Brilliant Brash Tops British 1-2 at Spectacular LGCT London
Great Britain’s Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever wowed a sell-out crowd with a phenomenal home win in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London presented by Sapinda. Scott Brash and his London 2012 teammate Ben Maher took the top spots almost five years to the day since they won Olympic gold in the team jumping.
God save the Queen rang out over the jubilant crowd at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, as it was a British one-two in a breathtaking display of showjumping, featuring 9 out of the top 10 in the world. Ireland’s Denis Lynch finished third with Tour leader Harrie Smolders in fourth.
With a €300,000 prize up grabs, the track was going to be a big ask of horse and rider. The technical London-themed course – including obstacles featuring Big Ben, the London Underground and Horseguards – was built to a maximum height of 1.60m, but it was a race against time to not only go clear but to secure a coveted spot in the jump-off against a field that featured nine of the top ten riders in the world.
The tricky treble combination caused problems in the first round for Ramzy Hamad Al Duhami (KSA), Danielle Goldstein (ISR) and Darragh Kenny (IRL). However, it proved to be a very jumpable course as a total of 11 pairs cleared the first round and went through to the jump-off.
There was disappointment for national hero John Whitaker on his 62nd Birthday. Despite starting off well on the nine-year old Cassinis Chaplin, the stallion put in a sudden refusal, unseating John over the fence. Spectators were relieved as it was announced John was speaking with the medics and was taken to hospital for medical checks.
Determined to deliver a strong round Scott Brash rode into the ring with the fire-cracker Hello Forever, watched by owners Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham. To the delight of the crowd, who held their breath throughout the round, the popular pair delivered a foot-perfect clear, ensuring Great Britain would be in the jump-off. The crowd were doubly hopeful for a home win, after Ben Maher quickly followed with a text book round to take prime position in the hotly contested jump-off.
First up were pathfinders Christian Kukuk (GER) and grey stallion Colestus. They were the first to attempt a hair pin turn from the second fence into the double. They flew over the Longines planks, the final fence, to go clear in a time of 42.84s.
Overall Ranking leader Harrie Smolders (NED) and Emerald N.O.P. were next and the charismatic chestnut stallion gave an excited buck as they galloped to the start. The pair flew around the course breaking the 40s barrier to go into the lead on 39.48s – it would be a tough time to beat, but was only good enough for fourth place in the end.
Martin Fuchs (SUI) set off at a blinding pace as he entered the ring on his grey gelding Clooney 51 signalling his intent to go after the time. But the young Swiss star wasn’t as economical around the corners meaning he was not quick enough to catch Smolders and finished in fifth overall.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Verdi TN made a costly mistake as he flattened over the fourth fence to finish on a disappointing four faults. Similarly Bertram Allen (IRE) had a fence down as Hector van d’Abdijhoeve fought for his head and had the second part of the double down followed by fence four to finish on eight faults.
After his success in yesterday evening CS15*, spectators knew that Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) would go for the win. He urged nine-year old Chilli Willi over the fences as he galloped to the last, but 40.70s was only good enough for sixth.
Fresh off his victory with Miami Glory in the Global Champions League, Denis Lynch (IRE) went for it. All Star 5 flew around the fences kicking up his heels. The crowd could not contain their excitement as he headed to the last and a loud cheer went up as he set the time to beat of 39.85s.
The crowd went wild as the penultimate rider Scott Brash cantered into the ring on Hello Forever. There was an audible gasp as he successfully completed a handbrake turn into fence five, but Hello Forever galloped around the remainder of the course to go into first on a heart-pounding time of 38.62s.
British flags were already flying in the packed grandstands as as Ben Maher entered the ring to a huge cheer. He went for it and there was a hair’s breadth between him and Brash as he galloped to the last on MTF Madame X. Horse and rider cleared the fence to a roar from the crowd in a time of 38.86s – a mere 0.4s slower than Brash but good enough for a British 1-2.
