The second week of Spring MET I 2023 concluded on Sunday with a German victory in the CSI3* 1.50m Grand Prix presented by Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort, as Christian Kukuk and Nice van’t Zorgvliet took the top honours after an exciting jump-off.
A total of nine horse-and-rider-combinations from the 60 pairs at start cleared the first-round track – among them some of the biggest names in the sport: Steve Guerdat (SUI) – 2012 Olympic Champion and 2021 European Team Champion – and Is-Minka (Mylord Carthago x Flyinge Quite Easy 958), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE) – 2020 Olympic Team Champion and 2022 World Team Champion – and Harley Davidson (Hip Hop x Calypso III ) as well as Jerome Guery (BEL) – 2022 World Vice Champion – and Nestor de Mariposa (Elvis Ter Putte x Berlin) were joined by Harry Charles (GBR) – who leads the FEI U25 world ranking – aboard his new mount Balou du Reventon (Cornet Obolensky x Continue), Christian Kukuk (GER) and Nice van’t Zorgvliet (Emerald x Heartbreaker), Alexa Ferrer (FRA) and Arka de La Hart Z (Arko III x Kashmir Van Schuttershof ), Nicolas Deseuzes (FRA) and Drugster des Forets (Kannan x Corofino) and furthermore two pairs from the host nation; Fernando Fourcade Lopez (ESP) on Colari R (Colestus x Lordanos) and Mariano Martinez Bastida (ESP) on Belano vd Wijnhoeve Z (Berlin x Darco).
First out in the jump-off, Baryard-Johnsson and Harley Davidson jumped a smooth round, setting the standard with their time of 43.12 seconds. However, Ferrer and Arka de La Hart Z – a pair that is no stranger to winning at Oliva Nova – gave it their best shot, crossing the finish line in 40.66 and taking over the lead. With a left-hand approach to the first fence, Guerdat and Is-Minka slotted in between Ferrer and Baryard-Johnsson when the clock stopped on 41.07 for the Swiss Olympic Champion. As the last pair out in the jump-off, Kukuk and Nice van’t Zorgvliet flew around the vast Oliva Nova arena, taking the win with the smallest of margins; 0.15 seconds ahead of Ferrer in second, pushing Guerdat to third and Baryard-Johnsson to fourth, while Charles and Balou du Reventon finished fifth.
“Luckily, I got a very good position for the jump-off as last to go, so I could follow all my colleagues before me,” Kukuk said after his victory. “I saw Alexa and she looked very fast. Then I saw Steve; I thought he was very quick as well, and his jump-off was super. After seeing Steve, I knew there was not too much we could do; we just had to give it our all. We did, and today was thankfully one of those days when it all worked out – now we are very happy.”
“Nice van’t Zorgvliet is only ten,” Kukuk continued. “She is owned by Noora Pentti, and I got the ride on her when she was eight. Our first show was the Youngster Tour in Aachen in 2021, and, originally, I thought I would only ride her for that show, but already then she jumped one clear round after the other and since it worked out so well I kept riding her. Last year, when she was nine, she had an unbelievable year: She jumped the LGCT Super Grand Prix in Prague, she had great results in Aachen and Sopot – she did so many good things. I gave her a break in December and now we came here to Oliva to get ready for the new season ahead of the first leg of the LGCT in Doha. I started with a few small classes last week and a few more smaller classes this week, I was actually really getting ready for this Grand Prix. I had a very good feeling on her over the last days and she proved today that she is in very good shape at the moment. We are all very happy!”
“I really enjoy it here,” Kukuk, who’s competing at the Spring MET for the third year in a row, said about the venue Centro Ecuestre Oliva Nova. “This year, I have eight horses with me. You have everything you need here; you can work the horses properly, there is plenty of space and the arenas are great. Oliva is a perfect mix between having the opportunity to bring the young horses up, giving them a chance to learn something new, and taking the older ones with to enjoy their lives while at the same time having very competitive classes. I have learned that especially in the three-star Grand Prix classes, the level of competition is always very tough and the courses are not easy. And for me, that is perfect – it helps a lot in getting ready for the new season. I like to come here, especially in January this fits my schedule really well. Everyone is happy here; it makes a big difference to everyone’s moods – both horses and humans – when the sun is shining.”
The first part of Spring MET 2023 runs through to 29 January, followed by Spring MET II from 20-26 February, Spring MET III from 7-26 March and Spring MET IV from 4-23 April 2023.
For more information, visit metoliva.com.