riders interview with Peder Fredricson

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Peder Fredricson and H&M Catch Me Not S. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

If you could re-live one moment from your whole career, what would it be?

It would be the Team gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It was great to win there with my team, and it is a memory I will always treasure. 

For you, what makes a great team? 

I think that you can never be successful if you are on your own, you have to build a good team around you, who want to reach your goals as much as you do. That is the only way to achieve big ambitions.

Which other sports do you love to watch? 

I have a 14-year-old son who plays football. I wasn’t a big fan of the sport before, but now I am getting more interested in it. 

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you? 

I think it is fantastic that we have a Grand Slam in Show Jumping. It is always very exciting to watch these four shows, and it means a lot to the show jumping community to have them. 

Who has inspired you most throughout your career? 

All of the top riders inspire me, you can learn so much through watching all of them. 

What keeps you motivated and hungry for more success? 

I really enjoy developing things. If there is a new and better way of doing something, I find it very inspiring to learn how.

 


 

Walking the course with Gerard Lachat

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Gerard Lachat. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve prepared for the Rolex Grand Prix – the fourth Rolex Grand Slam Major of the year – on Sunday? 

Of course, we’re preparing something that will be slightly more difficult, as those competing are the best in the world. CHI Geneva and The Dutch Masters have the same formats, while Spruce Meadows and Aachen have a different system. At Spruce Meadows and Aachen, the horses and riders have to do two rounds on an outside course with a lot more obstacles. Here we only have one round, so we try to make it a slightly longer route than normal, with 14 jumps and 17 or 18 efforts. There are lots of different factors for us to consider, so we do our best to make a course that is enjoyable for both horse and rider. The course needs to be difficult and big enough, and we need to have the jumps at a decent height of just over 1m60. We won’t be increasing the oxers this year, and we certainly won’t be going to the extreme with the course. The plan is that this year’s course will be relatively similar to 2019’s, which was quite classic. The horses will be required to work a bit harder this year, with faster obstacles and more positivity needed, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a similar style to previous years. This isn’t the time to be arranging a special course, it’s better to keep the classic style. 

How many clear rounds are you expecting? 

This is always the most sensitive question. In my opinion, the ideal scenario for the public, the competition, the sponsors, is when there are eight riders who go clear. With this course, and the calibre of the competitors, all the horses and riders have a chance, so let’s wait and see.

 


 

About the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

The Rolex Grand Slam is considered by the sport to be the ultimate equestrian challenge, primarily due to the sporting prowess required to achieve this feat. It is a quest taken on by the world’s top riders, vying to secure the legendary status associated with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

The format of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is simple: anyone who wins three Majors in a row receives the Rolex Grand Slam trophy and a €1 million bonus on top of the class’s prize-money. If that same rider then continues their success by winning a fourth Major in succession, they will be rewarded with an additional €1million bonus. If two shows are won in succession, the bonus is €500,000 or if an athlete wins only 2 majors in a period of four successive shows, the bonus is €250,000.



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