It was a case of saving the best for last in Sunday afternoon’s CSI3* Winter Masters Grand Prix at Equestrian Centre de Peelbergen, when Lars Kersten (NED) brought the spectators to the tip of their toes as the final rider in the ring in the feature class of the weekend.
There was hardly space to move at Equestrian Centre de Peelbergen this afternoon, so full was the main hall of spectators. Kersten made their trip worthwhile though when snatching the win on behalf of the hosts as last to go in an eight-horse jump-off.
World-class course designer Frank Rothenberger (GER) had set a tough test in the 1.55m Grand Prix worth 50.200 Euro. Predicting seven to eight clears, Rothenberger was spot on – and pointed out that the course demanded that the rider needed “a lot of control of the horse”. That was most certainly the case, especially on the line from the combination at 8ab followed by three short strides to the airy wall at fence 9 which again led the way to a grey-poled Liverpool oxer at fence 10. The light bricks on the wall fell again and again, and many dreams of a clear round ended here.
The jump-off was dominated by the home riders, much to the joy of the spectators. Five out of eight represented the host nation, in addition to riders flying the German, Portuguese and French flag.
First out in the jump-off, Sophie Hinners (GER) and Vittorio 8 (Valentino Ddh x Ramiro’s Bube) had the Winter Masters upright down while Rodrigo Giesteira Almeida (POR) and Kafka vd Heffinck (Calvaro x Diamant de Semilly) had to see a pole on the last vertical hit the ground.
The first clear came from Max Thirouin (FRA) and Utopie Villelongue (Mylord Carthago x Calypso d’Herbiers), who raced around the shortened track to stop the clock at 37.18 seconds. Neither Caroline Devos-Poels (NED) nor Anouk de Ruijter (NED) could catch the French rider, slotting in behind in temporary second and third respectively. Fresh from his two big wins at the Winter Masters, Leopold van Asten (NED) was a hot candidate for the Grand Prix title. However, also he was unable to catch up aboard VDL Groep Miss Untouchable (Chacco-Blue x Aldatus) and went into runner-up position with his time of 37.72 seconds. Kevin Olsmeyer (NED) followed on Dalvaro 2 (Calvaro F.C. x Glendale), but was not fast enough with his 39.20 seconds – going in behind Van Asten on the result list.
Last to go was 18-year-old Lars Kersten and Dobbey (VDL Zirocco Blue x Grosso Z). As the final hope of the home crowds, much pressure rested on this young man’s shoulders. However, Kersten did not let any nerves get to him. Pushed on by the cheers and whistles of the enthusiastic audience, Kersten went faster and faster – getting a great turn to the third-last oxer towards the in-gate before setting in an extra gear towards the last line placed on a long stretch towards the VIP. Crossing the finish line, the clock showed an unbelievable 35.84 seconds and Kersten could punch his hands in the air while receiving a standing ovation from the spectators for his fabulous performance.
“I could not have wished for a better ending to this show. Dobbey has been in great shape for a while now, but we always just seemed to miss out on a win. Making it happen here, in front of a super enthusiastic home crowd, at an amazing show like this is fantastic!” Lars Kersten reacted to his first ever CSI3* Grand Prix win.
“To be honest Dobbey jumped amazing, maybe even a bit too much. I had a bit of difficulty keeping my balance after the jumps. In hindsight I would have ridden the last line of the jump-off differently, knowing I had 1.5 seconds to spare. Towards the last oxer I knew it would be a stretch and I even considered trying to get another stride in, but Dobbey really jumped her heart out. The distance to the last vertical was a bit big too, but it was a risk I was willing to take and look how amazingly it payed off. My hat goes off to the organisation of the Winter Masters, the show was nothing less than excellent. The courses, the atmosphere and everything in between,” Kersten concluded.