Belgian star pips Austria’s Kuehner in extraordinary 10-horse jump-off
Belgium’s Pieter Devos (32) and Austria’s Max Kuehner (44) put paid to the myth that men don’t multi-task when taking the top two places in the fifth leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2018/2019 Western European League on a fascinating afternoon in Stuttgart, Germany.
Unlike the majority of their opponents, they both divide their time between top-class showjumping and full-scale commitments in the business world. And they put their business-brains to work in an extraordinary 10-horse jump-off that took everyone by surprise.
“There were some options in the jump-off that were not easy to do, and there were a lot of misunderstandings from the horses so it wasn’t fluid; riders were trying everything they could, but it was not working out well. I decided I would go for a clear round, but I knew I had to keep my head and stay concentrated!” said Devos after pipping Kuehner by almost eight seconds when last to go against the clock with the chestnut gelding Apart.
The big blue wall at fence three had already created plenty of excitement in the first round, with two eliminations and several refusals, but it came as a bit of a shock when jump-off pathfinder, Germany’s Christian Kukuk with Colestus, ground to a halt in front of it this time out. German course designer, Christa Jung, had set them a track full of twists and turns, and both Sweden’s Stephanie Holmen (Flip’s Little Sparrow) and Germany’s Maurice Tebbel (Don Diarado) lost their chances on the sharp roll-back to the second and third elements of the double before Kuehner set off with PSG Final.
The Austrian, who finished a superb sixth individually with his top ride Chardonnay at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ two months ago and who manages a leasing company when not in the saddle, wasn’t taking any risks with his lovely eight-year-old gelding who is showing massive potential. He steered him home for the first double-clear of the competition, although their slow time of 56.62 seconds looked to have left the door wide open for the six yet to go.
However, Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt (Asathir) knocked a brick out of the bogey wall, Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Legend of Love) slipped on the approach to the second-last which hit the floor, and 2012 Olympic champion Steven Guerdat from Switzerland (Alamo) faulted at the second fence. So when Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (Tokyo) decided to take a leisurely tour with his inexperienced horse, posting a clear in 57.68 seconds, then Kuehner was, even to his own obvious amazement, still out in front.
Last in, Devos knew what he had to do. “I could see I could go six or seven seconds quicker but I also knew if I knocked a fence then I would be nowhere anymore. But Apart jumped really well, he already won a lot of classes for me but never anything as big as this, so I’m really happy for him!” said the Belgian after stopping the clock in the winning time of 49.05 seconds.
He talked about the challenge of mixing his business and sporting careers and says it has just become a way of life.
“Everyone asks me how I do it and I don’t have the answer because I ask myself that sometimes too! My brother and I inherited a big fruit company from our parents when I was 17 or 18… it’s a second-generation business and I’m Commercial Director. I’ve grown up doing both jobs, the fruit business and the horse business, and it works because I have a great team on both sides!” — Pieter Devos (BEL)
Devos, now 16th in the world rankings, is lying second on the Western European League table with 39 points and is only a whisper away from qualifying for the Longines Final in Gothenburg (SWE) next April.
“I will go to Madrid (ESP) next week and then Mechelen (BEL) in December. After that I’ll make a plan for the second half of the season, but I don’t need too many more points now which is great!” he added.
Photo: Pieter Devos and Espoir. (FEI/Richard Juillart)
Three-time champion Marcus Ehning from Germany finishes second ahead of Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro in third
A brilliant performance from his horse called Espoir secured a place at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 Final for Belgium’s Pieter Devos (31) at the second-last leg of the Western European League in Bordeaux (FRA). Setting a sizzling standard at the halfway-stage of the 10-horse jump-off against the clock, the pair couldn’t be caught despite the best efforts of three-time champion Marcus Ehning (43) from Germany who had to settle for runner-up spot and Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro (43) who lined up in third.
With 29 points already to his credit, Devos knew he had it all to do. Something in the region of 40 points is required to confirm that ticket to the finale in the French capital city next April and time is running out. But it wasn’t just the win and those 20 extra valuable points that pleased him most; it was the two spectacular rounds produced by his 14-year-old gelding, whose name in English translates to “hope”, that really lifted his spirits.
