Niels Bruynseels saved the best for last at Brussels Stephex Masters on Friday night, when leading the way in a competition that was a real Belgian bonanza. The 1.50m class with a jump-off presented by Audi offered 61,800 Euro in prize money, as well as world ranking points – and had 47 of the world’s best lined up to compete for the win.
No less than seventeen went clear under the floodlights over Uliano Vezzani’s first round track that counted a total of thirteen fences, guaranteeing a real race in the jump-off. With six Belgian riders in it, the home crowds – that had met up in large numbers on this warm autumn evening – were in for a treat.
As first to go, Pieter Devos left everybody speechless when delivering a lightning fast round on Apart (Larino x Burggraaf) – pushing the number of strides down to twelve on the long last stretch that went across the diagonal of the arena from one corner of the short side to the other. The clock stopped at 36.08 seconds, and as it would turn out no one would be able to catch it until the last man entered the ring.
Because just like last year, it would be Niels Bruynseels and the feisty 11-year-old mare Gancia de Muze (Malito de Reve x Nimmerdor) winning Friday’s feature class at Brussels Stephex Masters. Entering the ring as last to go, it seemed Bruynseels was facing an almost impossible task – because fifteen before him had failed in their attempt to catch Devos. Setting his super quick mare Gancia de Muze in top gear, Bruynseels went full speed from beginning to end – cheered on by the home crowds – and when he crossed the finish line in an unbelievable 35.77 seconds the audience erupted in applause: Bruynseels had done it again!
“I watched Pieter’s round so I was lucky,” said Niels after. “I actually thought that it was unbeatable, but I know I have a very, very fast horse. I knew if I would take the risks, and everything would come together as I planned then there was a small chance I could be faster.”
“The jump-off suited my mare, but she had a break for four weeks so she was quite fresh over the last days,” laughed Bruynseels. “So, she had a bit too much power and energy and was very hot but still got better and better this week.”
“Gancia is a special horse, with a lot of energy. But, you have to leave her as she is – if you try to change her it would not work,” the Belgian rider smiled when talking about his fantastic mare.
The class was a true testament to the standard of the Belgian riders, with four in the top five representing the hosts – and three of them coming straight from the European Championships. Behind Bruynseels and Devos followed Gregory Wathelet on MJT Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo) in third, and in fourth Jos Verlooy on Caracas (Casall x Colman). Fifth place went to Dutch rider Aniek Poels on Athene (Berlin X Numero Uno).
“This is not one of the best shows in Belgium, but in the world,” said Bruynseels when commenting on how top riders come back year after year to Brussels Stephex Masters. “Every year you say it is perfect, but for every time you come here it also gets better. It is a great atmosphere here, this is a real horse country – and especially this part of Belgium. I come from this area, so it is special for me to win here.”
Counting back to the 2016-edition of Brussels Stephex Masters, it has been twelve truly exceptional months for Bruynseels, “It all started a bit here last year,” Bruynseels said. “And I hope with this it can continue. My horses have been in great shape, I have a great team – everything has been working.”
Earlier in the day, Dutch rider Leopold van Asten and the 10-year-old mare VDL Groep Miss Untouchable (Chacco-Blue x Aldatus) were not to be beat in the five-star 1.45m against the clock presented by Albam.
Van Asten was almost two seconds faster than Italy and Stephex Stables’ own Lorenzo De Luca, who had to settle for runner-up position together with Jeunesse van’t Paradijs (Emerald Van ‘T Ruytershof x Heartbreaker) in this competition counting for the world ranking. A legend finished third; Great Britain’s John Whitaker with Crumley (Cassus x As Di Villagana). Ireland’s Darragh Kenny ended fourth aboard Go Easy de Muze (Vigo d’Arsouilles x For Pleasure), and Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann fifth on Cantinero (Cento x Cash).
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