Nicola Philippaerts Wins VDL Groep Prix at Valkenswaard CSI5*

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icola Philippaerts and H&M Harley vd Bisschop en route to win the VDP Groep Prix at Valkenswaard Ph. LGCT/Stefano Grasso
Nicola Philippaerts and H&M Harley vd Bisschop en route to win the VDP Groep Prix at Valkenswaard Ph. LGCT/Stefano Grasso

In his final competition before the Rio Olympics, Nicola Philippaerts rounded out his weekend at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Valkenswaard with a win in the final CSI5* class, the 1.55m VDL Groep Prix. With €91,900 up for grabs, a field of 41 strong combinations took to the grass arena to battle it out for the lion’s share of the prize purse.

A tough course with tight angles and related distances made the presence of early double clears a rarity as many riders failed to progress through to the jump-off . Big names who found themselves caught out were World No. 1 Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz), Great Britain’s Scott Brash and Hello Forever (For Pleasure x Nimmerdor), Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet with Citizenguard Taalex (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Alexis Z) and Germany’s Daniel Deusser with Equita van’t Zorgvliet (Cassini I x Darco). However a total of seven advanced with Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Embassy II (Escudo I x Silvio I), Belgium’s Jos Verlooy and Sunshine (Diamant de Semilly x Hardi), Harrie Smolders from the Netherlands with Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire), Austria’s Max Kühner, Egypt’s Abdel Saïd and home rider Wout-Jan van der Schans with Capetown (Oklund x Carlino) joining Philippaerts in the jump off. The USA’s Georgina Bloomberg and Caleno 3 (Calido ASS x Lancer II) also rode a clear round, but picked up an unlucky time fault, eliminating them from the next phase of the competition.

Philippaerts was the first rider to return, setting off at an impressive pace, letting the 9-year-old H&M Harley vd Bisschop (Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Coronado) gallop to the jumps and open up his stride to make full use of the expansive arena. The pressure intensified as the final six riders took their turn, and despite some valiant attempts, Philippaerts kept hold of the lead with an unbeatable time of 40.80 seconds. Compatriot and young talent Jos Verlooy and Sunshine pushed through some difficulties on course to produce another clear but unfortunately couldn’t match Nicola’s time. The experienced duo of Hans-Dieter Dreher and Embassy II looked set to be a serious threat to the leaders, however came in a close second, crossing the line in 41.21 seconds.

Harrie Smolders concluded the class in 4th, with Max Kühner rounding out the top 5.

See full class results here.