Ph. Herve Bonnaud
The CSI3* Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort Grand Prix brought the 2016 Spring MET III to a close, and the victory fell into Dutch hands as Olympic silver medalist Marc Houtzager and his 10-year-old number one mount Sterrehof’s Baccarat (Padinus x Silvio I) went to the top. Germany’s Mario Stevens settled for runner-up position, while last week’s Grand Prix winner Holger Wulschner finished third.
A field of 14 riders qualified for the 1.50m jump-off in this CSI3* Grand Prix staged in the big grass arena. First to go in the jump-off was the only 18-year-old Portuguese rider Joao Pereira Coutinho aboard Baldano (Baloubet du Rouet x Andiamo). The young talent had an impressive result by finishing double clear, with a time of 46.19 seconds – eventually good enough for 9th place.
As the fifth rider in the jump-off, Germany’s Mario Stevens gave Brooklyn 17 (Balou du Rouet x Arpeggo) a fantastic ride – finishing on exactly 41.00 seconds thanks to some tight turns and forward distances. When even Brazilian jockey Marlon Modolo Zanotelli could not make Stevens’ time aboard Valetto JX (Cevin Z x Giorgione) stopping the clock on 42.52 seconds, Belgium’s Constant van Paesschen knew he had to give everything. Riding Compadre van de Helle (Casall Ask x Concerto II), Van Paesschen finished on the spectacular time of 39.32 seconds but the pair could not leave the last fence up.
Houtzager’s wife Julia Kayser, Ireland’s Cameron Hanley and Dutch rider Johnny Pals all found it impossible to match Mario Stevens’ time, so Marc knew he had to take some risks to be able to manoeuvre into the lead. “I brought Sterrehof’s Baccarat to Oliva just to get some rhythm, and prepare him here on the grass for the summer season. Last week he jumped great in the grass ring and last Thursday he jumped clear again. Today, Baccarat jumped abnormal in the first round. However, I have never pushed him to go fast in a jump-off but I thought he would be ready for it today. And it turned out great!” Houtzager commented.
The highly talented Sterrehof’s Baccarat showed off his enormous scope and great abilities, and Houtzager took some breathtaking short turns and angles. With a time of 40.21 seconds, the pair took over the no. one position. “I had a very tight turn into the double, that could have made the difference,” said Marc about his jump-off.
But the battle was not over yet, since Germany’s Holger Wulschner and Jörg Oppermann still were to come. Holger Wulschner ended up third aboard BSC Cha Cha Cha (Casall x Le Grand I) with a time of 41.92 seconds, while Jörg Oppermann went extremely fast. Riding Che Guevara 17 (Concept x Rebel I Z), Jörg was on the right track – but he hit the standard on the first part of the penultimate combination. Although his time of 39.83 seconds was enough for a victory, Oppermann finished on twelfth place with four faults and the victory belonged to Marc.
Houtzager’s winning mount Sterrehof’s Baccarat has just turned ten this year, and has been produced very carefully by the Dutch rider. Eyes have been on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, but the team silver medalist from the 2012 London Olympic Games knows it is going to be hard to make it to the Dutch team. “For sure I am hoping for a spot on the team for Rio. But, in the Netherlands there are currently another eight or nine riders who are hoping for that as well and that are capable! We are in a very luxurious position, so it will not be easy for our Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens,” Houtzager commented referring to the outstanding performances delivered by Dutch riders over the last couple of months. “Today three Dutch riders won three-star Grand Prix classes. That says something about the current level, and we can only be happy with that!”
Marc Houtzager will now return home after three weeks showing in Oliva and will focus on the Dutch Championships in Mierlo in two weeks.
The 2016 Spring MET III now takes a short break, and will resume for its last and final part that runs from April 12 to April 24.
Complete results of the CSI3* Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort Grand Prix are here