Knokke-Heist, Belgium – June 26, 2021 – The €52,000 Championship of Knokke-Heist was a real thriller. With absolute top riders and equally fantastic horses competing in the 1.50m class the game was on. The competition that was ridden over two rounds had 38 horse-and-rider combinations in the first round of the five-star challenge. Only six of those managed to cross the finish line with zero faults on the scoreboard. But with fifteen riders allowed to return in the second round – carrying over their penalties from the first round – the competition was lifted to an even higher level.
Eight pairs entered the sunny Zoute Plage with four faults on their list. Of these combinations Belgium’s Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Jacobien Dwerse Hagen (by Va-Vite) climbed the rankings the most. With a very sharply ridden round and a great final line, the duo earned an overall sixth position in 4/0 – 38,30. Marc Houtzager (NED) was next, starting his second round with Sterrehof’s Edinus (by Padinus) with just one time fault. He knew that riding a clear round would keep him in the top five of the Championship and chose to the ride a quick but not too risky round. Earning an eventual fifth place in 1/0 – 43,70.
American top rider McLain Ward (USA) was the first rider to start his second round with a clean slate. He gave a majestic performance with his very careful jumping mount Contagious (by Contagio). The pair made the task set by course builder Uliano Vezzani (ITA) almost look easy. They finished the second round with a big leap over the final oxer and finished in what would be the second-fastest time in 0/0 – 37,67. “It is hard to beat the final rider”, the runner-up smiles while he refers to the winner who was last to go. “My horse jumped fantastic, and it was a great class. It is always a pleasure to ride here, and not winning today only means there is another chance to have a go at it tomorrow.”
Willem Greve (NED) had his eye on the prize with Highway M TN (by Eldorado vd Zeshoek). Taking a fair amount of risk, earning oeh’s and ah’s after a sharp rollback to the Rolex vertical and a sprint towards the last Audi oxer the pair finished in fourth place in 0/0 – 38,76. Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Faut-Il des 7 Vallons (by Comme Il Faut) also made a great effort to earn the Championship title. With only 0,20 seconds over McLain Ward’s (USA) time, they slotted into third place in 0/0 – 37,87.
Eduardo Pereira de Menezes (BRA) was the final rider of the class and meant business right from the start. Knowing the task at hand he stuck to his original plan and with his magnificent jumping stallion H5 Elvaro (by Calvaro) snatched the win from Mclain Ward (USA) by stopping the timer half a second faster. “The credits really go to the organization of this show and to my horse. They are both fantastic,”, the winner comments after the prizegiving ceremony.
“I know that when I make no mistakes myself, I have a good chance with this horse to do well. In both rounds everything went like I planned it. That does not guarantee a win but that is a great bonus of course. With my team we have altogether 25 horses here. It is great that they can jump over three arenas at all levels. And then to end the day with a class like this and even become winner of the Championship is excellent.”
Final Results – €52,000 Champioship of Knokke Heist CSI 5*
1) Eduardo Pereira De Menezes (BRA) & H5 Elvaro – 0 / 0 – 37.14
2) Mclain Ward (USA) & Contagious – 0 / 0 – 37.67
3) Gregory Wathelet (BEL) & Faut-IL des 7 Vallons – 0 / 0 – 37.87
Source: Press Release from Stephex Events / Knokke Hippique
Photo: © Sportfot