Ben Maher (GBR) crowned a season of a lifetime winning the LGCT Grand Prix final in Doha at the weekend on the superstar young stallion Explosion W and was crowned the new 2018 Champion of Champions.

It was to be a double celebration for Maher too. His London Knights squad also wrapped up the team Global Champions League title.

It was a phenomenal end to 2018 for Ben with no less than five LGCT Grand Prix wins and after Saturday's triumph the British Olympic gold medallist paid tribute to his horses, Explosion in particular, and his team:

“I can’t quite take it in to be honest. I have such a good bond with Explosion W.

“I’ve been lucky to have many great horses in my career so far, and I’ve been doing the Longines Global Champions Tour for many years now but have never been in a position to contend for the Championship. I don’t know if I’ll have another season like this - I did nothing different this year, but fortunately for me everything went right and I had a great team of horses. But it’s also to my team around me, they get us here every week - there’s a lot of people to thank behind the scenes. Explosion has been in our programme for a while but Shanghai was my first big show on him. We had quite a surprise result there and then built on that. The horses give you such confidence, but I think many riders in today’s course changed their mind - I think I even asked Harrie at one point what his thoughts were! I trust Explosion, and that’s the difference - the quality of horse that he is and the luck I’m having at the moment.

Ben Maher thanks Explosion W for his performance         ph. Stefano Grasso/LGCT

“You believe you can do anything riding a horse like Explosion. He’s just such a fun horse to be around, he enjoys his work - he enjoys his job. He could probably come out now and be happy to jump again. Fortunately it’s gone my way this year. Prague will be new territory - I haven’t jumped him indoors yet, we’ll give him a break and then produce him for the Playoffs. But we’ll just enjoy this one right now and let it sink in.”


 

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The British Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher and Poden Farms’ extraordinary Expolsion W have dominated the individual championship this year. They have not only won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome , but have taken the overall Championship title also.

“It has been an incredible season, I can’t quite believe it. It is great to be back in the top end of the sport. Explosion W is incredibly fast, I have never ridden a horse as fast without really pushing him. What a horse. Explosion is phenomenal for his age. 

 

“I have a lot to thank Poden Farms and the Moffitt family for for supporting me, it is a team effort. To finish in style like this is something I will savour for some time. To win is a dream come true.”

Ben is also at the top of the GCL overall team championship ranking with London Knights and could take that title at the finals in Doha in Qatar in November.

Jan Tops, Founder and President LGCT commented, “No one deserved it more than Ben this season. He’s had three wins. He has two great horses in super shape and he’s the well deserved Champion of the year. He managed his horses well, he had the goal to win this - it’s the most difficult [Championship] to win over 16 legs, against all the best horses and riders in the world. You have to have a good plan, great management and of course a bit of luck but he did everything well and it’s very well deserved.

ph.Stefano Grasso/GCL

“There was a bit of pressure today, with the team for GCL, and to qualify for the Grand Prix. Explosion took a bit of time to settle [in Rome], he wasn’t quite as relexed in the first couple of rounds but as I was warming up for the Grand Prix I could feel him kicking into gear as he normally does. He jumped incredible today. I was fortunate as last to go - he’s naturally very very fast, and I made one or two mistakes in previous rounds which cost me greatly! I’m very proud of this horse.

 

As Jan said it’s a long season, I’ve been competing in LGCT since almost the beginning and never really come close - never had the horsepower or the number of horses, so I have a lot to thank Poden Farms for and the Moffitt family. As Jan said it’s a team effort, they are young horses - we have a strong group of grooms and riders behind me, so it’s really thanks to them. 

 

To finish early means I can relax a bit, rest the horses and go to Doha with goals in mind. GCL is very important for the London Knights. But it’s been an incredible season for me - if someone said to me six months ago that I’d be sitting here with two 9 year old horses I would never have believed that. I can’t quite believe it to be honest. Even today, I just kept my head down, stuck to my plan, trust my horse. I have to believe that he will clear every jump, and I know he’s fast, so it’s great to be back in the top end of the sport this year. I’m really going to enjoy this moment."

The riders now head to Doha for the final round of the 17-event season. The 2018 winner is decided but Alberto Zorzi, Scott Brash and Christian Ahlmann could all finish on the podium there. 

Ben will be crowned 2018 Champion of Champions and the fight for second and third continues.


 

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Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) reigned victorious at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Grand Prix of Miami Beach triggering the prospect of a thrilling contest with current ranking leader Scott Brash (GBR) for a record third championship title.

Speaking after her victory lap of honour Edwina said it was “amazing” to have qualified for the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix at the new GC Prague Play Offs in December.

With a hefty contest shaping up between Tops-Alexander and Brash, at this early stage of the LGCT season, she admitted: “I know the two of us are going to be at it again to win."

