Wathelet Wins on Home Turf at Mechelen

Gregory Wathelet and Copin van de Broy pictured receiving the winner’s prize of a Rolex watch from Mr Philippe De Baets, Managing Director, Rolex Benelux. Photo: FEI/Dirk Caremans.

Mechelen (BEL), 30 December 2011 – Gregory Wathelet scooped the honours for the host nation when coming out on top at the eighth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011/2012 series at Mechelen in Belgium this afternoon.  And he did it in style, throwing down an impossible target when first to go with Copin van de Broy in the eight-horse jump-off, and sitting back to watch the rest line up behind him.

It was 2009 individual European Champion, Kevin Staut from France, who filled runner-up spot with the grey mare, Silvana HDC, while Belgium was prominently placed once more when Rick Hemeryck and Quarco de Kerambars finished third.  Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher (Magnus Romeo) slotted into fourth, while the fifth-place result for Denis Lynch (Abbervail van het Dingeshof) has promoted the Irishman to second spot on the Western European League leaderboard as 2011 draws to a close with reigning European Champion, Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, still at the head of affairs.

The Nekkerhal at Mechelen was packed to capacity for the exciting competition in which 38 riders from 15 nations lined out.  And this leg would not be easily won, with the first-round track proving too much of a puzzle for the first 20 starters.  It was not until Wathelet and his nine year old bay stallion came up with all the answers that the spectators could at last relax in the knowledge that a jump-off was likely.  And they were particularly appreciative of the fact that the first man to find the key to it was one of their own.

Lucien Somers tested them over a course of big, wide oxers and tall verticals that were all-the-more challenging due to the tight confines of the arena which is just 90 metres in length.  It was difficult to establish a rhythm, and the triple combination – oxer, vertical, oxer – at fence 10 claimed a large number of victims while the penultimate oxer was also highly influential.  However it was the vertical with water-tray at fence 11 that proved the undoing of two promising efforts, when both Frenchman Simon Delestre’s stallion Valentino Velvet, and the mare, Cathleen, ridden by The Ukraine’s Katharina Offel, both ducked out at this fence which came as a bit of a surprise to some of the horses still recovering from the effort of the previous triple combination.

Unluckiest of all perhaps was Great Britain’s Will Funnell whose promising eight-year-old chestnut stallion, Billy Angelo, made it all the way to the skinny planks at the very end of the 13-fence track before making a mistake to join 14 others on a four-fault first-round result.

First to go against the clock, Wathelet knew he had it all to do, but he has been riding his Darco stallion for almost four years now and knew exactly which buttons to press.  Setting off over the Rolex oxer he turned quickly to the following vertical and galloped down to the remaining two elements of the triple combination before rolling back quickly to the FEI vertical, on to the triple bar and right-handed to the final line which included the troublesome, big penultimate oxer – now raised even higher – and the flimsy, narrow planks to finish.  The clock showed 36.69 seconds, and that was always going to be difficult to beat.

Next out, Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and his 10-year-old stallion Magnus Romeo gave it a good shot, but a big jump over the triple bar drew them too far down the arena before taking their final right-handed turn and although 37.46 seconds was quick, it would not be the winning time.  Spain’s Manuel Suarez and the lovely brown mare, Rackel Chavannaise, got it all wrong at the penultimate oxer for four faults and while Irishman, Lynch, was clear, his gigantic bay gelding simply couldn’t find the turn-of-foot necessary to challenge the lead as they crossed the line in 38.10 seconds to slot, temporarily, into third.

If anyone was going to oust Wathelet from the top of the order it seemed that Staut was the man to do it.  But not even the flying Frenchman was quick enough, although his great mare, looking fresher than ever, gave it all she had as they broke the beam to slot into runner-up spot in 36.80 seconds.  And that was where they would remain after Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger and the scopey Uptown Boy got into a muddle and were eliminated for jumping the wrong fence having already left one on the floor and, last man in, Rick Hemeryck steered Quarco de Kerambars into third.

It was a superb day for the “Darcos”, as Hemeryck’s stallion is also by the great horse that brought such glory to Belgium with Ludo Philippaerts in the saddle and later as a world-class breeding sire.  Celebrations all round then for the host country at Mechelen today where Ludo’s twin sons competed alongside their father – Nicola Philippaerts finishing fastest of the first-round four-faulters to slot into ninth place with Carlos VHPZ.

“I knew I was fast,” said the winner, Wathelet, afterwards, “but I also knew that I had some very fast ones behind me.  I went as quickly as I could and just had to hope the rest wouldn’t catch me!” he added.  The Belgian rider spent some years competing for The Ukraine, but in 2008 renewed Belgian citizenship and had to wait two years to get back in his national team.  “I jumped my first Nations Cup for Belgium again in 2010 and I’m very happy to win here today in front of my home crowd – that’s always very special,” he pointed out this evening.

Runner-up, Kevin Staut, was content with his day’s work too.  “I was very happy that Silvana went so well today and I’m delighted with this result for her new owners,” he said.  The 12 year old mare has been recently purchased from former owner, Xavier Marie at Haras de Hus, by the Haras des Coudrettes and will therefore remain in French ownership, and with Staut in the saddle, going into the all-important Olympic year of 2012.  Very good news indeed for French jumping fans.

