On Sunday, Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts won the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule at the end of a superb event and jump-off with 14 pairs in which suspense was maintained right to the finish. A wonderful way of ending an exceptional edition of Jumping International de La Baule – Officiel de France.
At almost 30 years of age, the Belgian who ranks 49th in the world, takes over the title from Canada’s Beth Underhill. He is the third Belgian to see his name engraved on the winners’ plaque showcased at the entry to the arena, after Jos Lansink in 2009 and Jérôme Guéry in 2016.
I’m very happy to have won here in La Baule, one of the most prestigious venues in our sport”,
said a delighted Philippaerts.
It’s my first 5-star win on Katanga, and she really deserves it. She has often been very close to winning in major Grands Prix and she gave her all today. I am very proud of her. I saw the round by Henrik (von Eckermann, the leader at the time) and I knew it would be hard because I don’t always have complete control over her. Then, when Jens set off, I was a bit stressed because we’ve known each other for a long time, we’re friends and I must confess that I was very happy when I saw the timer stop”.
On the podium, before the Belgian national anthem sounded Nicola Philippaerts heard a lot of Swedish spoken: in second place, Jens Fredricson (no. 104) on Markan Cosmopolit, and world number 1 Henrik von Eckermann on Iliana in third place.
When I started, I said to myself: if you don’t take any risks there won’t be any victory’’,
So go for it! I looked at the rounds of the other riders, and especially that of Rodrigo Pessoa (5th on Major Tom), and I eliminated some strides in certain places. I am very happy with my horse and the way I managed the jump-off, even if my coach always wants to win! I’ve beaten Henrik today but we are particularly pleased to have two Swedes on the podium, we help each other a lot and that shows that we have a great Swedish team”.
Used to heading podiums, like on Saturday in the Prix Saur (on Glamour Girl), the individual world champion and team and Olympic champion had to be satisfied with third place this time.
I didn’t do the jump-off I expected”, said Eckermann. “I left the door open. Even so, I am very happy with my mare, who is only a 10-year-old. She has reached a very high level and is still gaining experience, but she’s ready. Everyone knew King Edward, but I’m lucky to have a mare like her in the stable. I wasn’t very successful last year. but coming back to La Baule with a win on Saturday and a podium in the Grand Prix, well, it’s a great feeling”
As for the home team, three French riders completed the jump-off, although none managed to get into the top 5. Sixth on Bibici, Grégory Cottard was the best among them.
It’s difficult to start first in a jump-off. I did my best, and so did Bibici. We were up against a very high level of riders, the best in the world. Still, I am proud of my sixth place and we will continue to work hard to be better than the others one day”.
In the other CSIO 5* on Sunday – the Prix Grand Prix (1.45 m, two legs), France had greater success with a win by ‘rocket man’ Julien Épaillard. The winner of a speed contest on Thursday on Hoover, the world number 2 repeated his performance, finishing ahead of Ireland’s Cian O’Connor (Germaine W) and Belgium’s Grégory Wathelet (Berline du Maillet Z). In the Grand Prix Defender (CSI 1*), Stéphane Landois, who had already won the Derby Laiterie de Montaigu CSI 1*, once again beat his rivals on Uh la Up de Crazy.