Mill Spring, NC - On a historical and spectacular evening at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) featuring a special performance by Grammy award-winning country music legend Lee Greenwood, Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) guided H&M Harley VD Bisschop to victory in the $380,000 Rolex CSI 5* Grand Prix.
The duo secured the win in front of an enthusiastic crowd, stopping the timers at 40.575 seconds. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Cynar VA earned second place honors with a time of 41.291 seconds, while Lauren Tisbo (USA) and Coriandolo DI Ribano rounded out the top three with a time of 42.299 seconds.
Competition at the 2016 Tryon Fall Series presented by Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District commenced on Thursday, September 22, and will continue through Sunday, October 30, featuring hunter and jumper competition, alongside two weeks of FEI CSI 3* classes and the highly anticipated FEI CSI 5*.
Fans from the western region of Foothills filled the George H. Morris Arena, creating an electric atmosphere for a class featuring Olympic veterans and many of the sport's rising stars. Philippaerts and H&M Harley VD Bisschop were the final pair to qualify for the jump-off, as they were the last to go in tonight's star-studded lineup. The first round track set by Anthony D'Ambrosio (USA) asked several technical questions, keeping the riders on their toes with a tight time allowed of 80 seconds. The first round track only produced six combinations that advanced to the jump-off round.
"I think it was a really nice course. There were not so many clear as I actually thought there would be because there were many good ones here competing tonight. Unfortunately, Mclain [Ward] and Kent [Farrington] and a few others had one down leaving only six in the jump-off," Philippaerts said.
"I had the advantage of going last, and I knew Jessica was very quick, so I had to go quick. I was lucky enough the last rail stayed up," he detailed, explaining his strategy for the jump-off round.
Philippaerts was pleased with H&M Harley VD Bisschop, a 2007 Belgian Warmblood gelding (Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Coronado) owned by Ludo Philippaerts and Ben Beevers, and how the talented gelding settled into tonight's class after having a six-week vacation from competition. He explained, "The first few days he was a bit nervous, but today was a lot better. Hopefully next week he will be a good as well."
At the age of 23, tonight's win serves as a major career victory for Philippaerts, who is a life long equestrian and has dedicated many years training and learning into the sport. Philippaerts participated in the Rolex Young Rider Academy, which has helped to develop the rising stars of equestrian sport, both in the saddle and in the classroom.
"This show fit perfectly with our schedule and had phenomenal prize money, which is why I added it to our fall tour. It is really nice place here and I was a bit surprised to see how big the venue is," commented Philippaerts. "You can see that they have put a lot of effort into the rings being good and the courses being challenging for riders. The organization is extraordinary. I think that more Europeans are going to come show here after they see it and the best American riders are already here."
Springsteen and Cynar VA recently captured the win in the HITS Saugerties $1,000,000 Grand Prix at the beginning of September, before earning themselves a well-deserved second place in their first class under the lights at the TIEC.
Springsteen commented on the technical aspects of the course, saying, "The time allowed caught a couple of riders and it ended up being a bit trickier than it walked. My horse jumped great after having a month off and tonight we were just trying to put in a nice round. He was really good."
"I heard about the fall series while I was in Wellington last year and we made it a priority to come. Everything is indoors this time of year, so it is nice to have an outdoor option. It is a fantastic venue, which was a lot of fun, and I was really happy I could come," Springsteen smiled.
Lauren Tisbo, a veteran to competitor at TIEC piloted Coriandolo Di Ribano to third place in tonight's class. Tisbo and Coriandolo Di Ribano went second in the jump-off order and explained their strategy of her plan early on.
"It was a little hard being the second one in the jump-off. My horse is still pretty new at this level and tonight was his first CSI 5* grand prix. I just tried to give him the best round I could and that was as good as we could do tonight," Tisbo said.
Tisbo is spending her third consecutive fall season competing at the TIEC and commented, "I have watched TIEC develop and I know there are plans to continue developing in the future. It is a great location and offers a lot of different options for competitors. It's convenient for people to get to as they are leaving Florida in the spring and traveling to Florida in the fall."
Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), went on to speak of the special atmosphere surrounding tonight's class and elaborated on the growth of the venue.
"Despite the cooler temperatures, we are very pleased with the outcome of the crowd tonight. We had a great field of riders and a number of Olympians who brought their top horses. There was great field of competitors for this group to emerge as the top three, which is an impressive feat. We had McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, Laura Kraut, Todd Minikus, and just a whole group of horses and riders who are competitive at the top levels."
"Next year we are going to add another CSI 5* before this week to create a four to six week tour," Bellissimo explained further. "We want to provide a number of options for people who are ready for a change. The weather is good, there is top sport, and we will give the riders an option to stay in this country with a number of FEI shows."
Marta Masocco received the $500 Groom's Initiative Award presented by Mark Bellissimo and the Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), recognizing her efforts as the main care provider for Philippaerts' winning mount H&M Harley VD Bisschop. Marsocco is responsible for the daily care and well being of the incredibly talented gelding.
Among several other awards, Springsteen accepted the Leading Lady Rider Award presented by Meg Atkinson of Town & Country Realtors, honoring and recognizing her success and performance in FEI classes throughout the week.
The 2016 Tryon Fall Series presented by Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District offers six weeks of hunter and jumper competition, including three weeks of internationally recognized FEI show jumping featuring two FEI CSI 3* weeks and an FEI CSI 5*. For more information on Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and surrounding amenities please visit www.tryon.com.
To view final results for the $380,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* click here.