Royal Windsor Rolex Grand Prix Sees a New Name Take the Title
Words by Amy Powell
The pinnacle class of Royal Windsor Horse Show, the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix, saw the world’s top showjumpers battle it out in front of a packed crowd for a share of the £500,000 prize pot. The 32-strong start list read like a who’s who of the sport’s best, but the taxing track of 14 fences designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral saw its fair share of carnage in the first round with only three progressing to the jump off.
With a total of 12 combinations succumbing to four faults, the course saw fences falling across the arena – principally a narrow and up-to-height 1.65m vertical with a water tray behind it at fence 10 which came at riders quickly on a curving line after a marble oxer jumping into the crowds. Brits John Witaker on Equine America Unick du Francport, Guy Williams riding Rouge de Ravel and Joseph Stokdale on Equine America Cacharel all lowered the top rail to see themselves out of the jump off.
Fence 8, a huge Hermes vertical standing at 1.65m with a thin plank as the top rail took its fair share of casualties – Scott Brash with his Tokyo Olympics mount Hello Jefferson and Harry Charles with the on-form Stardust both saw their chances of proceeding to the jump off dashed when tipping this fence.
The first element of double combination at fence 13, a 1.70m wide and 1.53m high oxer also caused its fair share of troubles, Germany’s Christian Ahlmann had jumped a superb clear with Dominator 2000 Z looking like he wasn’t going to touch a pole up until then, taking down the front rail to halt his chances of taking the title in its tracks. USA’s Kent Farrington and Orafina came to the same sticky end.
Sadly no Brits saw themselves go through to the jump off with Holly Smith riding Saturday’s Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes winner, Fruselli and Ben Maher on the young Enjoy Ck Z both tipping fence four.
Having progressed through to the jump off as only the 8th rider to go, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet riding his Tokyo campaigner Nevados Z was swiftly joined by Austria’s Max Kuhner on Elktric Blue P – a horse that hadn’t been on its best form coming into this class. The pair then had to wait until the final rider entered the ring, Israel’s Daniel Bluman riding Ladriano Z to find another rider who would join them.
First to go, Gregory stormed around the twisty track to lay down the gauntlet, stopping the clock in a time of 34.79 seconds on board the 14-year-old stallion which ultimately could not be touched by either of his competitors. “The course didn’t walk as difficult as it rode and I was expecting more clears, but ultimately it played to my favour” Gregory smiled. Second to enter the arena, Max left nothing on the table, extracting everything he could out of the 11-year-old gelding to finish a little over one second behind Gregory, which just wasn’t enough to challenge the lead.
Last to go, Daniel looked to be up on the clock heading into fence 5, but sadly the experienced 14-year-old gelding had an awkward jump over the Kingdom of Bahrain vertical, losing him precious seconds, “we had too much airtime over that fence, and loosing my footing meant that I was unbalanced coming into the penultimate fence, and i think that ultimately lost it for us” Daniel said of the final line.
At the end of a thrilling competition, the trophy sees a new name added to its rich history, “I’ve never won here before and it’s such a special show it makes it an even better occasion” Gregory said of his win.
For more results visit rwhs.co.uk