“I came here in the hope of qualifying; this was one of the last chances and even though I had a good indoor season I needed those extra points. Of course, the win is great and I’m excited to go to the Final; it will be my first and I’m really looking forward to the experience. But to be honest the very best thing is the feeling Espoir gave me today. He had a break and did his first World Cup in Leipzig when we had one down, and tonight he felt like he is right back in great shape and that makes me very, very happy!” — Pieter Devos BEL
Switzerland’s Paul Estermann and Lord Pepsi were first to go clear over Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani’s jump-off track, but Saro and Cannavaro set a new target when clearing the line in 38.40 seconds. Sixth to go, Devos always looked like he meant business, galloping into the ring and setting off with fierce determination.
“Before I went in I thought I’d be happy to finish in the top five, but in the end I took a risk between the first two fences and that went well, so of course then I got more ambitious and I just wanted to win! The crowd was great; they were shouting at me all the way to the last so I took the risk there as well!” — Pieter Devos BEL
His time of 36.53 seconds was always going to be difficult to beat, and although Ehning, second-last into the arena, looked set to put up a big challenge with Cornado NRW they broke the beam in 38.09 seconds for second place.
Ehning has now moved up to third place on the Western European League table which continues to be dominated by Frenchman Kevin Staut, while Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann lies second and Devos makes a meteoric rise to seventh position. The top 18 qualify for the Final and the pressure will be at boiling point when the last qualifier gets underway in Gothenburg (SWE) in three weeks’ time.
Calgary, AB, Canada – September 8, 2013 – The highlight event of the season wrapped up the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ with some of the best show jumping competition in the world. Pieter Devos of Belgium rode Candy to victory in the $1 Million CN International, part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, over Olympic gold medalist Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Nasa and France’s Penelope Leprevost with Nayana.
The opening field had 39 entries, and the top 12 returned for the second round over courses set by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. The riders praised Palacios’ course design, and Guerdat noted, “I think Leopoldo has done a really, really good job this week. It was strong, it was big, but today I can’t say there was anything that was too much.”
The challenging first round had eight clear rounds, and the first to return over the second course was Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) on Nippon d’Elle. They had trouble at the double combination to end up eliminated. Shane Breen (IRL) and Balloon also had a tough day when they accumulated 30 faults to end on a total of 34 for tenth place. Francois Mathy (BEL) on Polinska des Isles added 13 to their original four to finish on a total of 17 and ninth place.
Canada’s Eric Lamaze and Powerplay had two rails and a time fault, and through their 10 total faults, they finished in eighth place.
Next in was Guerdat on Nasa, a 12-year-old Selle Francais mare by Cumano x Prince d’Elle. They were clear in the first round and put in a beautiful second round trip. They stopped the timers in 74.15 seconds, which at the time gave them two time faults. Prior to the next horse starting, the time allowed was raised to 71 seconds, taking Guerdat’s total down to one fault. That fault would be the difference between second place and the opportunity to go to a jump-off for first.
“I’m really happy about the second place,” Guerdat said. “I know time is always a bit of an issue with me and Nasa. I don’t think she’s a slow horse, but she needs a little bit of time to relax between the fences. I wouldn’t have changed a lot. I think if I wanted to stay clean, I had to make that round that I made. I’m not disappointed at all about the time. I don’t think there was space that I could save time without having a fence down.”
Beezie Madden (USA) and Simon had the dreaded bicycle jump down for faults, but also had one time fault for a total of five and sixth place. Ian Millar (CAN) and Dixson had a miscommunication at fence 5, causing rails to fall. Millar circled to gather himself and went on, but after another rail fell, he retired.
German’s Patrick Stuhlmeyer and Lacan 2 were also victims of the bicycle vertical and with just four faults, they finished in fifth place. Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Taloubet Z looked on form, but a rail at the “a” obstacle of the triple combination gave them four faults as well and fourth place.
Devos and Candy, an 11-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare by Nabab de Reve x Etretat, were the next ones in. In the first round, they went early in the 14th spot, but a quick clear gave them a better place in the order for the second round. The big mare galloped around the course and gave fantastic efforts. Devos lost his stirrup after the triple combination at fence 9, and was able to just get it back in time before fence 10, the CN planks, which was the second to last fence. They cleared the final oxer as the only clean round in a time of 70.99 seconds, just 1/100th of a second inside the time allowed.