“Ursula jumped amazingly. Just that last fence was one fence too many today. If I was to ride it again, I’d maybe have held her off the front bar a bit more, but I was delighted with her.”  Scott Brash

Both hugely talented Olympians have won the sought-after individual LGCT Championship title twice already and, if either rider can triumph at this season’s finale, they will make history as the first to accomplish the feat three times. 

Scott Brash riding Ursula XII  LGCT / Stefano Grasso

The overall LGCT Ranking battle is already an intense affair, with Brash (GBR) leading the charge for the 2018 season. Tops-Alexander is the second rider — after Mexico City Grand Prix winner Brash — to qualify for the Longines Global Champons Super Grand Prix which will take place at the GC Prague Play Offs this December. 

As the sun set on the show’s final day on the magnificent Miami Beach setting, Tops-Alexander once again stepped up to the top of the podium in the balmy evening — repeating her feat from 2016, when she won on Lintea Tequila.

Competing on her gutsy 11-year-old Dutch mare, California, she snatched glory as the final combination to jump in today’s LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach, edging out Qatar’s Bassem Mohammed, the only other rider who pulled off a double clear. Ireland’s Darragh Kenny rounded out the podium after an unlucky fence down with Cassini Z.

Victory was by no means assured for the top Australian athlete: “I didn’t even know until 11am that I was going to ride her today,” said Tops-Alexander, who missed the majority of last year’s Tour as she was pregnant and took a break from riding until September 2017. "We all work hard and sometimes is pays off. You have to believe in yourself.”

 “It’s an amazing venue with a great atmosphere and I feel a bit like I’m on vacation. There are kites and parachutes and waves and people in bikinis everywhere — there’s lots happening. It’s fresh and different; unique and original. We’ve never had show like this in the world before, and every year it gets better and better.”   Edwina Tops-Alexander

Michael Bloomberg was among guests at the event and watched his daughter Georgina compete with her team New York Empire in the GCL showdown in Miami Beach. The billionaire businessman and former New York Mayor said of the Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL event: “This is such a spectacular location. It is good for the sport and great for all the people who come here, the aficionados and the tourists who can walk by and watch. I am always interested to come and see my daughter, it’s is great she’s riding."

All the riders at the show — even those who came out with more faults than they would have liked — praised Uliano Vezzani’s technical and intricate course-designing. They were light and delicate, meaning that the smallest of mistakes influenced the outcome, but also not gigantic, intimidating fences, so even horses making mistakes did not have their confidence dented. Still, with the proximity of the sea and the crowds, the venue has the feel and intensity of an indoor show — just without a roof.  

Tops-Alexander added: “Uliano’s done an unbelievable job all weekend. What was really amazing was that the faults were everywhere — often there’s a tricky line or a particular fence, but he is very clever with what he does [so faults were evenly spread]. It means you have to ride your own course and know your horse.”

Five riders (all from different nations) from the 35 starters pulled off first-round clears to qualify for the jump-off, with the final two fences hard up along the shoreline side of the arena and towards the in-gate proving particularly influential. Final-fence faults meant many riders’ jump-off hopes were dashed at the last minute amid groans from the packed out crowds watching.

Belgium’s Pieter Devos had the tricky task of tackling the seven-jump second round first, and emerged with an unlucky four faults on Claire Z after the lightest of rubs on the first element of the double sent the poll skittering out of its shallow cups.

Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar was next out, but his tactic of a slow clear was scuppered when 13-year-old Fidux simply didn’t get high enough in the air over the penultimate obstacle. One more four-fault round followed him when Darragh Kenny’s mount Cassini Z punched out the front rail of the final spread. But his time was better and, with two left to jump, he had secured a podium position.

Bassem Hassan Mohammed on Gunder  ph.Stefano Grasso/GCL

The ever-consistent Bassem Mohammed and 12-year-old Gunder put in the first clear of the jump-off, making absolutely sure every rail stayed up. It was a cautious, tactically ridden round that did the job and put him at the head of affairs with only one rider left to jump. But it wasn’t pedal to the metal — and that one rider was the formidable Tops-Alexander, who had the advantage of complete intel about the course as the last to jump.

Her round on the 11-year-old Esprit mare California shaved more than three seconds off Mohammed’s time, handing her victory and the lion’s share of the class’s €300,000 prize-fund.  

“I watched some of Bassem’s round on the screen [in the warm-up] and I knew he could have gone faster,” added Tops-Alexander, who has partnered California since taking over the ride from Egypt’s Abdel Said in 2016. “Still, I didn’t think I’d won or that I was going that fast and I kept having to look at the screen to check.”
 
 
 
 
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Scott Brash and his superstar 17-year-old mare Ursula XII won the opening LGCT Grand Prix of 2018 in phenomenal style, becoming the first athlete to qualify for the new Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix later this year.

The two-time LGCT Champion delivered a lightning fast round setting up the tantalising prospect of a historic Championship treble.

