Just like last year, it was home hero Niels Bruynseels who won the €300.000 Rolex Grand Prix presented with Audi at Stephan Conter’s magnificent event Brussels Stephex Masters.
The 33-year-old Belgian rider, that runs a stable from Bonheiden – a short drive away from Stephex Stables – rode the 11-year-old mare Gancia de Muze (Malito de Reve x Nimmerdor) to victory. This was the pair’s second win this weekend, they also went to the top in Friday night’s 1.50m competition presented by Audi – and were again unbeatable in today’s Grand Prix set at 1.60m height after jumping two clear rounds and producing the fastest jump-off of the competition.
“Of course, it does something to you,” said Bruynseels when asked if he felt any extra pressure after last year’s victory. “I know a lot of people here, I live only 15 minutes away – so I have been stopped quite a few times over the last days with the question if I was going to win today,” he smiled. “Needless to say, I really wanted to win!”
Nine riders qualified for the jump-off after producing clear rounds over Uliano Vezzani’s masterful thirteen-fence track. The Rolex triple combination at 9abc, with a vertical-oxer-oxer on one and two strides caught out many and was the biggest heartbreaker of the course. Several of the horses rushed, and did not reach the back pole on one or both of the oxers jumping out.
The jump-off course was shortened to seven fences, and Vezzani made use of the entire main ring; Starting on the middle of the long-side by the VIP, then sending the riders the whole way around before they had to jump the two first elements of the former triple. This was placed as the riders came up through the diagonal towards the last Rolex vertical, set at the end of the opposite long-side from where it all started. With the home crowds filling up every single space along the run towards the last jump, it was an electric atmosphere at Brussels Stephex Masters today – record-many spectators had showed up in the beautiful September weather to cheer on the world’s best and their home favourites.
Coming in as fourth last to go in the jump-off, Niels set his feisty mare in top gear from the very outset and got a perfect flow right from the start – never pulling back. Almost lifted on by the crowds on the last stretch, that cheered and whistled for the sympathetic Belgian rider, Bruynseels crossed the finish line to take the lead in 35.36 seconds.
None of those to come could catch him, closest came Simon Delestre and the 12-year-old Hermes Ryan (Hugo Gesmeray x Ryon d'Anzex) with their time of 36.18 seconds as the last pair in the ring – leaving Bruynseels with a brand new Audi A5, a new Rolex watch as well as 47336,11 Euro not to forget the celebrations of the home crowds. “To the last fence in the jump-off I maybe added one – even two – strides too much,” analysed world no. 11 Delestre after being beat by Bruynseels, but still happy with the final result.
Dutch rider Leopold Van Asten took the third place with the 11-year-old mare VDL Groep Beauty (For Pleasure x Contender), nearly three seconds behind Bruynseels in the jump-off with the last double clear of the class. Van Asten was followed by Italy and Stephex Stables’ own Lorenzo De Luca in fourth, and Germany’s Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann in fifth.
Van Asten had already won two competitions this week, and was at the end of today’s show awarded as the Leading Rider of the Brussels Stephex Masters. “This event is made with so much passion, and this you can both see and feel,” he said. “It’s full house here every day, you don’t see that at many other shows and it gives you a fantastic feeling to ride here!”
Bruynseels joined in: “I have to thank Stephan and his team for organizing this event. They do an amazing job! It is the fourth edition of the show, and every time I have come here before I have been thinking that they cannot make it better – but still they do. Everything is perfect here. Huge thanks also go to the sponsors that make this show possible. This is not just the best competition in Belgium, but in the world,” concluded Bruynseels.
Stephan Conter, President of the Brussels Stephex Masters, thanked sponsors and partners for making the event possible and for allowing the open doors to the public – that all can come to enjoy the show ticketless. “This is sport for everybody,” said Conter about his full-house and the policy to keep the doors open free of charge. “I am proud that we can say ‘Come, enjoy with us’. One of the nicest things I experienced here today was going from the collecting ring to the prize giving with Niels, and seeing the walk-way down full of spectators on each side cheering for him. It is for moments like that we do this!” said Conter after the conclusion of what must be said to be the best edition of the Brussels Stephex Masters to date.
Picture © Scoopdyga