Gregory Wathelet has opened a new chapter in the history of the Rolex Grand Slam after riding to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix of the CHIO Aachen 2017.
Two rounds, one jump-off, one goal: The Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. Four riders had reached the jump-off. The moment to celebrate had already come for the Course Designer, Frank Rothenberger, even before the most important jumping class of the weekend had come to an end. “I was just happy that there was a jump-off at all, not like last year,” commented the experienced course builder. Rothenberger wanted to have three or four riders in the jump-off and everything went exactly as planned, there were four: Marc Houtzager (NED) with Sterrehof‘s Calimero, Luciana Diniz (POR) with Fit For Fun, Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Coree and Laura Kraut (USA) with Zeremonie.
Marc Houtzager and the ten-year-old KWPN gelding Calimero by Quidam de Revel entered the ring first in the jump-off. Their round was a little reminiscent of a young horses jumping class. The strategy was obvious – to jump clear to which they succeeded. But a time of 53.66 seconds meant their was opportunity for this to be beaten.
Luciana Diniz and her graceful Hanoverian-bred mare, Fit For Fun by For Pleasure, came into the ring next. The pair really flew over the fences. In a tight turn to the Mercedes-Benz oxer, the mare slipped, a collective “Oh!” could be heard from the mouths of the 40,000-strong crowd. But Fit For Fun saved herself over the huge obstacle without coming anywhere near the poles and immediately picked up speed again. A clear round in 47.40 seconds gave them a comfortable lead.
Gregory Wathelet knew it was all or nothing. As he said: “It doesn’t suffice to give 100 percent to win here in Aachen. One has to give 500 percent!” Wathelet and his eleven-year-old Westphalian Coree by Cornet Obolensky have been a team since 2014. They had already jumped clear in “two or three” Grand Prix. But they hadn’t managed to reach the winning round until today. In the jump-off Wathelet risked everything, took the turns as tightly as the footing allowed and Coree gave everything. When the two flew over the last obstacle, the Rolex oxer, the clock stopped at 46.60 seconds giving the crowd a new leader.
However, there was still one rider to go, who could strip Wathelet of the victory: Laura Kraut with the Holstein-bred Cero daughter, Zeremonie. The two of them gave it their very best shot, but they weren’t able to match Wathelet’s time. And then at the last fence a pole fell. So, the victory went to Gregory Wathelet. Finally!
The likeable Belgian rider, said modestly: “First of all I will enjoy this victory! And this evening I will spend some time with my team. For me it is a dream come true that I will see my name on the winners’ board. But the back up of a whole team made this all possible as well as my fantastic horse, of course.”
Even if Gregory Wathelet intends to enjoy this victory first, for him the Rolex journey will now continue. The next stop is Spruce Meadows. The next Rolex Major will be staged on 10 September – Wathelet’s 37th birthday. A €500,000 bonus would make a wonderful gift!
The Rolex Grand Prix Aachen 2017 will be repeated in its entirety on Wednesday 26 July at 8pm on Sky 253 or online on H&C Play and Amazon Video.