Brussels, Belgium – August 27, 2023 – The event grounds were abuzz with fans eager to witness the highlight of the 2023 Brussels Stephex Masters. Contenders tackled two challenging rounds, with only the top 12 from the initial round advancing to the final showdown. The rider accumulating the least penalties over the two rounds would be rewarded with an Audi Q8 e-tron.
Belgian fans initially believed they had only three compatriots to root for in the second round. Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) and H&M Legend Of Love had knocked a rail down at one of the final jumps which meant that he would not advance. But, upon review, officials determined that a fallen horseshoe had caused the mishap, not a fault of the rider or horse. To the delight of the crowd: Olivier was deemed faultless, raising the count to four Belgians in round two!
Though the first round saw impeccable performances, the second turned out to be a real challenge. Only Argentinian rider, José María Larocca Jr. (ARG) (Finn Lente | Gaillard de La Pomme x Colandro), and Britain’s Ben Maher (GBR), riding Dallas Vegas Batilly (Cap Kennedy x l’Arc de Triomphe*Bois Margot), cleared the course. Maher, flaunting his Olympic champion form, delivered an unmatched pace, leaving Larocca trailing. The outcome? Maher reigns supreme in the Rolex Grand Prix, presented by Audi with Larocca stealing second. Despite having one down, a superfast round placed Philippaerts third.
Reactions and Reflections after the Grand Prix
It has been an eventful class and an equally eventful week. This provided plenty of talking points during the press conference.
Olivier Philippaerts (BEL): “It was a unique afternoon for me. I was completely unaware I cleared the course. After I finished my round, I felt disappointed that I couldn’t compete in the second one. My horse was even getting a wash when I unexpectedly got the green light to compete again (laughter). I honestly wasn’t aware of the rule that a fault resulting from a dislodged horseshoe wouldn’t be counted. I must commend the judges for their meticulousness. Quickly, I got my horse ready again and rode back in to secure the victory. That’s precisely why I was here. After knocking down a rail early in the course, I accelerated even more to achieve the highest possible position.”
José María Larocca Jr. (ARG): “At first glance, the course appeared quite challenging, and the time allowed was tight. However, Finn Lente was in excellent form today, so I expected a good result. My horse is highly experienced and incredibly reliable. He isn’t easily shaken. Towards the end of October, we’ll be heading to the Pan American Games, and I also anticipate a strong performance there.”
Ben Maher (GBR): “Dallas Vegas Batilly once again performed fantastically for me. She has a huge stride. Until today, she wasn’t the fastest horse, but we worked on it gradually, and it really paid off. In the second round, I decided to take fewer strides between the jumps. That made it difficult for anybody else to catch up. I slipped a bit on the way to the final jump, and oddly enough, that helped me to get to the last fence quicker. I’m a happy man. This has been a special week for me. With the upcoming European Championship, I have various teams working for me both here and at home, which is a challenge. Yet, all my horses jumped fantastically here, and I felt incredibly good. I’ve been traveling the world for years to attend beautifully organized shows, but this one is truly exceptional. I’ve never seen before how well and quickly an event that faced such downpours could bounce back.”
Final Results – €500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Brussels CSIO 5* – 1.60m, presented by Audi
1) Ben Maher (GBR) & Dallas Vegas Batilly – 0 / 0 – 39.93
2) José María Larocca Jr. (ARG) & Finn Lente – 0 / 0 – 41.49
3) Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) & H&M Legend Of Love – 0 / 4 – 40.63
Source: Press Release from Brussels Stephex Masters
Photo: © Brussels Stephex Masters