October 31, 2014--Belgium's Olivier Philippaerts guided Armstrong Van de Kapel to victory on Thursday night at the 131st National Horse Show, topping a starting field of 42 and then a massive jump-off roster of 21 to win the marathon Copernicus Stables $75,000 International Open Jumpers, presented by the Coulter Family. In the dash for cash, Philippaerts was the only rider to break the 40 second barrier as he raced home in 39.35 seconds for the win.
A star-studded roster of the best riders from around the world challenged the 1.50m course designed by popular builder Guilherme Jorge of Brazil. Tonight, the rider's got the best of the deal with the 21 horse and rider combinations emerging from the first round. "They beat me up all day," laughed Jorge referring also to an earlier Junior/Amateur class, one that saw a majority of the starters go clean and a huge twenty-five horse jump-off that followed. Speaking of the main event tonight, Jorge explained, "It's a great challenge with such great riders on such terrific horses, jumping on beautiful footing and being limited to 1.50m to create a course that's tough enough. For sure," he admitted, "I should have dropped the Time Allowed by at least two seconds."
Jorge's claim was bolstered by the fact that not a single time fault was issued during any clear ride over the first round course.
Eleven of the 21 that jumped off went clean the second time around, with Philippaerts emerging as the star of the night.
"Well, in the beginning it was difficult enough, because you know with 21 in the jump-off, it's going to be a very, very fast," Philippaerts said. "It was a little too bad there were so many clear rounds. But I think for Saturday he will make sure there are less. For me, it worked out well. But for many people who rode horses for the World Cup as well today, it's quite a lot to jump fast like that and then go again on Saturday," he said.
As far as his winning strategy, the personable Belgian rider said, "I just tried to go as fast as possible. It was a little bit of a tricky jump-off. At the last fence, normally you should always go left, but we all took the risk to go to the right side. I think that made the difference in the jump-off."
As far as his equine partner, Philippaerts said, "I got this horse in January and he had only jumped two star grand prix. He's a little bit inexperienced, like the World Cup classes here, he never did that before. That's why I brought him to America, to get him to this level, and hopefully he'll go up to the highest level because I think he's one of my best horses."
Finishing just off the torrid 39.35 second pace set by the speedy Belgian was Jessica Springsteen of the United States on Lisona, who clocked in at 40.10 seconds, just 7/10ths off the winning time. "I don't have that much experience going really fast with Lisona, so we just recently tried to go a little bit quicker. She was incredible tonight and I think she really enjoyed it, so I'm really happy with her," Springsteen said.
Ireland's Richie Maloney and Alsvid were 3/10ths of a second further back of Springsteen to finish third in 40.45 seconds. "He can be quite quick in the jump-off," Maloney noted. "This is probably as big a class as he's done. I normally use him for speed classes, but he does a bit of everything. He's a little bit tense when he comes in the ring, but he tries very hard."
Rounding out the top four was Roberto Teran of Colombia who tripped the timers in 41.01 seconds on Woklahoma. Exactly one second behind in fifth place was Beat Mandli of Switzerland piloting ZaZa Harvey to a final time of 42.01 seconds. Candice King of the United States took home sixth place honors in 43.48 seconds on Balous Day Date.
Paulo Santana, first to go on Taloubet, finished seventh and Georgina Bloomberg with Juvina was eighth.