Finally top level competitions were underway again in the beautiful surroundings of Tops International Arena. Many riders have not been able to ride at this level for months and especially for the top horses it is very important to get in shape.
The first day ended with the 4* competition 1.50/1.55m, the thrilling highlight of the day. It was a competition against the clock so the riders had to have their plan ready and set the fastest route. It was the Brazilian Eduardo Menezes who managed to achieve the fastest round with the 12-year-old KWPN stallion H5 Elvaro. “A great start of the event for us, great! My horse felt good and the soil here is excellent. It’s great to ride on grass again. When I was growing up this arena was like a myth to me. I wanted to ride here. I totally understood when the grass was replaced by sand, but now it’s back to how it should be.” Menezes liked the course: “When you win you always like a course, but my horse did great. I could have one stride less here and there and my horse went easily through the course.” Egyptian Abdel Saïd came second with Arpege du Ru and British star Ben Maher finished third with Ginger-Blue.
The first 4* competition, a Two Phases with obstacles up to 1.45m, was won by Dutchman Jeroen Dubbeldam. The former Olympic Champion was happy with his performance. “Yes of course I am happy with the victory. It’s not the most important class of this event but winning always gives a good feeling especially when you really want to win. I am not only happy with the victory but also very pleased with how my horse jumped. That is also very important.” Like all the other riders, Jeroen is happy to be riding on the beautiful grass surface of Tops International Arena again. “The footing feels great, it’s top quality. The horses jump easy and light and have a lot of grip.” Jeroen rode rode a clear round in 28.09 seconds with the 11-year-old KWPN gelding Forever SFN. Luxembourg’s Charlotte Bettendorf finished runner-up with Raia d’Helby and Ibrahim Hani Bisharat was third with Astuce du Cellier La.
The 2* event offered three competitions for the riders. The 1.45m was won by Swiss Young Rider Bryan Balsiger with the 12-year-old BWP gelding Jenkins ter Doorn. The talented 23-year-old from Corcelles-Cormondreche was European Champion in the Young Riders in 2017 and works at his parents’ riding school where he is involved in training. Top international rider Marcus Ehning came second after making another solid attempt to improve on Balsiger’s time with Cristy, whom he has had under the saddle since 2014. Third was Dutchman Tom Schellekens with Fiarabo.
Then it was the turn of the participants in the 1.40m competition to enter the beautiful sand arena of TIA. The Irish top rider Darragh Kenny took the victory with the 14-year-old KWPN mare Cicomein VDL. Norway’s Victoria Gullliksen claimed second place with Ibiza, followed by another Irishman, Max Wachman, who finished third with Brooklyn de Hus.
The Spanish Pilar Lucrecia Cordon won the 1.30m with Galine la Cour Zichelhof. They had a clear 1st and 2nd phase in 31.59 seconds. Cordon and Galine have been a combination since 2015. Second place was for Loewie Joppen and Ilon for the Netherlands and Swiss Edwin Smits was third with Quinti von Hof.
The first competition (1.30/1.35m) of the CSI1* was won by Belgian Jeroen Appelen with the nine-year-old mare Sina (Westf., by Spiderman). The 30-year-old from Berlaar near Antwerp was also very successful in Valkenswaard in 2019. He managed to write several victories to his name then. Mexican Martina Franco Stephan Puertas finished in second place with So What. Third place went to the Austrian Felix Koller with Nebraska van ‘t Vianahof.
The 1.20m two-phase class was won by Ireland’s Joanne Sloan-Allen with the 15-year-old Holsteiner mare Colour Girl. The 47-year-old, who celebrates her birthday tomorrow (8 May), runs Sycamore Stables in Ballyclare (Co. Antrim) together with Egyptian international Sameh El Dahan. Dutch rider Vronie van de Rijt finished in second place with Neil Diamo d’Art, British rider Tess Carmichael was third with Atlantis PP Z.
The British Imogen Beecroft won the 1.10m. The 30 year old rode a very fast clear round in 29.85 seconds with the mare Roscoe’s Amour (AES). She has been riding this mare by Ontario at international level since 2015. The winner of the 1.20m was now second, the Irish Joanne Sloan-Allen who rode WKD Chicago. Third place was for her compatriot Alice Wachman with Cesha OLD.
Belgian rider Guy Buyers won the Young Horses class with the seven-year-old Of Passion van den Dael. The 47-year-old rode the BWP stallion clear in 33.76 seconds. Charlotte Bettendorf from Luxembourg was the last but one to try and improve on Buyers’ time, but with 34.99 seconds she had to settle for second place with Double R Everest. Dutchman Patrick van der Schans came third with Jager. Best six-year-old was Kick Starter GLN (KWPN, by Clinton) from Henk van de Pol in 8th place.