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Masterful Major-victory for Marcus Ehning in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen

Sunday, 22 July 2018
CHIO Aachen 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Germany’s own Marcus Ehning celebrating the victory in the €1,000,000 Rolex Grand Slam Grand Prix of Aachen with Pret A Tout. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

It could not have been scripted any better. Germany’s own Marcus Ehning rode the three rounds of the 1,000,000 Euro Rolex Grand Slam Grand Prix of Aachen to perfection, to bring home the win to the hosts after also sealing the deal in Thursday’s Nations Cup – both aboard Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy).

The second Major of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping 2018-season had, as expected, a star-studded line-up with the very best in the world on the start list. Former Major-winners such as Philipp Weishaupt (GER), Pedro Veniss (BRA) and Steve Guerdat (SUI) were among them – hungry for more success, and then there was of course Niels Bruynseels (BEL) who, after his Major win at the Dutch Masters back in March, was up for a bonus of 500,000 Euro if he could repeat it in Aachen today.

The first-round track set by Frank Rothenberger (GER) was a long one, and counted fourteen fences and eighteen jumps. Quite a few horses had a mistake on the open water that followed the combination at 3ab, while the triple combination at 10abc with two very tight strides between the two first uprights and then an oxer out caused trouble again and again as did the penultimate oxer at fence thirteen in the middle of the final line placed away from the in-gate.

Eleven horse-and-rider combinations out of the forty in the class managed to produce clears however, and one pair recorded a time penalty only – and it was set for an exciting second round consisting of a total of eighteen pairs with Philipp Weishaupt, Pedro Veniss, Frank Schuttert (NED), Werner Muff (SUI), Devin Ryan (USA), Darrgh Kenny (IRL), Luciana Diniz (POR), Maurice Tebbel (GER), Marcus Ehning (GER), McLain Ward (USA) and Steve Guerdat leading the way on a clean sheet.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Marcus Ehning and Pret A Tout en route to victory in Aachen. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

From the very outset, Ehning looked strong. He rode a masterful first round on Pret A Tout, making the difficulties of the course look easy – effortlessly guiding the 15-year-old chestnut gelding around the huge grass ring. This was also the case in the second round, where Ehning yet again cruised around the newly set twelve-fence track – making light work of it wherever others struggled.

It was however, Darragh Kenny that delivered the first double clear round of the Rolex Grand Prix – aboard the wonderful 13-year-old mare Babalou 41 (Balou du Rouet x Silvio I). One rider later, Pedro Veniss made sure there would be a jump-off on his Major-winner from Geneva – the beautiful 14-year-old stallion Quabri de l’Isle (Kannan x Socrates de Chivre).

When Ehning secured a spot in the jump-off, the Soers arena exploded – it was the perfect scenario. As next to go, Steve Guerdat – another of the world’s truly best riders – joined in to, after another brilliant clear from the impressive 12-year-old mare Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento).

For some it was not to be, Devin Ryan had the front pole on the last Rolex oxer down, Philipp Weishaupt the vertical at fence five, while it fell apart for McLain Ward who had three down and opted to retire – and then there was Maurice Tebbel that agonisingly had to see the back rail on the final oxer fall.

The last to join the jump-off would be Luciana Diniz, 2016 and 2017-runner-up, on the fantastic 14-year-old mare Fit For Fun (For Pleasure x Fabriano) – one of the crowd favourites in Aachen. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Runner-up again: Luciana Diniz and Fit For Fun. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

For the jump-off, Rothenberger invited the horses to really stretch out from one side of the ring to the other – with a few options for tight turns in between.

First to go, was Darragh Kenny – but unfortunately for the Irish rider three poles fell and he had to settle for fourth place this time around.

Pedro Veniss was the first to produce a clear, but looked slightly cautious with his risks and crossed the finish line in 41.62 seconds.

“It’s always been a dream for me to ride in Aachen. My first time was last year, but then my horse got injured so I could not jump the Grand Prix – so today I am very happy!” Veniss said afterwards.

Veniss’ time was quickly bettered by Ehning however, who was next in the ring and went flat out on the first stretch – eating in on the Brazilian rider straight away, and continuing from there on without pulling back. The risk paid off, and when the German maestro cleared the last jump the clock showed 38.34 seconds and the crowds went wild.

“I think today was his day,” Ehning said about his partner Pret A Tout. “I was quite happy with my first round, and I think I had an even better second round and even the jump-off was in a way I liked it so I am totally happy today,” was the understatement from Ehning about his own riding.

For Steve Guerdat it was not to be today, as Bianca jumped more or less straight up and down on the third oxer and then had two more poles down to eventually finish fifth.

As last to go, Luciana Diniz was up for getting a hold of the victory. Taking the challenge, she really gave Ehning a good run for the money but despite the effort she was behind on the clock to yet again finish second with her time of 40.96 – popularly leaving the win to the home hero.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Third place went to Pedro Veniss and Quabri de l'Isle. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“I think I like it here in Aachen, and for sure my horse likes it,” Ehning smiled when speaking about his consistent top results at the venue – the German rider and Pret A Tout have been on the winning Nations Cup team three years in succession and also placed in the Rolex Grand Prix in 2016 and 2017.

“I was more nervous watching Luciana,” Ehning said about handling the pressure in the jump-off. “My horse gave me a lot of confidence though, I really can believe in him so I tried my best!”

Diniz was perhaps beaten but not too disappointed: “Fit For Fun is an amazing horse. I am very grateful to be here, sitting next to Marcus and Pedro today. Somehow my flow was not like Marcus’ today, and I could not get up there to beat him – but I’m still happy to be here with a second place for the third time and that gives me the motivation to keep on trying,” smiled Diniz. 


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