Gregory Wathelet (BEL) chose to make his Royal Windsor Horse Show debut Deusser style with a win in the CSI5* Pearl Stakes aboard 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding Spike vd Withoeve.

Not only was it his first time in Castle Arena, but his first 1.55m 5* win with Spike vd Withoeve.

Ireland’s Bertram Allen and Izzy by Picobello set the time to beat early in the 16-horse jump off with a round so deceptively quick live-stream commentator Jon Garner dubbed him “Bertram, the Deceiver.”

Wathelet’s plan? Outrun Allen’s pressure cooking time of 37.17 seconds with a simple equation: increase rate of acceleration and subtract a few strides to be left with a time of 36.59 seconds.

Wathelet told Windsor TV, “I saw Bertram and he went really, really quick, I knew I had to take some strides out, like one to two and also to the double. I know my horse has a big stride and I use it and okay, it went well today.”

Spike vd Withoeve is a relatively new addition to Wathelet’s string. He took the reins over from France’s Guillaume Fourtrier in July of 2018.

“He hasn’t done too many big classes like that in his life,” continued the Belgian Olympian.

Friday’s win has Wathelet re-considering his weekend plans for the gelding.

“It wasn’t my plan to ride him on Sunday, but maybe I’m going to change now,” he smiled.

Allen was bumped to the runner-up spot, his second of the day after finishing behind Holly Smith and Fruselli in the morning’s 5* Manama Speed Stakes. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and 13-year-old Chacco Kid tailed closely behind, jumping double clear in a time of 37.58 seconds. The complete results list can be found here.

While waiting eagerly to see if Spike vd Withoeve will appear on Sunday’s CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix start list, head over to HN LIVE! for all the Saturday action. The CSI5* Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes for the King’s Cup kicks off at 8:00 EDT, then the CSI5* Falcon Stakes at 12:50 EDT. This week’s live stream is brought to you by Thunderbird Show Park (Canada and USA only).