Breeders step into spotlight as top three horses honored

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final.
Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2015 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final. © Lauren Fisher

The breeders of three of the world’s leading sport horses were honored at a ceremony in Switzerland at the weekend, during the CHI Geneva Show.

Prizes were awarded by The World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses to honour and celebrate the leading breeders, in cooperation with their sponsor, Rolex.

For two of the winners it was a repeat prize, with Valegro winning the dressage award for the third consecutive year for Dutch breeders Martje and Joop Hanse. Scott Brash’s Hello Sanctos won the jumping prize for the second year for breeder Willy Taets of Belgium, and rounding out the top trio was Horseware Hale Bob, who was crowned the No.1 eventing horse for his German breeder Rolf Lück.

The three breeders of the horses who lead the WBFSH Rolex Breeder Rankings in dressage, show jumping and eventing received their WBFSH diplomas on Saturday night,  presented by Jan Pedersen, president of the WBFSH, and an exquisite Rolex watch presented by Laurent Delanney of Rolex.

Charlotte Dujardin and Vaelgro led the rankings to seal silver for the British team.
Charlotte Dujardin and Vaelgro. © Jane Thompson

Valegro – Martje and Joop Hanse

In 2001, the Dutch couple, from Burgh Haamstede, sent their mare, Maifleur, to the Ferro son, Negro, and have since used these same bloodlines for several generations. In fact, Negro’s owner, Gertjan van Olst, has had a close relationship with the Hanses, having subsequently purchased Valegro and prepared him for the KWPN stallion show. “In those days the studbook was of the opinion that Negro was old fashioned, so none of my eight Negro sons, including Valegro, were accepted,” Van Olst remembers well. But British dressage star Carl Hester saw Valegro at the KWPN stallion inspection, decided to buy him, had him gelded, and took him home.

One year later, Valegro was returned to Van Olst with an instruction from Hester to sell him. But destiny intervened when Gertjan’s wife, Anne, rode the gelding herself ahead of him being sold and recognised his remarkable talent. Anne suggested to Hester that he should consider keeping Valegro. Hester agreed, gave the gelding to his rider, Charlotte Dujardin, and one of the world’s greatest ever dressage partnerships was born.

Top-scoring duo Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
British Olympic stars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro. © Paul Harding/Lewis Harding Images

From the very beginning Valegro was a star, winning national championships as a four, five and six-year-old on his way to a triumphant London 2012 Olympic Games. Following the Games it was rumoured that Valegro would be sold, but the two owners, Carl Hester and Roly Luard, subsequently assured the world that Valegro would finish his competition career with Charlotte Dujardin, and also that he had a home for life.

More honours followed: 2014 Reem Acra World Cup dressage final and World Equestrian Games, and a second World Cup win in 2015, following Valegro’s first ever trans-Atlantic flight to Las Vegas.

Although Valegro did not display his usual brilliance during the 2015 European championship in Aachen, his performances were sufficient for Dujardin to once again celebrate gold medal glory.

The dynamic duo has also established a clean sweep of world record scores, for Grand Prix (87.129% – 2014 Lyon World Cup Final), Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Kür (94.300% – 2014 London Olympia).

Valegro is a fine example of the modern Dutch recipe for dressage success: dressage stallion over jumping-bred mare. His sire, Negro (by Ferro/Variant) competed to Intermediaire level with Anne van Olst, his grandsire, Ferro (Ulft/Farn) represented the Netherlands at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with Coby van Baalen (NED), winning team silver and sixth place individually, while his dam’s sire, Variant, was a small tour campaigner with Anky van Grunsven (NED).

A compact horse in every way, Valegro is unusually small for a top-level dressage performer, rather than being rectangular shaped with long legs. In fact, he has rather short legs, but great movement. His posture is a vertically arching neck, strong loins and pasterns, a sloping croup, and his attitude and personality have created the ultimate winner.

In recent seasons, Valegro has more than consolidated his position as the undisputed number one dressage horse in the world. _ Claartje van Andel/WBFSH

Scott Brash, pictured at the Miami Beach 2015 CSI5* on Hello Sanctos, is back as world Jumping number one at the top of the Longines Rankings.
Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos. © FEI/Amy

Hello Sanctos – Willy Taets

Willy Taets was born among horses. August, his father, was a farmer and horse trader. In 1961 Willy married Mariette de Meyer and took over his mother-in-law’s farm, starting with 11 cows and buying a draught-horse mare. Like many Belgian farmers, Taets bred a few horses, but suffered some bad luck with his draught mare died of colic 10 days after giving birth. So Taets bought a tractor and more cows. However, as his farm expanded, he started breeding showjumpers.

“During the extremely hot summer of 1976, Clement Vereecke sold a white Lipizzaner dam to me. He’d bought her from the horse market in Molenbeek. Out of this mare I bred several foals, including Dina (by Guignolet) who became one of my foundation mares,” he said.

Bronze medalist Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos.
Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos. © Paul Harding

Of his breeding programme, Taets said: “I prefer to use stallions that have performed for a long time at a high level. But for cost reasons I used to choose young stallions, on the condition that one or, preferably, both parents were successful in showjumping.”

He also attaches great value to the dam line: “The importance of the dam line is very great. Paul Schockemöhle once told me, ‘the better the origins, the greater the chance to breed a good foal’.”

