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Unbelievable United Touch S flies Vogel to the victory in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva

Sunday, 10 December 2023
CHI Geneva 2023

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Richard Vogel and United Touch S won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, the last Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.


Text © World of Showjumping 



“I cannot thank my horse enough for what he did today,” Germany’s Richard Vogel said as he had secured the win in the CSI5* 1.60m Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva with the phenomenal United Touch S (Untouched x Lux Z, bred by Julius-Peter Sinnack) – after a jump-off that will go into the history books.

After the first-round track set by Gerard Lachat (SUI) and Louis Konickx (NED) had narrowed down the field of forty horse-and-rider combinations to seven, the last Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at the 62nd edition of CHI Geneva turned into a one-horse show as the jump-off got underway. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "I cannot thank my horse enough for what he did today,” Richard Vogel said about United Touch S. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

With the track counting 14 obstacles and 18 efforts, it was the time allowed of 73 seconds that turned out to be the deciding factor in round one. With no time to breath, the demanding questions of the course followed with relentless pace, from the left-hand rollback to the traditional wall of cows at fence three to the double of liverpools at five ab – to the vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination at 12abc, followed by a short, out-of-the-corner-approach to the final line of a 1.60m bush oxer on four strides to the last IJRC-oxer. 


We are here at the Rolex Grand Slam and it is going to be the fastest and hardest it can be

- Richard Vogel on the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva - 


While Jose Maria Larocca (ARG) and Finn Lente (Gaillard de la Pomme x Colandro, bred by W.J.M. Nijensteen) were the first pair to clear the fences, they were not able to stay within the time allowed of 73 seconds and picked up time penalties, which kept them out of the jump-off – which was also the case for Hans-Dieter Dreher (GER) and Elysium (VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P. x Coronado, bred by Manfred Tummes), Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Legacy (Chippendale Z x Bon Ami, bred by Romain Rotty) and Yuri Mansur (BRA) aboard QH Alfons Santo Antonio (Aromats x False Pass, bred by Rebala Stables Ltd).

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "I had the luck on my side today,” Vogel said after pulling off a jump-off for the history books. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

Nearly halfway through round one, it was Richard Vogel and United Touch S who as pair number 15 posted the first clear of the afternoon. Where every other horse-and-rider-combination used four strides on the final line of the course, the phenomenal United Touch S simply cleared it with three, stopping the clock on 70.24 – well within the time allowed. 


He jumped his heart out today

- Richard Vogel on United Touch S - 


Two pairs later, Swiss national treasure and the darling of the CHI Geneva crowds Steve Guerdat (SUI) and the wonderful Dynamix de Belheme (Snaike de Blondel x Cornet Obolensky, bred by Frederic Aimez) lifted the roof at the sold-out Palexpo when posting the second flawless round to secure a jump-off. Wilm Vermeir (BEL) and Iq van het Steentje (Toulon x Kannan, bred by Pauwels - Caluwe), Christian Kukuk (GER) and Checker 47 (Comme il faut x Come On, bred by Wolfgang Kipp), Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve (Bamako de Muze x Heartbreaker, bred by Gustaaf Quintelier (De Donk NV)), Mark McAuley (IRL) and GRS Lady Amaro (Amaretto D'Arco x Over the River xx, bred by Denis Hickey) as well as current world number six Julien Epaillard (FRA) aboard Dubai du Cedre (Baloubet du Rouet x Diamant de Semilly, bred by Sylvain Pitois & Perrine Cateline) followed suit, making it a jump-off of seven.

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Richard Vogel, Mark McAuley and Christian Kukuk on the podium. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

First out in the jump-off, Vogel and United Touch S – known for his huge stride and exceptional scope – delivered a round for the history books. Doing eight strides on the first line, and never looking back, the pair clocked a time of 37.14 – setting a standard that was impossible to match for those to follow.


When you see a moment like this, you really have to appreciate it to its right value

- Steve Guerdat on Richard Vogel's jump-off -


“I had the luck – or the bad luck – to be able to see Richie’s jump-off,” Steve Guerdat – who finished fourth in the end – told the media after the class. “The luck, because I love this sport and when you see a moment like this, you really have to appreciate it to its right value, because it is not something you see that often. For myself, I knew after I had seen that, the bad thing was that I had no chance today with where my mare is, but I wanted her to learn to get faster, so I gave it a go.”

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "The more I am trying, the more she tries with me, which is a very nice feeling, and quite a rare one,” runner-up Mark McAuley said of GRS Lady Amaro. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

Not one rider stood a chance against Vogel today. McAuley slotted into second in 39.77, while Kukuk completed the podium in 41.74. With one rail down each, Guerdat had to settle for fourth in 38.65, while Epaillard finished fifth in 39.05. 


