What. A. Night.
Ok, it rained today… quite a bit, actually. But even that did not keep the most amazing crowd in the world from flocking to the Brussels Stephex Masters in massive numbers. They really showed up big time today, not only in number but also in spirit. And they received unforgettable memories in return. A radiant sun treated them to a beautiful display during the last hours of the day, and so did the teams competing for the Henders & Hazel Nations Cup.
Tonight, the Grand Place arena was a sight to behold. Every corner buzzed with horse enthusiasts, all gathered to savor an unforgettable competition. A Nations Cup promises entertainment, but tonight’s drama surpassed all expectations.
Although few might have predicted them as the outright winners beforehand, it was clear early in the first round that Team Mexico did not come to play. Nicolas Pizarro, Fernando Martinez Sommer, and Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia, accumulated just one penalty point. Their outstanding performances drew roaring applause, especially from their fervent Mexican fans in the stands. The British, Ben Maher, Harry Charles, and Scott Brash, also managed to limit their score to just 1 penalty point. Yet, the competitive spirit of other nations remained undeterred. Sweden, for instance, the second team from the Nations Cup in Knokke Hippique last year, started strong with clear rounds from Angelie Von Essen and Erica Swartz Ryan.
As daylight gave way to artificial lights, the penalties began to stack up when the last riders of the first round came into the arena. For the home team, who had been yearning for a Nations Cup victory on home turf for almost two decades, the evening brought mixed emotions. Their participation in the second round was hanging by a thread. But despite a mistake towards the end of the course, the Belgians narrowly managed to beat the Dutch and secure a spot.
Mexico and Great Britain entered the second round as leaders. Niels Bruynseels, who had been watching closely, said he had hoped for more from the Belgians. “They also had a lot of bad luck. But how impressive were the Mexicans. I expected a strong performance from the British, and they delivered. In my opinion, either the Mexicans or the British will win. Sweden might still pose a threat to them. And who knows, maybe the Belgians can still turn it around?”
In the second round, both Mexico and Britain held strong. It seemed clear one of them would clinch the win. But while all eyes were on these two contenders, the Germans, who had not managed a single clear round in the first round and started the second round with a total of 12 penalty points, snuck up with 3 flawless performances. Their total remained at 12 penalty points.
With the stakes high, Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane needed to limit himself to just 4 penalties for the win. But things went sideways in the triple combination and at the end of the course. They had the audience’s support, but it wasn’t enough: a total of 14 penalty points for the Mexican team was 2 too many to take home the Nations Cup. If Scott Brash kept his cool, the victory would go to the UK. He seemed well on his way to clearing the course, until he reached the last jump. The bar fell to the grass, the British score rose to 14, and Germany sneaked in to snatch the victory.
Congratulations to team Germany! Featuring Jana Wargers (Dorette), Maurice Tebbel (Chacco’s Light), Christian Ahlmann (Mandato van de Neerheide), and Daniel Deusser (Killer Queen Vdm).