Germany’s Christian Ahlmann produced a faultless display of riding to win his first Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, and in so doing, became the new live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Riding his stallion Codex One, who has only recently returned to top-flight competition following a long break through injury, Ahlmann was one of only five riders who produced double clear rounds on a challenging Frank Rothenberger designed course. The jump-off resembled an international penalty shoot out, with three riders representing Germany and two from the USA. Going into the ring first Ahlmann rode a deliberately aggressive but clear round, setting a tough challenge for his fellow riders.
Knowing that only a clear round would make the grade, the four who followed Ahlmann into the ring, Marcus Ehning, Kent Farrington, Daniel Deusser and Lauren Hough, clearly felt the pressure and each had one fence down.
Ahlmann was the only rider to ride three clear rounds to win the Rolex Grand Prix crown and the first equestrian Major of 2014.
Ahlmann has dreamed of winning the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen from a very young age and felt the pressure going into the stadium for the jump-off. “The pressure was there when I went into the jump-off first, and I therefore tried to not take a major risk but put my colleagues under pressure so that they would be forced to take some big risks. This is a dream come true for me and for sure, I will be at the Spruce Meadows Masters in September!”
More than 360,000 spectators enjoyed not only top class competition but superb weather during the 10 days of competition at CHIO Aachen, with the final week temperatures soaring to the mid 30s four days in a row. Sunday came with a cooling breeze, making conditions ideal for the highlight of the show, the Rolex Grand Prix.
This year’s CHIO Aachen featured many of Rolex’s equestrian Testimonees, including all the showjumping riders Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Steve Guerdat, Kevin Staut, Eric Lamaze and Rodrigo Pessoa, as well as Zara Phillips and Isabell Werth. Recently selected to represent Great Britain at the World Equestrian Games, Phillips was part of the team who came second in the Nations Cup Eventing at Aachen, her first major contest since the birth of her daughter Mia in January. Werth enjoyed an excellent few days of competition in the dressage arena with an individual victory and four Top 5 finishes in the nine competitions.
But the glory goes to Christian Ahlmann with a victory which will etch his name in the record books. As Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, a former winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, said: “The Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday at CHIO Aachen is, in my opinion, the equivalent to winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games. To win is a highlight of a rider’s career and to potentially become a Grand Slam winner is just a dream come true.”
Rolex is a partner to some of the greatest equestrian shows in the world, including the three Majors; CHIO Aachen, the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva. These shows form the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping which is the first global initiative to reward the outstanding rider who wins the Grand Prix at each show in succession.
Ahlmann said: “Of course, I would like to take the next step in the Rolex Grand Slam and compete at the Spruce Meadows Masters – provided that I stay fit and healthy. The Rolex Grand Slam is an important challenge for us show-jumpers. It means a lot to me that Rolex has launched this initiative and is giving us show-jumpers the opportunity to win such prize-money and arouse such attention. Now, I will try to make the most out of my personal Rolex Grand Slam.”
The Grand Slam prize is €1 million, and if a rider wins two of the three shows, but not in succession, the bonus is €250,000.