Miami, Fla. – April 15, 2017 – An enthusiastic and packed crowd gathered on Saturday afternoon, the final day of the third annual Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) Miami Beach event, to witness Jérôme Guéry take his mount, Grand Cru van de Rozenberg, to the first place position in the Longines GCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach CSI5*.
“The LGCT is the biggest show in the world with some of the best riders and horses. Every rider wants to experience a win like today and have this kind of victory, and I did it. I’m so, so happy,” Guéry said.
Course designers Uliano Vezzani and Pier Francesco Bazzocchi did not withhold any challenges as they built the 1.60m track, which ended up producing an intense four-horse jump-off.
Spectators watched as the competition unfolded and the course edged out top names in the sport, such as Margie Engle, Kent Farrington, Ben Maher and Scott Brash, from getting a piece of the prize money.
Out of a starting field of 25 entries, it was 23-year-old Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) who thrilled the crowd as he was the first rider to turn in a clean round aboard Chilli Willi.
Six trips later, Alberto Zorzi (ITA) followed Philippaerts’ effort and executed another clear ride with Cornetto K. Harrie Smolders (NED) was the third rider to carve a spot for himself in the jump-off, riding Emerald N.O.P. The final athlete of the class to join the other three riders was 36-year-old Jérôme Guéry.
Although he was the final rider to jump-off, Guéry was able to shake off the pressure to pilot his chestnut gelding through the timers in the fastest time of 37.39 seconds. Only 0.57 seconds separated Guéry and second place finisher, Alberto Zorzi.
“I was last to go in the jump-off. I saw the other three riders, who went crazy fast, so I knew I had to be faster. My horse listened to me perfectly,” Guéry said.
Last year, Guéry and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg represented Belgium in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Their partnership is built on mutual trust and Guéry’s confidence in his mount was obvious on Saturday as they flawlessly navigated the 13-fence course on the shores of South Beach.
“It was difficult here, but my horse was amazing. He jumped the qualification round clear and in the grand prix he was also double-clear,” Guéry said of the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood, who he co-owns with Alexandru Oancea and Joost Verkinderen.
“We share all of the bad times and the victories together,” Guéry smiled. “It’s great to have them and all of my staff behind me. I’m glad that we all get to enjoy a victory like today.”
Oancea expressed similar sentiments saying, “It’s not normal. I’m living a dream with that guy. He’s an alien. It’s really crazy when you see what he can do with horses.”
Not only do the two men own Grand Cru van de Rozenberg together, they also share a few other horses that Guéry competes in some of the highest-rated competitions around the world. However, out of Guéry’s string of horses, Grand Cru van de Rozenberg is undoubtedly the star athlete.
“Grand Cru van de Rozenberg is such an amazing star. It normally takes so much time to bring a horse to the highest level, but in two years what Jérôme was able to do with Grand Cru is really amazing,” Oancea said. “The horse is so special. It’s so difficult to express my emotions.”
In the past, it has not always been this easy for Guéry and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg, but now the pair have formed an unbeatable partnership.
“In the beginning when Jérôme had him, we took him to the Sunshine Tour. He stopped and was eliminated,” Oancea explained. “I didn’t know if it would be a good idea to continue with the horse because he was so complicated, but, the thing is, he was so careful, and that’s a good quality. Jérôme managed to turn him around. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this horse.”
“He is a really sensitive horse and he needs to have confidence from the rider to give what he gave me today and what he gives me at every show now,” Guéry added. “He’s an amazing horse. If you are not completely in sync with your horse, you can not have a result like today.”
Guéry continued to praise his partner, who he says is treated extremely well back in the barn.
“He is my best horse,” said Guéry. “He has a very privileged program and he gets all of the attention. He’s the best and he knows it. I think that’s also why he gives so much.”
Guéry came to Miami Beach in hopes of continuing his success within the 2017 LGCT tour. The debut leg of the 2017 LGCT season was held in Mexico City, Mexico, just last week, and Guéry experienced top finishes there aboard another ride, Garfield De Tiji Des Templiers.
When asked how his horses handled the change in scenery from a grass field to a beachside ring, Guéry said, “Normally a horse that comes to this level of competition has a little bit of experience, but it is true that last week in Mexico was a big change for us after the European indoor season.”
While some horses prefer the environment that a larger ring creates, the slightly smaller arena worked in Guéry’s favor on Saturday afternoon.
“The arena here was a little bit better than Mexico for my horse because that was the first outdoor competition for him. That’s why I think he loved the format here in the smaller arena,” Guéry acknowledged.
As the first rider to return for the jump-off, Philippaerts laid down an impressive round but would soon find out he was not fast enough, clocking in at 39.50 seconds.
“[Chilli Willi] is a very good horse,” said Philippaerts. “He’s only 9. He jumped very good last week and again today. He’s still quite young but was double-clear in the grand prix. I am very happy with that. I had to go first in the jump-off. I thought it was very important for me to keep it clear and hope the others would have a fault. We’re very fortunate to be here and compete in these fantastic shows. As a rider, it’s one of the top leagues and I’m very happy I’m in it.”
Next up was Zorzi, who gave it his all in the jump-off but was unable to catch Guéry’s blazing-fast time in the end. Zorzi walked away in second place with Cornetto K, while Philippaerts secured his spot on the podium in third place.
“He is an amazing horse,” said Zorzi. “I want to thank all of my staff who work very hard for me. He jumped three rounds very well today. I’m so happy.”
Before the victory gallop, all three riders stepped onto the podium for presentation photos and to celebrate with the playing of Belgium’s national anthem to honor Guéry. The Belgian rider was gifted a Longines timepiece before the trio partook in a champagne shower.
LGCT co-founder, Jan Tops, concluded the event by saying, “For us to be in America is very important. We believe that America is a great horse nation and to be here during this time of the year fits perfectly in our calendar. Coming back from Mexico, for the horses, they can travel directly to Miami. They don’t need to do an extra flight – it’s very close. The horses that competed last week are jumping the same or better this week. It’s a great atmosphere and we are very happy that Miami is a part of our circuit.”
The next leg of the 15-part LGCT tour will run from April 28–30 in Shanghai, China, and riders will continue to fight for valuable points in hopes of staying at the top of the LGCT rankings.
Results: Longines GCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach CSI5*
- 060 Grand Cru van de Rozenberg Jérôme Guéry BEL 0 68.93 0 37.39
- 011 Cornetto K Alberto Zorzi ITA 0 67.63 0 37.96
- 079 Chilli Willi Nicola Philippaerts BEL 0 66.67 0 39.50
- 057 Emerald N.O.P. Harrie Smolders NED 0 67.85 8 51.45
- 056 Royce Margie Engle USA 4 63.61
- 006 Hermès Ryan Simon Delestre FRA 4 64.71
- 085 Dieudonne de Guldenboom Jane Richard Philips SUI 4 65.40
- 097 Cuplandra Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo COL 4 66.21
- 061 Hello M’Lady Scott Brash GBR 4 66.28
- 065 Armitages Boy Lorenzo de Luca ITA 4 66.39
- 043 Chaplin Martin Fuchs SUI 8 64.07
- 022 Electric Touch Max Kühner AUT 8 64.80