The jumping events of the Olympic Games in Tokyo are scheduled to kick off on the 3rd of August. The deadline for entries is the 5th of July, the day after the CSIO Rotterdam. Which Z horses are eligible, are on the shortlist or have already been selected for Tokyo? We are going to unravel it all for you…
I only knew horses from in the field, but then my daughter went to pony camp, came home and infected the entire family. It’s what happened to Thierry Hendrikx from Beringen. His daughter rode ponies, he wife started with dressage. ‘And I stood by and watched it all, like a lame duck’, Thierry laughs. He tried to find his way and found it in breeding. We write 2007. His first foal was born a year later: Armani SL Z (Asca Z), who’s going to jump the Olympic Games in Tokyo next month with Mexican rider Eugenio Garza Perez.
Armani SL Z (Asca Z)with Mexican rider Eugenio Garza Perez
How great is that? Thierry Hendrikx nods in agreement, but above all puts it in perspective: ‘Still, you need to be so lucky that your horse ends up in the right place. Without help from others there’s no success, and that’s something you cannot control. Eugenio Garza Perez and Armani had a good click, they have found each other. Eugenio lives for the sport but had to undergo back surgery last year. So there were still some doubts about his chances for Tokyo. Fortunately everything has turned out just fine, but it could easily have turned out differently… Just look at D’Amour SL Z, Armani’s half sister. She is a Diamant de Semilly daughter out of the same dam and jumps 1.60m with Simon Nizri. He was also on course for the Olympic Games until D’Amour got injured. Just goes to show there’s only a thin line between happiness and sadness.’
The fact that Thierry Hendrikx named his breeding stud SL or Second Life is not surprising. You can take this quite literally. In a former life Thierry was a wholesaler in animal feeds and manager of a pet shop. Until his daughter signed up for pony camp. ‘Not much later both my wife and daughter took to the saddle. Initially I was a bit sceptical about riding on horseback, because you see, falls can be rather painful. They started riding behind my back. And I have a piece of metal in my back which means I cannot ride. Frankly, I wouldn’t have the patience for riding. I hugely admire riders who put so much time and energy in schooling horses. Yet, I wanted more than just being a groom, I wanted to breed. The first horse we bought was a riding horse for the daughter. That’s how we got into it and not much later I purchased my first broodmare.’
Thierry & Sandra Hendrickx
That first broodmare was Cumlaude Z, a Cumano daughter out of Indra (Cor de la Bryère) and dam of for example Armani and D’Amour. Thierry Hendrikx bought Cumlaude Z from Alexander Liefsoens when she was a 4-year-old. Thierry knew that Cumano’s rider was Jos Lansink, so Hendrikx remembers thinking that he had to be a good stallion: ‘Although it wasn’t until he became World Champion in Aachen a few months later that I really got to know Cumano. Years later I was told that the Cumano daughter with the best results in breeding is Cumlaude Z. And indeed, with Armani (Asca Z), Diabolo (Diamant de Semilly), D’Amour (Diamant de Semilly) and Soprano (Sandro Boy) she has several international offspring.’
Cumlaude Z has proven herself to be an above-average broodmare, but she wasn’t very suitable for somebody who’s new to breeding. ‘For me as a novice breeder she was quite a handful. These days we would say that she has got ADHD. Cumlaude was not an easy character. She’s got so much blood! This was a very steep learning curve for a novice breeder!
Luckily, Thierry is not the type to give up easily. Even more so, the horses gave him new insights and a new life. ‘Earlier I used to work sixteen hours a day, seven days out of seven and always indoors. When I’m standing in the field I feel like God in France. I still work just as hard but enjoy it more. It has truly opened up a new world for me. You’re a little bit like God yourself, right. Being a breeder you are the one who opts for a new life, you are the person who decides which stallion-and-mare combination creates that new life. And wanting to be the best is part of my personality, I’m not interested in second places. I started talking, and even more so listening, to various experts. Tom Lemmens and Frederik Mijten have played an important role in that. That’s how I found my way to Zangersheide, where I instantly felt at home.
Thierry wanted a stallion with a larger canter for Cumlaude Z, because she needed improving in that respect. And that led him to Asca Z
Thierry wanted a stallion with a larger canter for Cumlaude Z, because she needed improving in that respect. And that led him to Asca Z and by coincidence, that season was the first time he came on the market for stud services. ‘Armani SL Z is Asca Z’s oldest foal and the first Asca foal that was presented at the Z-Quality Auction’, Hendrikx says.
Armani SL Z was presented as a foal at Z-Festival and sold a few months later at the Zangersheide Quality Auction.
‘Armani was born and everybody told me that it was a special foal. And I agreed, sure thing, of course I thought my first foal was special. Since everybody said the same thing the suggestion came up to present him at the Z-Festival. I had no clue what that meant! I seem to remember that Armani came in twelfth place. Then I was asked if I would be interested in selling him at auction? Another first for me, and a few months later he was effectively auctioned off at the Z-Quality Auction.’
At the auction Armani SL Z was bought by Seabreeze Farm owner Wendy Peralta Ritter from Florida. Seabreeze Farm is a stud farm, training stable, sport stable and trading yard with an outstanding reputation. At some point Wendy Peralta bought the 5-year-old Carambo Z in Argentina because she had schooled and ridden both his sire Charming Z as well as the dam Akito Z. Carambo Z appeared to have inherited the best from both parents. As a 6-year-old he won virtually all classes in America and was selected for the WC Young Horses. When at the WC it was a logical step for Wendy Peralta to visit the Z-Quality Auction where she purchased two foals, one of them Armani SL Z. As a youngster Armani already stood out from the others. At the age of seven he was sold to Eugenio Garza Perez.
‘It's the kind of luck you need’, Thierry tells us: ‘I have always maintained good relations with Wendy Peralta. She kept me updated about Armani’s progress and we still have a good partnership. Together with Willem Greve she later bought Armani's half sister Acqua di Gioa SL Z at the Z-Quality Auction. It’s the same with Casilias SL Z (Corrado I) out of Cumlaude Z, who she bought as an 8-year-old. The horses have created a new life for me, but so has Zangersheide because they open a window on the world. Z has introduced me to a new world and now I have contacts that before, were out of reach. I'm also on good terms with Eugenio’s mother. Last time I saw her, Eugenio and Armani was three years ago during Knokke Hippique. Armani is now thirteen. It’s impossible to guess or predict how he's going to do at the Olympics. What I do know is that Eugenio (25) is very professional, determined and committed about everything he takes on. With Mexico he won Silver at the Pan Am Games In 2019, where they cashed their Olympic ticket and ended in fifth place individually. The selection for the Olympics is justified and now we’re hoping for the best.’