Scott Brash said: “It’s been a great day and I am absolutely delighted. It was a very fast jump-off, but thankfully Hello Forever pricked his ears and went for it. He is an incredible horse and he really did his best for me; you have to be on your toes when you’re riding him, but he’s fast and athletic. I love winning in front of a home crowd and this has been amazing venue.”
The patriotic atmosphere heightened even further in the prize giving as The Chelsea Pensioners joined the line-up next to the podium and were applauded by the crowd. It capped a stunning two days where thousands of passionate fans and international guests witnessed top sport in front of the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea with guests including double Olympic Gold medallist Victoria Pendleton and model Jodie Kidd, who declared the event as “amazing”.
There are only three stages left on the 15-event Championship race as the Tour heads to Valkenswaard in the Netherlands. Harrie Smolders remains at the top of the leaderboard on 263 points edging away from Alberto Zorzi in second on 245 points and Christian Ahlmann in third on 220 points.
Jan Tops, Founder and President Longines Global Champions Tour:
“This is how you would write a perfect script. Of course in England, the home crowd is great, and you see that with many events where the national riders do miracles. Like last week we saw the same with Christian in Germany, he was amazing, and this week we saw the extra cheer for the home team, and it worked. And this year was special because the first and second were British it was a 600th of a difference, that’s amazing for the sport to see.”
Scott Brash, winner:
“I’m very happy with the day. Obviously, our thoughts are all with John, but it sounds like its good news for him going forward. I think it was even more important then, to try and get a British win and it’s great to get a one and two in the home leg. [Hello Forever is] an incredible horse, you have to be on your toes when riding him, but he’s an incredible horse. He jumps when you get there, he’s fast and he’s athletic. He’s got everything and yeah he gave his all today. I must say Ben did have me sweating there at the end! I saw a few horses went 8 strides one to two, but I didn’t feel it suited my horse. So, I was already going to go 9 one to two, and knew I was going to be a bit behind. So, I thought I needed a good turn, and kept it as fast as I could all the way home. I managed to see a good forward distance, and luckily Forever pricked his ears and really went for it.”
Ben Maher, 2nd place:
“I had a good start to the day with Don Vito, then decided to make the change. With Madame this was my second show on the horse. It hasn’t been working for me using the same horse in the GP, so I made the change and my horse jumped incredibly today. I don’t know what more I could have done in the jump-off. I said to Scott that maybe if I ate a little less last night then maybe I could have been quicker! Scott is one of the fastest riders in the world, and if I was going to be beaten by anybody, then for sure a home win is always good for the sport in our country. Like Harrie said, I can be biased, because we’re here in London but it’s always great to ride here and see the support in London. I think it will only grow here, in the next few years. It’s an amazing venue, everything is good for the horses and the riders – I really enjoyed it, and again, just congratulations to Scott.”
Denis Lynch, 3rd place:
“I’ve got two great horses so expectations are quite high for things to go well. I’m delighted with both horses. It’s not the quickest horse, we’re all aware of that, it went my way. I added less stride maybe here and there. The horse that came after me had a quicker horse across the fence. But I’m delighted with my horse, and on to the next one.”
Harrie Smolders, LGCT Ranking leader:
“I think in the first place we have to compliment the organisers of the show, for the first time in this setting, it’s beautiful and we saw an incredible level of show jumping. We had a number of clears, the horses like to be in this ring. They don’t feel pressure. With 9 out of the 10 best riders here in the world, you are going to get sport like this and it’s great.”
Henrik von Eckermann Stars in Phenomenal Final Day of LGCT London
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann reigned supreme on the final day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of London, rounding off a phenomenal weekend of world-class sport in a breathtaking location.
Less than a second separated first to fourth place in a nail-biting battle over a taxing technical track that challenged even the most experienced combinations, including 9 out of the top 10 riders in the world.
Thousands of spectators again filled the grandstands to watch the world’s best in action at the unique venue. TV personality Rory Bremner watched the blockbuster Grand Prix on GCT TV’s live streaming and was enthralled by today live action from his ringside seat. He said, “I love watching any sport at the top level. It’s the theatre as well – especially when they’re against the clock. It’s a fantastic sport; my daughter here is just one of the young generation that enjoys days like this.”
