In non-Olympic years, international equestrian competition doesn't come any bigger than the CHIO festival in Aachen. Hosts Germany could only manage third in the opening jumping competition.
Aachen's CHIO equestrian festival got going in earnest with Tuesday's opening jumping competition, and will climax on Sunday with the coveted Grand Prix event. It's the first of four this year - the others being in 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, in Geneva, and at Spruce Meadows, Canada. The combined competitions make up something akin to tennis' four Grand Slams - and sponsor Rolex has called the series exactly that.
For the first time in 2017, the organizers have loaded the prize money. As well as standard prize money on offer at individual events, if a rider can win three of the four Grands Prix, he or she wins another million euros on top. Win all four - now that there are four rather than three - and you pocket an additional 2 million euros.
Riders tend to place a high emphasis on the Grand Prix of Aachen, as the opening event of the four. Brazilian contender Pedro Veniss described the venue as the "Maracana of equestrian sports" in an interview with the organizers.
This year, 334 competitors from 27 countries are represented, with 567 horses in the stables.
Eduardo Menezes and Caruschka win opening event
In Tuesday's opening competition, the STAWAG Opening Jumping Competition, three riders completed the course flawlessly without racking up any penalty points.
Of them, Brazil's Eduardo Menezes was the fastest finisher on Caruschka, completing the course in 59.36 seconds. The Netherlands' Anniek Poels, riding Cosma Go, took 61.01 seconds on her error-free run. Germany's Marcus Ehning and Stute Calanda needed 62.16 seconds and thus finished third overall.
Maurice Tebbel and Camilla had a tough ride on Tuesday, but will represent Germany in the nations' event on Thursday
Many of the highly-fancied riders and horses did not deliver their best in the high temperatures, also potentially saving themselves for later in the week.
The next major appointment comes on Thursday, a national team jumping competition. To stick with the tennis analogies, think Davis Cup. Marco Kutsche, Marcus Ehning, Philipp Weishaupt and Maurice Tebbel will represent Germany in that event, even though reserve Laura Klaphake finished 10 places higher than Tebbel in Tuesday's opening jumping competition.
Germany, one of the traditional equestrian powerhouses, will also have high hopes for the dressage and eventing competitions. Isabell Werth, riding show horse Weihegold, has six Olympic dressage golds (five team, one individual); Michael Jung, who's brought Sam to Aachen, has three (two individual, one team) in eventing.
msh (dpa, SID)