Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet took his first Royal Windsor Rolex CSI5* grand prix win when he led an intense, three-way jump off from the front.
His grey stallion Nevados S answered every question round Bernardo Costa Cabral’s jump off track, and concluded by clearing the closing Rolex vertical from a full-stretch gallop.
“I had two quick riders behind me and nothing to lose, I had to try,” Gregory said. “He did superbly.”
Bernardo Costa Cabral’s course designing was perhaps a little too good in this €12,500-to-the-winner class. Big airy verticals and highly technical lines caused many combinations to have just the one pole, particularly a very light plank across the centre and a green vertical jumped against a busy backdrop.
Gregory delivered the opening clear with the 14-year-old son of Calvados Z, jumping eighth of 32 starters, before four riders later, Austrian Max Kuhner and Elektric Blue P guaranteed a jump off when they also produced a clean sheet.
But rider after rider’s hopes were dashed as they fell foul of a single rail at one or the other of Bernardo’s questions, including Brits Joe Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel) and Harry Charles (Stardust), who tipped the white plank and green vertical respectively.
Trevor Breen (IRE) had also looked on track to deliver the opening clear when he jumped a brilliant round on Highland President, only for the horse to completely misjudge the last fence, take off and then put down again, crashing through the oxer.
Brits Emily Moffit (Bacara d’Archonfosse), William Funnell (Equine America Billy Picador) and last year’s victor Ben Maher, this time partnered with new ride Enjoy CK Z, all elected to retire after tallying faults.
It was only right at the end of the class that a fresh clear was produced by Daniel Bluman (ISR) and his established 5* partner Ladriano Z.
“I was expecting more clears and there were many good horses with one down,” Gregory said. “The verticals were really big but it is a Rolex grand prix, we know that’s how it will be.
“But even when you have a jump off with less riders, you still have to go fast and ride for it.”
Gregory did just that, laying down an untouchable performance with this quick and careful grey, who he has partnered since he was a six-year-old.
Max and the 11-year-old gelding also kept a clean sheet but couldn’t quite match the target time, with a less bold approach to the long final line leaving them 1.86sec behind.
Last into the ring, Daniel knew there was no choice but to go for it, but his gamble to the last didn’t pay when his 14-year-old grey gelding dragged the final vertical behind.
“It was a very exciting class for sure,” Daniel said. “When I went in the ring, there was nothing left on the table, so I had no choice but to give it all.
“I was really on the pace until the second to last when my horse jumped it a bit big and I lost position and landed without my stirrup and then I lost my balance a bit to the last. I learned what I had to learn and I thought my horse jumped amazingly.”
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Credit: Peter Nixon
Credit: Peter Nixon
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