With a large field of high quality horses and riders, Uliano Vezzani created a clever and demanding course over a 1.45/1.50m track that got bigger and bigger. There were several large oxers and two tricky half-stride combinations to test riders, who were seen pacing the distances more than once during the course walk to decide whether to go for it or chop in a stride.
Time became a factor for those who went carefully including Darragh Kenny (IRE); Lorenzo de Luca (ITA); Daniel Deusser (GER); Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA); Bertram Allen (IRE) and Nayel Nassar (EGY), who suddenly found themselves outside the prize money despite not knocking a single fence – an agonising time fault ruling them out of contention. The double also caused problems for Daniel Bluman (ISR); Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Laura Kraut (USA).
A total of 12 combinations went through to a testing jump-off littered with tight turns and long gallops. First to go was Jack Towell (USA) on New York, who set the pace with a hairpin turn from the second fence to the London Underground vertical to go clear on a fast time of 38.85s.
The twisty course proved tricky for some combinations, who were not strategic with their speed. Tiffany Foster (CAN) and her dark bay gelding Brighton were unlucky to have the second fence down in an otherwise smooth round. Although Garfield de Tiji Des Tempiers ate up the ground, Jerome Guery (BEL) similarly finished on four faults when he knocked the last part of the double. Michael Whitaker (GBR) put in a rapid round and took the last at a gallop, but spectators groaned as the top pole rolled to the floor.
Just as Towell’s time looked impossible to beat, Henrik von Eckerman (SWE) and Mary Lou 194 entered the ring. He jumped the second at an angle to make the tightest of turns to the London Underground fence and galloped the back half of the course to go clear and into first on unbeatable time of 37.67s.
Lauren Hough (USA) looked to be a contender until her bay gelding Adare took a dislike to the Sapinda fence and the pair were eliminated.
Alberto Zorzi (ITA) rode a characteristically controlled and stylish round on his big gelding Living the Dream, but he stopped the clock just outside the time on 37.87s which was good enough for third. Intent to fight for top spot, Simon Delestre (FRA) started the jump-off on Chesall Zimequest at a gallop, but was economical with his speed over the first half of the course before gunning it down the back straight to go into second on 37.78s.
Fresh off his wins on Saturday in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London presented by Sapinda and Global Champions League competitions, Scott Brash entered the ring to a loud cheer from the crowd. His mare Hello Annie was slow over the London Underground fence, but flew around the course. Brash steadied her for the last and was just outside the time on 38.59 to finish in fourth.
The final rider to go was Niels Bruynseels (BEL) who knew he knew he had to go for it. Like Whitaker, he took each fence at a gallop on Gancia de Muze but was unlucky and looked to be fast until he had the final fence down.
Henrik von Eckerman, first place, said: “It was a close call. I was a little bit lucky on my part as Michael had a rail down and was fast, but mine stayed up and it was good. She is a fantastic horse and came third in the World Cup final. I have been called up at the Europeans and this was the last show before that, so it feels really good to go there with a win. I was a bit nervous about the likes of Scott [Brash] and Simon [Delestre] coming after me. I knew that they would catch me if they had a good round – but I had luck on my side today!”
As the Chelsea Pensioners lined up for the final prize giving, Henrik von Eckerman collected his prize from General Sir Charles Redmon Watt. The decorated veteran and former Commander-in-Chief of the Land Command is Governor of Royal Hospital Chelsea, host of the thrilling weekend of top class show jumping against the dramatic vista of Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture.
The Tour now looks to Valkenswaard, The Netherlands where the 12th leg of the Championship takes centre stage, with all eyes on the fight for the overall title.
Miami Glory Reign Supreme at GCL London
The formidable duo of local hero Scott Brash and Denis Lynch of Miami Glory soared to glory with a stunning win in front of packed crowds at the historic Royal Hospital Chelsea.