“I don’t want to think about it!” Devos laughed afterward about his close time. “I was just in time. Steve was maybe not too happy about that.”
Devos mentioned that losing his stirrup was likely a complication of his injured leg, which happened when he and Candy had a hard fall on Wednesday. Luckily, Candy has no injuries or ill effect from the fall. “My leg was on top of the pole and Candy fell on me. I was really lucky because at the beginning I thought my leg was broken,” he revealed. “I was very lucky that I could ride again and now I win. It’s really bruised and was completely swollen, (but) now it’s okay. I don’t feel the pain now!”
Although he was clear, Devos still had to wait and see what the last two riders would do. World Number One Ben Maher (GBR) and Cella knocked down two jumps for eight faults and seventh place. As the last rider in the ring in both rounds, Penelope Leprevost (FRA) had all of the pressure on her. She relied on Nayana, a 12-year-old Selle Francais mare by Royal Feu x Narcos II. All was going well until fence 10, when they brushed down the top plank to finish with four faults. Leprevost’s faster time in Round One gave her third place.
Leprevost said that Nayana is new to this level. After a strong performance on Wednesday, she changed her plan to take Nayana in the Nations Cup and instead saved her for today’s competition. “My mare was fantastic. She was super the first day, so we changed the plan. We wanted to keep her fresh. I had the plank down, but it was my fault. She is always fighting and she is very brave,” she expressed.
All three of the top horses are mares, and Devos, who is just 27, was able to rely on Candy and the long relationship he has had with her. He started riding Candy as a six-year-old, and after some time off for embryo transfers, she was back with Devos at eight years old. Devos said from there, she jumped right into the bigger levels. Candy’s dam is a full sister to Canada’s iconic show jumper, Big Ben. “She’s really a lovely horse with a super head. She always wants to do her best and she’s just great. She has a lot of scope and she’s careful and she wants to do everything for me,” he described. “She has a really big canter and a lot of scope. The circumstances here were perfect for me.”
As today’s winner, Devos has a chance to win substantial bonus money in The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is host to the second leg after the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and before December’s CHI Geneva. It is the first global initiative to reward the outstanding rider who wins the Grand Prix at each tournament in succession. Any rider that wins the Grand Prix at each of the three tournaments consecutively will receive €1 million bonus on top of the prize money for each tournament’s Grand Prix. Moreover, any rider that wins two out of the three tournaments’ Grands Prix will also receive a bonus of €500,000 in succession or €250,000 for winning two out of three.
This was Devos’ first time competing at Spruce Meadows and he was awed by the arena when he first stepped into it. “I heard a lot about Spruce Meadows and this great show. I was thinking you would have to come here two or three times before you can perform in a really good way. You have to know and train. For me, it’s a very big surprise that I won here. Now I start to realize what I won and it is just great.”
“It’s a dream come true,” said Devos. “To win here is great, but to win the grand prix is unbelievable.”
Earlier in the day there was another Belgian win, this time for Ludo Philippaerts on Quintender 2 in the $50,000 Telus Cup 1.50m. Philippaerts was the fastest clear over the speed course. Shane Breen (IRL) and Touch of Chilli were second, while Martin Fuchs (SUI) and PSG Future were third.
Spruce Meadows is thrilled to commence another fantastic ‘Masters’ Tournament and thanks all of the exhibitors, sponsors, spectators, staff, and volunteers on an amazing competition.
Based in Calgary, Canada, Spruce Meadows is the brainchild of the Southern family who built a Show Jumping complex at the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. It was in 1976 that the first Spruce Tournaments were held, with annual spectator attendances reaching over 50,000 by the end of the decade. Today, Spruce Meadows boasts one of the greatest outdoor equestrian venues in the world and offers an incredible experience for riders and fans alike. Spruce Meadows focuses on the organization and hosting of show jumping tournaments of unmatched quality for junior, amateur and professional athletes in a manner that reflects basic family values in a clean, green and welcoming environment that celebrates the horse and encourages the breeding and training of quality sport horses and the teaching and development of athletes. For more information on Spruce Meadows, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.