Born in 2002 Sanctos van het Gravenhof (aka Hello Sanctos) is by Quasimodo vd Molendreef (by Heartbreaker), who performed at international 1.4m to 1.5m level partnered with David Jobertie and, later, with Mexican international Jaime Azcarraga.

Hello Sanctos’s dam is Nasia van het Gravenhof (by Nabab de Rêve out of Balin). Taets bought Balin in 1978 when she was five, and competed with her in several eventing competitions while also using her as a broodmare. Her most famous daughters are Nasia, Ocelot and Pandora van het Gravenhof and, today, Nasia is being used in the breeding programme of Lieve Taets, Willy’s daughter.

According to a former owner of Hello Sanctos, Jean-Luc de Maeyer: “We had Sanctos at our stable when he was four years old. He was very easy and quiet to ride and yes, even a little bit lazy, but once he was in the arena he changed into a great worker. His trumps are his mentality, prudence and zest for work. The prudence is a quality that he inherited from his sire, the performance blood and scope from his dam”.

As a member of the British showjumping team, Hello Sanctos and Scott Brash (GBR) won team gold and fifth place individually at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and one year later at the European championships in Herning (DEN) again claimed team gold, plus an individual bronze medal.

In September 2015, Hello Sanctos wrote himself into the history books when he carried Scott Brash to victory in the CP International Grand Prix presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, and in so doing became the first winners of the Rolex Grand Slam, following their victories in Geneva (December 2014) and Aachen (May 2015).

According to Brash, “Winning one of the equestrian Majors was an incredible achievement, to win two was a dream come true, but to go on and complete the Rolex Grand Slam of showjumping is beyond belief. I have a very special horse. Sanctos is a horse of a lifetime, he’s got the mind of a human.” _ Jo de Roo/WBFSH

Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob, joint leaders with William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk after the dressage phase at Pau in France.
Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob. © Trevor Holt/FEI

Horseware Hale Bob – Rolf Lück

The 2014-2015 season started brilliantly for Horseware Hale Bob when he won the Pau CCI4* in France – only his second CCI4* level event. He also had podium places at Luhmühlen CIC2*, Badminton CCI4*, Luhmühlen CIC3* and Aachen CICO3*. Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob this year also finished second in the German eventing championships held in Luhmühlen.

Hale Bob was sired by Helikon xx (Konigsstuhl xx – Hallig xx x Be Friendly xx). He is a son of the so far only German Triple Crown champion Konigsstuhl xx (Dschingis Khan – Konigskronung x Tiepoletto). This stallion was a major success off the track, and had a significant impact on the development of the German Thoroughbred and its great reputation today. His line is firmly established in sport horse breeding. Helikon xx is also the sire of the CCI4* eventer Seacookie TSF (Helikon xx – Sonnenwende III x Onassis), who placed second at Burghley with William Fox-Pitt.

Ingrid Klimke finished second on her team horse, Hale Bob.
Ingrid Klimke and Hale Bob. © Rolex/Kit Houghton

Hale Bob’s dam Goldige is by the Noble Roi xx son, Noble Champion xx. He is descended twice through his motherline from the Thoroughbred Figaro xx (Futuro x Furioso) and Apollo xx. Noble Champion jumped at 1.5m with Hauke Luther. Goldige’s full brother is an advanced dressage horse with Jens-Ingolf Schlittgen. Goldige also produced the CIC2* eventing horse Dacapo 277 by Duke of Hearts xx (Halling – Daytona Beach x Konigsstuhl) with Giovanni Ugolotti, while his full brother is also a CIC2* horse with Kai Rüder.

Granddam Goldika carries the well-known Gotthard blood through Goldlöwe, with Der Löwe as her dam. Further in his Pedigree are the Hanoverian jumping genes of Efendi and Ernoe.


Hale Bob’s breeder, Dr. Rolf Lück, is not alone in his endeavours as it’s a passion shared by his whole family. His son Oliver explains: “My family is really passionate when it comes to horses. I am the rider in the family and have ridden since I was seven years old. My mares became broodmares when I retired them from the jumping sport. Our mares are in North Germany at Pferdezucht Nesshausen, a farm with a rich tradition with Thoroughbreds. This is also the reason why Goldige was covered by Helikon xx, because they were both at the same farm. Hale Bob’s mother is still alive and has offspring by Duke of Hearts xx, as have all of our other mares.

“It is an honor that Hale Bob is the best eventing horse in the WBFSH Rolex rankings. Horses are attached to our lives, it is a part of who we are. We are proud that we receive this success with using Throughbreds. It made us very proud that Ingrid Klimke has bought Hale Bob and that she has this success with him”. _ Adriana van Tilburg/WBFSH

From left, WBFSH president Jan Pedersen, Willy Taets, daughter Lieve, Marc Pierson, Maartje Hanse, Joop Hanse, Siem Korver, Oliver Lück, Rolex representative Laurent Delanney and ringmaster Pedro Cebulka.
From left, WBFSH president Jan Pedersen, Willy Taets, daughter Lieve, Marc Pierson, Maartje Hanse, Joop Hanse, Siem Korver, Oliver Lück, Rolex representative Laurent Delanney and ringmaster Pedro Cebulka.

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