Niels Bruynseels (picture: Ashley Neuhof).
The Rolex Grand Prix Winner: Niels Bruynseels
Niels Bruynseels is the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender following a sensational performance in the Rolex Grand Prix at the Dutch Masters, one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Under the spotlights of the Brabanthal arena, the world’s best horse and rider combinations battled for the pinnacle prize of the weekend, all vying to start their Rolex Grand Slam journey.
The 13 riders through to the jump-off included Great Britain’s Scott Brash, the only rider so far to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, putting extra pressure on the competitors. Eighth to go, Marcus Ehning, raised the bar with a speedy clear round in 37.80 secs, but it was Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels who shifted the pace up a gear to clinch the victory and his first ever Major in 37.10 secs.
1st Place: NIELS BRUYNSEELS (BEL)
- 2016 and 2017 Stephex Rolex Grand Prix Winner
- Horse: Gancia De Muze, a 12-year-old bay mare
2nd Place: MARCUS EHNING (GER)
- Winner of 3 Majors & Olympic Gold Medallist
- Horse: Cornado NRW, a 15-year-old grey stallion
3rd Place: HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED)
- World Number 2
- Horse: Emerald, A 14-year-old chestnut stallion
Winners Interview with Niels Bruynseels
How does it feel to win your first Major?
“This has to be one of my biggest victories. I don’t even have the words to say how much it means to me. This show has always been great, but the support of Rolex has made it even better and it is an honour for me to come here and compete against the best riders in the world. The atmosphere in the arena was incredible; it was a very special moment for me.”
Your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping campaign has started; is CHIO Aachen going to be your focus now?
“Aachen is certainly the next stop for me. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the biggest prize in our sport and I hope I can come to Germany in July and repeat what I have achieved here.”
Do you feel that the course lived up to the Rolex Grand Prix standard?
“I think the team of course designers did a very good job; it was a tough course but good for the horses. There were 13 in the jump-off which is nice for the crowd and created top competition.”
And what about your horse – has she done you proud today?
“My horse was a superstar today. I cannot thank her enough. She always tries her best for me and I couldn’t be happier with her performance this afternoon. I think I was at advantage going last in the jump-off. I was able to see all the other riders go before me and where the course was difficult. I had a plan in my head; I knew I would need a fast ride, and Grancia exceeded all expectations; she is a special horse for sure.”
Words from the Course Designer, Louis Konickx
Talk to us about the process of designing such an important course like a Rolex Grand Prix.
“We first came up with the ideas and concept three weeks ago. My assistant and I are in constant communication, always bouncing ideas off each other; it is a team effort. Because the arena is bigger this year, we added longer combinations and more related distances. It is also very important to make sure you have the right number of verticals and oxers because if you are too defensive and have too many hard oxers, it asks too much of the horse and will not get the desired number of clear rounds. It needs to be challenging… but achievable.”
Are there any particular tricky parts you put in?
“Yes, but we wanted to make sure that there was a variety for the different types of horses.”
“If you just build big oxers, it challenges the horses that don’t have scope but is easy for the horses that do, so it is vital that we have diversity which will ultimately produce the best competition.”
“In all cases we are wanting to test the tuning between horse and rider and their ability to work together in a partnership; that is what we are searching for as course designers.”
Is there more pressure on you now that this Rolex Grand Prix is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
“Yes, there is certainly more pressure! Most of it comes from the riders; they really want to win this class and go after the Rolex Grand Slam which means we need to make sure the course gives them the opportunity to compete at the best of their ability. Now that this is part of the Rolex Grand Slam there is more at stake than just the result of this Grand Prix.”
What makes you passionate about your role?
“Every day and every event are different. I have particularly enjoyed this year at the Dutch Masters as we have designed a lot of new fences and have created a sense of the Netherlands within that. We have focused on Dutch artists, for example Van Gogh, who we think represents a ‘Dutch Master’. We have also designed fences to represent the Dutch fruit, all small touches that I think make the course extra special.”