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The Philippaerts family won’t soon forget this day, as Olivier’s father, coach and mentor Ludo Philippaerts not only competed alongside his son, he finished just behind him in 3rd. Beezie Madden and Simon placed between the Belgiums in 2nd.
The $1,000,000 CN International was designed by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela, who has overseen this prestigious class since 1996. The class is comprised of two rounds with the top 12 horse and riders coming back for the second round.
Palacios knows it’s a tough sport and thought that today’s course was even tougher than the three Olympic (Atlanta, Sydney, and Beijing) tracks he has built.
“This is pure sport,” he said. “It’s the riders against the fences. You can’t jump this every day, but for a million dollar class, it’s right.”
Philippaerts and Cabrio Ven De Heffinck were the only horse rider team out of 29 entries to succeed in not lowering a rail over two rounds of grueling show jumping, finishing each round with just a single time fault.
A jubilant Olivier celebrates his two clear rounds. Photo ©SpruceMeadowsMediaServices
Olivier and Cabrio Ven De Heffinck on course
In second place was crowd favorite and three-time Olympian Madden with Simon, who finished on a four fault total. In the first round Madden cleared the 13.78 foot open water with Simon, but was unable to get him back enough to clear the pole resting on the flat cups of the bicycle jump that followed.
Round one included 17 jumping efforts with a time allowed of 87 seconds. To add to the excitement, jumps were included that had never before been seen at Spruce, such as a wall from last fall's Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and jumps from the 2012 London Olympics. Also a first for the CN International was the combination of skinny bicycle jumps.
Look familiar? It's the Big Ben standards, straight from the 2012 London Olympics!
Palacios had the ability to set jumps that were 1.70 meters in height, but the highest he set for the day was the first round Canada planks at 1.65m. The Canada planks are wavy and therefore make it difficult to find the optimal takeoff spot. And the jump that took the appreciate crowds’ breath away was a rainbow colored triple bar set on the west side of the arena standing on it’s back rail at 1.62 and stretching 1.90m in width.
The perceived trouble spot for the second round came up late in the course when riders jumped number nine, the previously mentioned massive triple bar and had to do a 90 degree turn in six strides to the infamous double liverpools. Always scheming, Palacios set a vertical on a forward two stride in front of the liverpools.
Despite making it look easy, Olivier Philippaerts observed that the line from the triple bar to the triple combination was “very difficult, it came up very fast. It’s very difficult for the horses to clear. You need a lot of control to do that.”
Ludo Philippaerts and Roger-Yves Bost of France both had their mounts refuse the first element of the triple combination in that second round. Palacios commented on the difficult test and said the hardest part of elements 9 through 10c is “in the riders’ minds.”
Madden was in good enough spirits to giggle about the single rail that fell for her, saying that her relationship with her horse is beginning to feel like a partnership.
“In July (at the Spruce Meadows Summer Series) I said it was beginning to come together and it is continuing that way,” she commented. “He was 2nd at Chantilly. He had clear rounds at Valkenswaard, Holland.”
Madden and Simon were on form today
Despite being a highly competitive jumping rider on the circuit and sitting on horse Simon, who was the 2010 CN International winner under his former rider Jeroen Dubbledam, Madden said that she didn’t expect to win.
“I was confident that I had a chance,” Madden added. “Sometimes you try some things because you really want to win, but it doesn’t always work.”
It was “trying things” and taking an inside turn that nobody else attempted that made her time 0.24 seconds faster than that of Ludo's, who was aboard Challenge VD Begijnakker.
Ludo was thrilled with the outcome of the class. Earlier in the week, he commented that he was delighted to have his two eldest sons at Spruce Meadows to compete with him, but to have one win and find himself with the third place medal, he simply stated, “there’s no words for it!”
Rounding out the top five were Americans Leslie Howard aboard Utah in 4th, and Reed Kessler with her Olympic partner Cylana in 5th. Howard finished the first round with eight faults and that was just good enough for the twelfth and final position to qualify for the second round, where she turned in a clear.
There was an interesting dynamic to a class that normally sees seasoned competitors taking the purse. For a moment it seemed that Kessler would knock Olivier off the top of the podium and it would be an eighteen year-old in 1st place followed by a nineteen year-old in 2nd.
Kessler and Cylana
However, whicle Kessler posted the only clear of the first round, she ran into trouble in the second round at the CN double combination, knocking down both jumps 8a and 8b.
When asked what he would do with the $335,000 dollars that he pocketed for the win Olivier remarked: “I don’t think it’s my money, it goes to my dad.”
Ludo downplayed his role as mentor to his sons (Olivier’s twin Nicola Philippaerts is also a show jumper and finished in 22nd place today) saying that he was too concentrated on his own round to offer his sons much advice. He also went after both of them in the order, but Olivier said the best advice his dad offered for today was to stay focused until crossing the finish line.
Back in Belgium the twins’ two younger brothers are quickly climbing the pony ranks. It’s already been thought of that sometime in the near future there may be a Philipaerts team in the Nations’ Cup and maybe a Belgium team too!
Despite Olivier’s young age, he has been partnered with his horse for four years. Olivier began riding Cabrio Van De Heffinck when the stallion was six years old and brought him up through the ranks himself.
When speaking of his horse Olivier said: “Last year we won the gold for Germany at young riders for the team. And this year is the first year in the seniors and we did very well. This is a prize to be proud of."
Nicola, Beezie, Ludo, the big winners of the day.
Proudly standing in the shadow of the Hickstead memorial during the victory ceremony
Top Ten - $1,000,000 CN International
Rider | Nation | Horse
1-Olivier Philippaerts | Belgium | Cabrio Van De Heffinck
2-Beezie Madden | USA | Simon
3-Ludo Philippaerts | Belgium | Challenge VD Begijnakker
4-Leslie Howard | USA | Utah
5-Reed Kessler | USA| Cylana
6-Roger-Yves Bost | France | Nippon D Elle
7-Philipp Weishaupt | Germany | Catoki
8-Jeroen Dubbledam | Netherlands | BMC Quality Time TN
9-Harrie Smolders | Netherlands | Equis Walnut De Muze
10-Francois Mathy | Belgium | D Atlantique Royale