Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and his incredible mare Gancia de Muze (Malito de Reve x Nimmerdor) delivered a truly jaw-dropping jump-off to take home the victory for Belgium in Sunday’s CSI5* €300.000 Grand Prix Rolex powered by Audi at Knokke Hippique 2018.
After having won the five-star Grand Prix competitions at Knokke Hippique’s sister event Brussels Stephex Masters in 2016 and 2017, and more recently the Rolex Grand Prix of Den Bosch, expectations were high for home hero Bruynseels who did not disappoint all those that had come to watch him today.
Thirty degrees, blue skies, sun and packed with spectators, it was always going to be an amazing atmosphere for the feature class of Knokke Hippique 2018 – the Grand Prix Rolex powered by Audi.
Fourteen riders out of the 46 in the competition managed to produce clear rounds over the thirteen-fence track set by Italian mastermind Uliano Vezzani, to move on to the jump-off. “I think it was a super course today, and not because I won,” Bruynseels commented after the Grand Prix. “It was a fair course, because these horses have to jump not only this weekend – it’s every weekend or every second weekend – and this did not take everything out of them. It was a great job by the course designer.”
In the jump-off, it was Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) and Cristalline (Cristallo 1 x Caretello B) – the winners of Friday’s feature class – that really set the pace as second to go. Blazing around the shortened track with turns that brought the spectators to the edge of their seats, the pair stopped the clocks at 40.32 seconds and it looked like that would be tough to beat.
One rider later however, Darragh Kenny (IRL) entered the ring with Balou du Reventon (Cornet Obolensky x Continue). The Irish rider jumped the penultimate upright with a breath-taking angle, before galloping flat out to the last oxer – snatching the lead from Sternlicht with his unbelievable time of 39.06 seconds.
As next to go, William Whitaker (GBR) really gave it a shot on the lovely Utamaro d’Ecaussinnes (Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel) but crossed the finish line slightly shy of Kenny’s time in 39.84 seconds.
Niels Bruynseels (BEL) & Gancia de Muze
Another two riders later, it was time for Bruynseels. Notoriously fast, and especially when on Gancia de Muze, he set off in top gear and did not once pull back the tiny bay mare who definitely played the game today. With the speed of light, the couple yet again showed what a magical partnership they have when bringing the time down to 38.74 seconds – pushing Kenny back to second and Whitaker to third.
None of those to come were close to touching the top three. Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (SUI) finished fourth with Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) in 39.95 seconds, ahead of Sternlicht in fifth.
Niels Bruynseels (BEL) receiving one of his prizes, a brande new Audi.
After his win, Bruynseels was quick to acknowledge the impact of the home crowd’s support. “They give me an extra motivation to win here,” he said. “It was my plan, everything I did the last week was directed towards trying to win with Gancia here today. It was not an easy win because the other guys were very fast, but I have a super horse and she was the one that won today. I did the same lines as the other riders, but she is just faster.”
This was only the fourth show for runner-up Darragh Kenny and Balou du Reventon, and the Irish rider was content with the result. “I think in the end the speed of Gancia de Muze was what beat me. I thought that my horse was fantastic and I had a as good a round as I could have had. Niels and his horse were amazing today, and it was his day to win!”
Niels Bruynseels (BEL) & Gancia de Muze followed by Darragh Kenny (IRL) & Balou du Reventon during the lap of honor.
Kenny was full of praise for Knokke Hippique, and said: “I’ve been here last year, and the year before – it is a fantastic show. We’re actually here for all three weeks. They do everything perfect here, I love it so I like to stay here!”
Looking back on his jump-off, third placed William Whitaker (GBR) commented: “If I was going to say that there was an area that I could have been slightly quicker, it would be to the second last fence. I tried to just balance him up a bit around the corner and I think he just got a little bit confused. But I could not be more happy with my horse, he jumped two fantastic rounds.”
Podium: 2) Darragh Kenny (IRL), Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and William Whitaker (GBR)
Stephan Conter, president of the event, thanked the sponsors for their support: “Without our sponsors, we could not create this kind of sport. They are really behind us. We are very thankful to them, because without them it would be totally impossible.”
“We have to continue in this way, and keep going for big events,” commented Conter. “We have to convince our sponsors together with Rolex to try making a circuit of about 12-13 shows at this level or even better. We want to offer the best quality, to the best riders and the best horses in the world.”
Full Results here.
Categories: CSI 5*