It was a special Grand Prix of Hesse in the Frankfurter Festhalle: the 17th rider was the first to achieve a clear round. 13 riders were eliminated or gave up. This is quite a large sum considering that the competition only had 51 participants. However, after the first clear round from Holger Hetzel (GER) and 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Legioner the excitement grew. The question was if a jump-off would need to take place in order to decide who would win the Mercedes A-class. When Markus Renzel and 10-year-old OS gelding Cato by Chequille also delivered a round without penalties it became clear that a jump-off would take place. Then they were joined by Italian Luca Maria Moneta with 9-year-old Estonian mare Herold N by Heartbreaker/Haydn and Christian Kukuk with 9-year-old Westphalian stallion Limonchello NT.
And then the jump-off began. Holger Hetzel and the Limbus son had a good round, but Markus Renzel and the tall dark brown Cato were faster. Then it was the turn of quick Italian Moneta, who really wanted to win – but the last fence fell and the time would not have been fast enough. The last rider to start in the jump-off was Christian Kukuk, 26 years old and employee of Ludger Beerbaum. He has been back in the saddle for only a short period of time since after the break he had to take when he fractured his shoulder in Aachen. Even though he recently had this hard fall he did not hold back – Kukuk risked everything and performed great. In the end he won. “Usually riding fast is not one of my strengths,” Kukuk said. “But if everything is perfect then something like this can happen to me. My boss was super happy. He watched at home with his family and all of them were pleased. ” Limonchello NT came to Kukuk when he was six years old. “We get along very well. I enjoy riding him very much. I did not know that he could go so fast, but today we have showed everyone that it is possible.” Kukuk said the victory in one of Germany’s most important Grand Prix was his biggest success: “It is the best thing ever happened to me,” so the 26-year-old said.
Markus Renzel was also happy with his second place: “It took a load off my mind. In six Grand Prix my horse had six penalties. That is when one gets nervous. I was extremely happy when we had a clear round in the Grand Prix and I felt relieved. My horse did well in the jump-off and showed everybody that a tall horse does not necessarily be slow.”
Holger Hetzel, the first to perform in the jump-off was also content: “I already achieved a placement at the Grand Prix in Salzburg last week. Today’s course was very difficult and focuses on technique. When only four riders are in the jump-off one usually takes more risk, but being the first to jump the course the question was: taking the inside or the outside? and I’m still very content with my third place.”
Paul Schockemöhle, leader of the event, made his assessment of the Grand Prix: “I think it was a fair course. Many mistakes happened at the last fence and always at the first pole. I believe it happened since the fence faced the exit. The distances in the course were fair. That only four riders stay clear simply happens.” Schöckemöhle also commented on the much criticised schedule: “Next year we want to tighten the schedule. Basically Isabell Werth is right. But I told her that we will begin at 3am next year because then my horse would win the Burg-Pokal since she would not be there. Joking aside, we will have to discard something and we will do that.”