Home hero Leopold van Asten (NED) has been on fire at the inaugural Winter Masters at Equestrian Centre de Peelbergen. After winning Thursday’s 1.45m Grand Prix qualifier and coming in second in Friday’s 1.50m world ranking class, the Dutch 42-year-old went on to top Saturday night’s 1.45m VD Beeten Prize aboard the 13-year-old mare VDL Groep Beauty (For Pleasure x Contender).
Van Asten – who works at Stoeterij Duyselshof a 30-minute drive away from Equestrian Centre de Peelbergen – has brought with him two of his top horses for the big classes, VDL Groep Miss Untouchable (Chacco-Blue x Aldatus) and VDL Groep Beauty. It has been VDL Groep Beauty that has brought home the two victories so far, while VDL Groep Miss Untouchable finished second on Friday – making Leopold van Asten a hot candidate for Sunday’s Winter Masters Grand Prix title.
It was no easy task that waited for Van Asten in tonight’s world ranking class though, with no less than 23 horse-and-rider combinations moving on to the jump-off after producing clear rounds over Frank Rothenberger’s 1.45m track.
It was the young talent Karin Martinsen (SWE), who trains with Dutch legend Michel Hendrix, who set the target time early on when blazing around the shortened track with the 10-year-old mare Holstein’s Matina (Party Dance x Charmeur) to stop the clock at 34.92 seconds.
For a long time, it looked like Martinsen would stay on top of the leader board but as third last to go came Leopold van Asten. He put VDL Groep Beauty in top gear and cheered on by the crowds – that again filled up the main hall at Equestrian Centre de Peelbergen – the two shaved the time down to an incredible 33.54 seconds.
With two to go, Van Asten had an anxious wait and while Marc Houtzager (NED) – last man in the ring on Sterrehof’s Dante (Canturano x Phin Phin) – gave it a good shot, he was just shy of the leading time when crossing the finish line in 34.77 seconds to slot in behind his compatriot.
“I had a very good feeling. On Thursday, Beauty won the Grand Prix qualifier and jumped very good,” Leopold van Asten said. “Today, she jumped very good again in the first round. There were many in the jump-off, and they were fast but I know that when Beauty goes with me she is naturally quick so I went for it. In the jump-off, she was very focused from the first fence to the last and it was good enough for the win today.”
“When you have a big, cheering crowd like here at the Winter Masters, it makes the sport extra spectacular. I think we have seen three days of very good sport here in the big classes, very fast jump-offs that were exciting to the end. Yesterday, the second last rider beat me by 0.09 seconds – so that was also very close,” van Asten continued. “The organisation has done a fantastic job with the set-up in the big ring. I think it looks amazing, and it’s nice to see so many show up to watch and that everybody is excited. I hope it’s an impulse for the organising team of the Winter Masters to continue this event.”
“I will be riding Miss Untouchable tomorrow in the Grand Prix. She jumped very good yesterday and had a day off today, so I hope she will continue in the same shape as yesterday,” van Asten concluded.