Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts won the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule

Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts won the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule at the end of a superb event and jump­off with 14 pairs in which suspense was maintained right to the finish. A wonderful way of ending an exceptional edition of Jumping International de La Baule ­ Officiel de France.

Nicola had to wait until the end, however, after the last rider completed their round. Philippaerts, who obtained the best time in the jump­off of the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de La Baule with his 13­year­old mare Katanga v/h Dingeshof, had to wait in the paddock for the time of the last rider, Sweden’s Jens Fredricson, who completed his round in 36’38”, just 32 hundredths more than the Belgian! That was an enormous relief  for him before receiving congratulations from all the other riders.

At almost 30 years of age, the Belgian ranked 49th in the world takes over the title from Canada’s Beth Underhill. He is the third Belgian to see his name engraved on the winners’ plaque at the entry to the arena, after Jos Lansink in 2009 and Jérôme Guéry in 2016. “I’m very happy to have won here in La Baule, one of the most prestigious venues in our sport”, said a delighted Philippaerts. “It’s my first 5­star win on Katanga, and she really deserves it. She has often been very close to winning in major Grands Prix and she gave her  all today. I am very proud of her. I saw the round by Henrik (von Eckermann, the leader at the time) and I knew it would be hard because I don’t always have complete control over her. Then, when Jens set off, I was a bit stressed because we’ve known each other for a long time, we’re friends and I must confess that I was very happy when I saw the timer stop”.

On the podium, before the Belgian national anthem sounded Nicola Philippaerts heard a lot of Swedish spoken: in second place, Jens Fredricson (no. 104) on Markan Cosmopolit, and world number 1 Henrik von Eckermann on Iliana in third place. “When I started, I said to myself: if you don’t take any risks there won’t be any victory’’, Fredricson confided. “So go for it! I looked at the rounds of the other riders, and especially that of Rodrigo Pessoa (5th on Major Tom), and I eliminated some strides in certain places. I am very happy with my horse and the way I managed the jump­off, even if my coach always wants to win! I’ve beaten Henrik today but we are particularly pleased to have two Swedes on the podium, we help each other    a lot and that shows that we have a great Swedish team”. Used to heading podiums, like on Saturday in the Prix Saur (on Glamour Girl), the individual world champion and team and Olympic champion had to be satisfied with third place this time. “I didn’t do the jump­off I expected”, said Eckermann. “I left the door open. Even so, I am very happy with my mare, who is only a 10­year­old. She has reached a very high level and is still gaining experience, but she’s ready. Everyone knew King Edward, but I’m lucky to have a mare like her in the stable. I wasn’t very successful last year. but coming back to La Baule with a win on Saturday and a podium in the Grand Prix, well, it’s a great feeling”.

As for the home team, three French riders completed the jump­off, although none managed to get into the top 5. Sixth on Bibici, Grégory Cottard was the best among them. “It’s difficult to start first in a jump­off. I did my best, and so did Bibici. We were up against a very high level of riders, the best in the world. Still, I am proud of my sixth place and we will continue to work hard to be better than the others one day”.

In the other CSIO 5* on Sunday ­ the Prix Grand Prix (1.45 m, two legs), France had greater success with a win by ‘rocket man’ Julien Épaillard. The winner of a speed contest on Thursday on Hoover, the world number 2 repeated his performance, finishing ahead of Ireland’s Cian O’Connor (Germaine W) and Belgium’s Grégory Wathelet (Berline du Maillet Z). In the Grand Prix Defender (CSI 1*), Stéphane Landois, who had already won the Derby Laiterie de Montaigu CSI 1*, once again beat his rivals on Uh la Up de Crazy.

Reassuring news for Explosion W

Cared for very quickly after having to interrupt his round in the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de la Baule Explosion  W, Ben Maher’s Olympic champion horse is OK. He was calmed down and transported to his horsebox, where he was able to eat his hay peacefully before travelling back to the stable, well supported by all Ben Maher’s team. In any FEI event, priority is given to the safety and well­being of horses and competitors. The Jumping International de La Baule wishes Explosion W a good recovery.

Pierre de Brissac (President of Jumping international de La Baule – Officiel de France): “This 2023 edition of the competition has been a great success. Yes, there are the figures: 45,000 spectators over 4 days, 132 riders, 248 horses, 40 partners, 50 exhibitors and a budget of over 1 million euros. We have reached our maximum capacity. We have also increased the dissemination of images, as well as streaming  on our website, plus the usual specialist support from Cheval TV, Grand Prix and Clip my Horse, and also large­scale media such as BeIN Sport, and Sport en France, which have broadcast the major events to their audiences. This enables us to get a higher profile. We have also developed our social media   to get even closer to our audience.
Apart from these ‘technical’ aspects, there has also been a lot of emotion in the air. The best riders in the world have given us some great contests and put on an excellent show. The “Trophée des Légendes Platinium Sellier présenté par les Sports Équestres Militaires”, a major novelty in this edition ­devised by Frédéric Cottier­ was a particularly intense moment with the stands full to appreciate the exploits of four great champions.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the event: riders, trainers, all the partners who support us continuously, grooms, officials, volunteers, staff of the organisation, etc. and ­of course­ all the spectators who show their loyalty to our beautiful competition every year. So, I look forward to seeing you in 2024, when a strong Olympic air will blow over the La Baule course”.