ell sure enough, it was the cream of the crop last night in Mechelen. Ten riders, amongst a great collection of talent here in Belgium, were selected to compete against one another for a brand new Landrover and the title of the 2012 Mechelen Landrover Master. The course was short, only 7 fences in total, with modest height to start with. But as the class progressed, the jumps became bigger as each rider was required to select one fence in each round to raise. So naturally, you had a great advantage if you started at the beginning of the order.
There were seven Olympic riders amongst the collection; including two of this year’s Gold medalists. Team Gold medalist Scott Brash was riding Ursula, a horse previously ridden by Tina Fletcher, and Olympic champion Steve Guerdat was riding his grey gelding Chips. Belgium’s World Champion was also amongst the proven talent to grace the start list, he was riding his bay gelding Once De Kreisker. Father-son combination Ludo and Nicola Philippaerts were amongst the five riders representing Belgium.
It was a class that started slowly but picked up plenty of pace, as the jumps got bigger and bigger. Belgium’s top ranked rider, Gregory Wathelet, was the only rider not to make it through to the second round. The second round proved to be uneventful as every rider kept the fences up and moved on to the third round.
In the third round it was only Nicola Philippaerts with Vadetta vh Mettenhof who knocked one fence down. Eight riders remained for the fourth round as the course kept getting bigger and bigger. Unfortunately for family Philippaerts, Nicola’s father Ludo would follow his son with four faults aboard Denver van’t Goemanshof. Seven riders remained.
For the fifth and final round, it was time for the jump-off. Everyone revved up their engines, for it was time to jump the same track but with minimal time. Dutchman Harrie Smolders and Exquis Walnut de Muze were first to go and as expected, Harrie did not tap the breaks once. Doing so, gave him the fastest time of the day at 35,68 seconds, but the second element of the double combination would be the result. France’s leading lady, Penelope Leprevost and Quelmec du Gery followed, also with four faults.
Our Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, entered the ring looking determined as ever. Sure enough his determination paid off! Chips VI jumped quick and easy, leaving all the fences up and clocking in a time of 36, 64 seconds. Steve was in the lead as reigning World Champion Philippe Le Jeune entered the ring with Once de Kreisker. Talk about heavy hitters!!
Unfortunately for Philippe, Once de Kreisker grazed the first fence as well as the second element of the combination to rack up a disappointing 8 faults.
Then there was three!! Scott, Francois and Denis…
Scott Brash was sure to go fast but after a misunderstanding in the turn to the combination, Ursula refused and Scott had to circle. They jumped the combination successfully on their second try before Scott chose to retire. Fashioned in red, Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr was next with Polinska des Isles and it was clear that Francois had ever intention of winning for the home crowd! Sure enough, the roof nearly blew off as the Belgian crowd erupted with applause. Francois took over the lead with a time of 36, 30; 0,36 seconds faster than Steve Guerdat.
So it was Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Julia Hargreaves Vedor who were last to go. The lights were dimmed as he entered the ring, but surprisingly they stayed dimmed.
Huh!! Was this a malfunction or would the lights remain dimmed for Denis’ entire round? Sure enough, it seemed that the lighting director was rooting for Francois as the lights remained dimmed; it was almost too dark to see. Denis would need to ride in the dark and attempt a time faster then Mathy Jr.. You could barely see the second fence; a grey vertical flush against the rail. But no matter, Denis would not be phased as he picked up a steady pace to the first fence. Denis cleared the entire track and tried his best to chase the leading time but his time stopped at 30,69 seconds which placed him just behind Steve and Francois at number three.
A big congratulations to Francois for his super effort last night. The 2012 Landrover Masters Champion!!!