Staut’s next port of call is Leipzig, Germany where the ninth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series will take place in just over three weeks’ time, but Silvana HDC will wait to line out the following week in Zurich, Switzerland and is then destined for Bordeaux, France in early February.

For today’s winning rider meanwhile, success was something to be savoured.  “I have only one horse – this one – for Grand Prix level competition and I am so pleased because he did everything for me!” said Wathelet.

For further information on the eighth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 at Mechelen, Belgium go to website http://www.jumping-mechelen.com/nl/home/ or contact Press Officer Edith de Reys, Email edith.dereys@skynet.be or Tel +32 475 659 281.  The next leg of the series takes place at Leipzig, Germany on Sunday 22 January 2012.  For details of the German fixture check out website www.engarde.de or contact Press Officer Andreas Kerstan at Email andreas.kerstan@comtainment.de or Tel +49 177 75 32 624.

Result: 1, Copin van de Broy (Gregory Wathalet) BEL 0/0 36.69; 2, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 36.80; 3, Quarco de Kerambars (Rik Hemeryck) BEL 0/0 37.45; 4, Magnus Romeo (Hans-Dieter Dreher) GER 0/0 37.46; 5, Abbervail vh Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 38.10; 6, Rackel Chavannaise (Manuel Anon Suarez) ESP 0/4 38.92; 7, Regina Z (Harrie Smolders) NED 0/8 37.97; 8, Uptown Boy (Janika Sprunger) SUI 0/Elim; 9, Carlos VHPZ (Nicola Philippaerts) BEL 4/64.53; 10, Nuage Bleu (Pilar Cordon) ESP 4/64.53.  Full results at www.scgvisual.com.

Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011/2012 Western European League – Standings after Round 8 at Mechelen (BEL):
1.    Rolf-Goran Bengtsson SWE            –    71
2.    Denis Lynch IRL                    –    54
3.    Kevin Staut FRA                    –    53
4.    Steve Guerdat SUI                    –    51
5.    Nick Skelton GBR                    –    48
6.    Scott Brash GBR                    –    43
7.    Patrice Deleveau FRA                –    42
8.    Emilie Martinsen DEN                –    41
9.    Pius Schwizer SUI                    –    40
10.    Harrie Smolders NED                –    34
11.    Dermott Lennon IRL                –    30
11.    Ludger Beerbaum GER                –    30
13.    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER        –    28
14.    Marco Kutscher GER                –    27
15.    Luciana Diniz POR                    –    26
15.   Maikel van der Vleuten NED            –    26
17.    Janika Sprunger SUI                –    23
17.   Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE            –    23
19.    Manuel Anon Suarez ESP            –    22
19.    Michel Robert FRA                    –    22
19.    Philipp Weishaupt GER                –    22

Facts and Figures:
38 starters in this eighth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011/2012 series at Mechelen, Belgium.
Riders from 15 nations – The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Finland, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Mechelen lies approximately 20 kms from Brussels, Belgium.
Course designer was Lucien Somers of Belgium.
Belgian senior team member, Ludo Philippaerts, was joined in today’s competition by his twin sons Nicola and Olivier.
The youngest horses competing were the eight-year-olds Billy Angelo (William Funnell) GBR, and Diamanthina van’t Ruytershof (Niels Bruynseels) BEL.
The oldest horse was the 16-year-old 11th and Bleeker (Gerfried Puck) AUT.
11 stallions, 9 mares and 18 geldings were in today’s starting list.
8 riders from 7 nations in jump-off.
15 horse-and-rider combinations completed the first round with just 4 faults.
The 2011 edition is the 31st anniversary of the horse show at Mechelen.
This annual fixture is dedicated to the memory of the late Belgian rider Eric Wauters who, at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada in 1976, won team bronze in Jumping alongside Stanny Van Paesschen, Francois Mathy and Edgar-Henri Cuepper.

Gregory Wathelet – “My plan is to compete on the Sunshine Tour, because I have a lot of young horses I am bringing along.”

Kevin Staut, talking about his ride in the jump-off – “I think I lost time at the FEI vertical, but Silvana jumped really well today.”

Rik Hemeryck – “I was confident I could beat Gregory’s time but I was too slow over the first two fences and I left it too late to try to catch up.  I will be talking with the Belgian Chef d’Equipe to ask for more starts in the World Cup series after my result today!”

FEI TV – Re-live the excitement of today’s competition, and enjoy highlights, interviews and archive footage at www.feitv.org.

Vote for Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping “Best Press Office” Award.  Journalists and photographers are being asked to cast their votes for the “Best Press Office” of the Rolex FEI World Cup 2011/2012 season.  All services provided by the 12 press officers covering this season’s qualifiers, including on-site facilities, internet access, press conference organization and speed of information supply will be evaluated.  Forms will be provided in the press offices at each of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011/2012 qualifiers.

To view the complete FEI World Cup Jumping Calendar, please click here.

To view the Rolex Rankings, please click here.

Media Contacts:
At Mechelen
Press Officer – Edith de Reys
Email: edith.dereys@skynet.be
Tel: +32 475 659 281

Grania Willis
Director Press Relations
Email: grania.willis@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 142

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 78 750 6145

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