 I knew I had to try and give everything, so I took a lot of risk

- Richard Vogel - 


“He jumped his heart out today,” Vogel said about his horse United Touch S after their victory. “As everyone can see, he has a very big stride and some lines are very hard for him. He needs to put 120% effort in at times to clear those tricky lines, which he absolutely did today. I tried to make it as easy as possible for him as a rider, but with these technical courses, sometimes we end in hard places. I had the luck, or maybe the bad luck as Steve said, to be the first in the jump-off. However, yesterday night, the last thing I did before going to bed was watching the jump-off from last year’s class, so I knew it did not matter if you were first or last to go. We are here at the Rolex Grand Slam and it is going to be the fastest and hardest it can be. I knew I had to try and give everything, so I took a lot of risk and I was lucky enough to be clear and put pressure on those coming behind me, and luckily, it worked out.” 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "In the jump-off, Richie was the first to go and after him, I said it was finished," third placed Christian Kukuk said. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“I made my plan, but I think it is important to also have a good instinct in the course and follow it,” Vogel explained when asked about his thoughts ahead of the jump-off. “On the last line, when I walked it, and it was kind of seven for everyone, and I was not sure I could do six there. United Touch has such an exceptional big stride, and in the landing there, I would lie if I said I saw the six, but I tried it for one stride, and they kind of came up – and luckily, I got there. I had a general idea for the jump-off, but as I said I think I had a big advantage from watching last year’s jump-off and knowing that you have to give everything. I had the luck on my side today.” 


I would lie if I said I saw the six

- Richard Vogel on his jump-off -


The road to the top hasn’t been an easy one for Vogel and United Touch S. “When I started with him, many people came to me, saying that I was a great rider but there are things that are not possible. They kept saying he is not built for these technical courses and with his stride, it is just too much. He has too much power, too much stride, they said. However, I was lucky to train with Hugo Simon and something he would say, is that there is no such thing as ‘too much’. According to him, it was about not riding well enough or not making good plans, but there was not a horse with “too much stride” or “too much power”. Maybe it would be a bit more challenging for the rider, he said, that’s all. So, I spent a lot of time to think how I can adjust to these courses and sometimes, I have to do a stride less and sometimes into a double I really need to get him back. That is why I am so, so proud of him, because the development he did since day one that we got together is unbelievable.”

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "I would say there was nobody on this planet that could beat him today," Christian Kukuk said of Richard Vogel. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“It is always a tough course, and it needs to be, because the best horses in the world are here every year,” second placed McAuley said. “For me, this is the Grand Prix that I want to win. I can remember sitting in the stands when Pedro Veniss won in 2016 and having goosebumps, and ever since, this has been the one I want to win. After my first round, I thought maybe it would be my day today, but then I saw Richie’s jump-off and I have to say I lost a little bit of hope,” he laughed. “Obviously, I was still going to try, but realistically, today there was no beating Richie. I started my jump-off trying to win, but halfway around I realized it was not going to be today and then I just tried to stay clear and ride for the second place.” 


Realistically, today there was no beating Richie

- Mark McAuley, runner-up -


“She was bred in Ireland by my uncle and my cousin Patrick Hickey rode her until she was eight,” McAuley told about his 10-year-old mare GRS Lady Amaro. “The year she was eight, Patrick came to work for me here in Geneva and he brought the mare with him. She was always very competitive, she won a lot of 1.30-1.35m classes with him, but she never looked like she would be able to do something like this Grand Prix today. I think at the end of the day, those are the best horses; the ones that just keep trying, keep jumping the jumps, they don’t have to be flashy or making a show. That is her down to a tee, she just doesn’t want to touch the jumps and she fights for her rider. The more I am trying, the more she tries with me, which is a very nice feeling, and quite a rare one.” 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Richard Vogel and United Touch S celebrating their Rolex Grand Slam victory with the fabolous crowds in Geneva. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“As we could see, it was a very tough course, but that you know, coming to Geneva or any Rolex Grand Prix,” third placed Kukuk shared about his view on today’s course. “For me, the time allowed especially was a big factor today and that was quite tight. There were a few tricky lines, so you needed to have a plan for yourself and for your horse for the course. I had that and it worked well actually, I had a very good feeling and Checker jumped again really well. I was very happy with my first round, it felt easy on this tricky course. In the jump-off, Richie was the first to go and after him, I said it was finished; I would say there was nobody on this planet that could beat him today. That was an outstanding performance, like you basically always see [in these shows]. I remember McLain last year, that was the same – unbeatable. You need to have a day for history to win here, and Richie had that today. We are all very happy for him; myself I went into the jump-off knowing I had no chance to win. I saw Steve trying and having one down, so I wanted to find a balance in between. I had a good jump-off – not great but good – and ended up third. I am very happy with this; maybe if I had a great jump-off, I could have been second, but definitely not won.” 


You need to have a day for history to win here, and Richie had that today

- Christian Kukuk about Richard Vogel's round -


“For sure there is a different feeling,” Kukuk said about the fact that he and Vogel used to work alongside each other at Ludger Beerbaum’s yard. “With Richie, it still feels more like a colleague, and it is always a pleasure to have him on your side and on your team. I have been at Ludger’s for 12 years now and for me, it is the best school in the world. It is a pleasure to work for Ludger and everything I have reached in my career, I have him to thank for. It is nice to see so many good riders coming out of his stable; Henrik is by far the best rider at the moment, but knowing that him and Richard went through Ludger’s school, like Marco Kutcher and Philipp Weishaupt as well, is motivating.” 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. “We did not expect this,” Vogel said after his win. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

“We would not sit here if we did not have such great teams at home,” Vogel said – making a point to thank his support team. “I was in Mexico for almost two months, and came home once in between to check on the horses. That is our life; we are many days and weeks outside of our home base. We have a great team at home and they took brilliant care of United Touch.”

While Vogel had plans of spending the winter in Wellington, he might have to reconsider his schedule as the new Live Contender in the Rolex Grand Slam. “We did not expect this,” Vogel smiled. “But now, I definitely want to go to The Dutch Masters.” 




11.12.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of and Mackenzie Clark. If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

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