The first equestrian Major of the year has been won by Niels Bruynseels (BEL) riding Gancia de Muze. Second place went to Marcus Ehning (GER) riding Cornado NRW and third place to Harrie Smolders (NED) riding Emerald.
The bright lights of the Brabanthal illuminated the stage for the Rolex Grand Prix, the highlight of The Dutch Masters, now one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. An electric atmosphere welcomed this elite competition, with over 11,500 fans attending Sunday’s show to see the truly international roster of show jumpers contend for the title prize.
After two demanding qualifiers on Friday (09 March) and Saturday (10 March) set out by famed course designer Louis Konickx (NED), a challenging test was expected for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix and he did not disappoint. The first round consisted of 13 obstacles (17 jumping efforts in total), over a towering 1.60m course, with technical questions being asked throughout for the world’s top riders.
Steve Guerdat (SUI) & Bianca
Initially clear rounds were hard to come by and from the first 20 riders to tackle the course, only five clears were produced. This included the winner of the 2017 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Philipp Weishaupt and Rolex Testimonee Bertram Allen. The second half of this world-class line-up saw a further eight clears including from Rolex Testimonees Steve Guerdat and Scott Brash, and world number two Harrie Smolders, bringing the total to 13 for the jump-off.
Scott Brash (GBR) & Ursula XII
A revised course of eight jumping efforts was presented to the 13 successful riders and first to enter the arena and set the bar for the coming 12 was Marc Houtzager. Unfortunately, a clear round was not to be for the Dutch rider and Houtzager left with four faults.
Bertram Allen (IRL) & Gin Chin van het Lindenhof
The first clear came from Jur Vrieling, much to the delight of the passionate home crowd, as he stopped the clock on 39.89 seconds. This lead, however, was short-lived as Ireland’s Bertram Allen took over one second from Vrieling, as he sped through the finishing gate in a time of 38.74 seconds with all fences left standing. It was not to be for Scott Brash, who despite a valiant effort aboard his trusted mare Ursula XII, clipped the last Rolex jump, to take him out of contention for the prize.
Marcus Ehning (GER) & Cornado NRW
Next to enter the arena was German hero Marcus Ehning, riding Cornado NRW. Ehning demonstrated his experience in the sport and cut impossible corners to push Allen just out of the top spot, finishing almost a second faster with a time of 37.80 seconds.
Henrik von Eckermann, Steve Guerdat and Maikel van der Vleuten were unable to challenge this lead, leaving it up to the last rider of the day, Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels.
First Major Victory
A spectacular display of horsemanship, speed and determination from the brave Bruynseels produced an incredible final round, stopping the Rolex clock in an impressive 37.10 seconds. The crowd erupted in emotion after a thrilling jump-off finished as the victorious Belgian punched the air in joy, having won the Rolex Grand Prix and his first Major.
Niels Bruynseels (BEL) with the coveted Rolex Trophy.
Speaking after his victory Bruynseels said, “I have to say to it was a very, very good course, especially for me! 13 riders in the jump-off allowed me to see a few riders as I was last to go and I knew I had to be really fast, but I also knew I had a very fast horse. I took a few big risks but it went well.
“Aachen is the next stop in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, and of course it is one of my goals now, to go there and win.”
Show President, Anky van Grunsven commented, “Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something we really hoped for and we have shown we are deserving to be in this Grand Slam. We welcomed over 60,000 fans to the show over the four days, so we are very happy.”
Bruynseels becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender after winning the first Major of his career and will look ahead to CHIO Aachen in July to continue his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey.
Full Results here.
Source: Press Release by Revolution Sports for Rolex Equestrian
Photos: © Revolution Sports for Rolex Equestrian / 1) Ashley Neuhof 2-6) Kit Houghton