It was a real treat to see the five-star grand prix qualifier – presented by Invest Mobile – unfold this evening at Knokke Hippique. Marcus Ehning gave a jump-off masterclass as the last rider to go in the 12-rider strong showdown. Taking out strides aplenty with A La Carte Nrw the German top rider snatched the lead from Spencer Smith (USA).
The 1.50m ranking class had 49 horse-and-rider-combinations that took on the challenge that course builder Uliano Vezzani set for them. The Italian mastermind built a course that included three double combinations of which two really put the contestants and their mounts to the test. Also, in the jump-off the remaining oxer-vertical combination played a significant part in the rankings with Laura Kraut (USA), Piergiorgio Bucci (ITA) and Belgians own Gregory Wathelet all missing a top placement due to a fault on this penultimate challenge.
Spencer Smith was the first rider to go in the jump-off and set a seemingly unbeatable time with fourteen-year-old Theodore Manciais (by Kashmir van Schuttershof). Clocking a spectacular finish in 36.00 seconds. The American rider, who is based at the Stephex stables during the summer, stayed in the lead up until the very end. “We could’ve won, had it not been for Marcus”, the runner-up says with a smile. “Placing second wasn’t the goal but I’ve very much enjoyed the ride and my horse jumped amazing. If I have to be beaten at least it is by the master himself.”
Halfway through the jump-off it was Martin Fuchs (SUI) and The Sinners’ turn. The reigning European Champion and his fantastic jumping mount sired by Sanvaro were hot on Spencer Smith’s heels finishing with 0.55 seconds extra on the clock. It turned out the best was saved for last. Everyone was on the edge of their seats when Marcus Ehning entered the Zoute plage and he did not disappoint.
With his thirteen-year-old stallion he rode through the jump-off like a hot knife cuts through butter. Using the quality of A La Carte Nrw to his advantage the pair crossed the finish line in 35.34 seconds. “Firstly, I have to say I am very grateful and happy to be here. I really enjoy riding here and all my complements go to Stephan Conter. The conditions are fantastic, and the atmosphere is super even without spectators.”
The winner is equally happy with his jump-off round: “I had two really nice forward distances, but I also had to wait three times. However, my horses’ strides are massive. That made all the difference. He is also very clever and has all the scope. I am just very happy I get to jump him again and win only on his second show back after an injury that kept him at home for six months,” the winner proudly says about his horse.
Ehning continues with a smile: “He is a funny one. Really. He is a stallion but not difficult in that respect. However, he is very loud, and his sound is unmistakable. He screams like hell in the warmup, and you can hear him from a mile away but really, he is like a kid in the candy store. Excited and a little distracted. Once in the ring he is super focused and a real pleasure to ride. I am guessing it will also be a pleasure to drive the golf cart I’ve just won. It will come in handy at a large showground like Knokke Hippique”, Ehning refers to the golf cart that was presented to him by Invest Mobile.
With six riders jumping clear in the jump-off, it was Stephex rider Michael Hughes who got cheered on in the prizegiving by his colleagues. The American rider finished sixth with his mount Kashmir van d’Oude Pastory (by Thunder vd Zuuthoeve). Ahead of Hughes in fifth place was the only rider who has ever won the Rolex Grand Slam, Scott Brash (GBR) with Hello Vincent (by Consul di Vie). Abdel Saïd and Bandit Savoie (by Qlassic Bois Margot) settled in fourth place.
Full results from Friday’s CSI5* 1.50m class presented by Invest Mobile can be found via this link.
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