A sudden downpour gave way to bright sunshine and blue skies, as the final of the inaugural Global Champions League of London kicked off at the unique venue. Berlin Lions were the only team to keep a clean sheet on day one with a double clear that signalled a remarkable change of fortune for the team, which is currently second from bottom. Overnight changes from Miami Glory, which brought in Scott Brash (GBR) alongside Denis Lynch (IRE), and Valkenswaard United, with Bertram Allen (IRE) joining Alberto Zorzi (ITA), signalled their intent to fight for top spot after both finishing within touching distant of the podium on five penalties the day before.
London Knights brought out the big guns for their home event to better their eighth-place position in the League, but Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher (GBR) and World No. 1 Kent Farrington (USA) had a lot to do going into day two after racking up 13 penalties in the first round. The sell-out Grandstand crowd was fully behind them after the pre-competition parade, which saw Ben and teammate Emily Moffitt (GBR) waving and throwing autographed baseball caps to spectators to mark their homecoming.
Against the dramatic vista of Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture, the big technical course on the South Grounds was built to the maximum height of 1.60m with plenty of questions for horse and rider over the 16 jumping efforts. With the top 25 qualifying for this evening’s Grand Prix, riders had to decide whether to go for it by cutting inside fences and galloping down the related distances or play it safe and secure a clear by shortening their horses to fit in an extra stride here and there.
Spectators could not have predicted the outcome of the competition, as poles fell for those in strong positions and others bettered their rankings with foot perfect rounds. But the tactical changes turned out to be the right ones for Miami Glory and Valkenswaard United, who climbed the table with flawless double clears to finish one and two – the former pipping the latter on time by a mere three seconds.
The crowd went wild for Scott Brash and Hello Forever, as he cantered into the ring for Miami Glory. Scott rode his flashy liver chestnut with deceptive ease to chalk up a clear round in one of the fastest times of 68.17s to signal his intent to fight for top sport in the Grand Prix. Denis Lynch did not let the side down with a clear in a slower time of 73.78s to secure the win.
Scott Brash said: “Both horses jumped amazingly today, so it was a great team effort.”
Team owner Georgina Bloomberg commented: “I am really proud of the boys today and Paris yesterday. It shows the depth of the team that we can come together and support each other.”
Denis Lynch added: “The pressure was on, but it was a great round.”
A cheer went up as Kent Farrington (USA) entered the ring for the London Knights on his plucky 10-year old chestnut stallion Creedance. He whizzed around the course, but had a fence down despite the horse’s gymnastic jump to add to the team’s running total of 17 penalties leaving them in tenth place. Teammate Ben Maher delighted spectators as he not only went clear on his matching chestnut gelding Don Vito but smashed the time of 65.07s to qualify for the Grand Prix in pole position.
The British crowd rallied behind Berlin Lions as Anna Kellnerova (CZE) and Classic entered the ring. She rode a tremendous round to pick up a single time fault to keep the team in first place. As Max Kühner (AUT) entered the ring on his handsome grey stallion Chardonnay 79 for the crucial final round of the competition, everyone held their breath but the fairy-tale wasn’t to be as he had two fences down. Berlin Lions finished a respectable third and chalked up their first podium finish this season.
There was a hairy moment from Daniel Bluman (ISR), who was nearly unseated by Apardi as he ran out at the Global Champions League oxer to finish on 14 penalties. This decisively ruled out Monaco Aces from a podium finish and ended Bluman’s competition for today. Basse Mohammed and Tamira V, who jumped clear yesterday for Doha Fursan Qatar, suffered a similar fate as they landed in the middle of the London underground vertical and has another scary moment later in the course to finish on 8 penalties.
League leaders Hamburg Diamonds were also bitterly disappointed as they slid to eighth after Jos Verlooy and Caracas had two down depsite Harrie Smolders and his best horse Emerald N.O.P, who have not put a foot wrong all weekend, only picking up a time fault. Paris Panthers also slid down the leader board as Christian Alhmann and Taloubet Z picked up an uncharacteristic 8 faults proceeded by a further 8 faults by teammate Jack Towell.
But it was Miami Glory who reigned supreme, taking the glory in the stunning sunshine at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.