“I’m ecstatic about this win,” said Scott shortly before he topped the podium in an emotional prize giving.

“Ursula is 17 and this win means a lot to us all. The crowd are incredible here, they really get behind us all and they’ve really made it a special venue for us.”

Brash's win, ahead of Daniel Deusser (GER) and Alberto Zorzi (ITA), secures his ticket to the new GC Prague Play Offs, which will be held this December in the Czech capital City. Each LGCT event Grand Prix winner will qualify for a place in the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix. The British star said: ”I’m delighted to be in the new [Longines Global Champions] Super Grand Prix, it’s a fantastic competition for us riders to have and to aim for and I think it’s going to be really exciting in Prague, a totally new concept and the first time they go indoors. It’s really exciting this year, it’s opened up a whole new level and I’m really excited to be a part of it in Prague.” Brash revealed this could be Ursula’s last season but said she was feeling “so great” there will be more major shows to come.

After the packed crowds had enjoyed a riveting climax to the GCL, in which the Miami Celtics produced a sensational victory, the focus returned to individual honours as the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in the heart of Mexico City took top billing.

A relentless, up-to-height track curved around this vast grass arena including the return of the offset Mexico fillers. But the most influential line came down the home stretch over a hefty Longines triple combination of vertical-oxer-vertical, which required power jumping before six strides took riders to a mighty oxer and pushed them over the finish line. A generous time allowed did at least take off some of the pressure.

The challenge was set and an elite field of 33 of the world’s leading athletes qualifying from the previous class came forward to bid for glory.

The first of the clears came early with Paola Amilibia (ESP) and the 15-year-old mare Prunella d’Ariel demonstrating great style and presence as they cleared the obstacles.

Alberto Zorzi (ITA), who swapped horses from the qualifying class to the talented mare Contanga, rode a meticulous clear which was soon followed by Germany’s Daniel Deusser and the up-and-coming stallion Tobago Z.

Twice champion of the series Scott Brash (GBR) and Ursula XII breathed a sigh of relief having survived an alarmingly rattling pole at the final oxer, then Belgium’s Jerome Guery and Garfield de Tiji des Templiers made it five clears on the card as the class reached the half-way point.

No jump-off would be complete without the lightning quick Eric Lamaze (CAN) and an enthusiastic clear from his great mare Fine Lady put the pair right in the mix for the timed decider.

All the Mexican riders received a hero’s welcome and the crowd exploded in jubilation when Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) riding Ares nailed a clear and earned the seventh ticket to the jump-off. Fighting fit and clearly relishing his return to top flight competition after a spell on the sidelines through injury, Glock’s London looked back to his very best when jumping a super clear for Gerco Schroder (NED).

Ten combinations finished on just the four faults including Christian Kukuk (GER) from the Ludger Beerbaum stable riding Limonchello NT and Nicola Philippaerts (BEL), back from his London Knights fourth-place appearance with the hugely scopey stallion H&M Chilli Willi.

So a formidable jump-off field of eight returned and, with some of the fastest riders in the world going into battle, the scene was set for a nail-biting finale over the shortened course.

Paola Amilibia had the unenviable task of pathfinder and returned with four faults on Prunella d’Ariel. Alberto Zorzi and Contanga shot out of the starting gates and soared round with a deliberate clear in 40.37s to set an impressive target.

He was soon followed by Daniel Deusser with Tobago Z, who pulled off some masterful turns in a brilliantly calculated round and slipped into the lead by six tenths of a second — 40.31s was the new time to beat.

Fourth in was the ice cool Scott Brash (GBR), who powered round the expansive grass arena on Ursula XII.  A big push down the final line on the big-striding mare and a flier over the last sent them rocketing into the lead in 38.65s - almost two seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

Just three riders could come between Scott and victory in this opening LGCT Grand Prix of the series and first up was the ultra-dangerous Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady. The pace was immense and the Canadian Olympic gold medallist pegged Scott’s time in 37.52s but agonizingly rolled the final fence.

Mexico’s Nicolas Pizzaro made a valiant effort but four faults in 40.80s put them top five – a great result for the home rider.

Last to go, Gerco Schroder and Glock’s London opened up over the first part of the course, but the second part of the double fell and they came home in 40.83s with four penalties.

Stefano Grasso/LGCT

 “This ring was fantastic for Ursula as I could really play to her strength which his her stride, but it was still a very competitive jump-off and we did our best.”


 

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He’s 1,72m high, full of a special kind of horsepower and can rival Usain Bolt with his own celebration after finishing a round… Dutch Olympic rider Maikel van der Vleuten’s Verdi is undoubtably one of the most consistent stallions on the Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL circuit, with the 16  year old horse a prominent figure in the sport he’s competed in for over 12 years. We caught up with the show jumping superstar at his home in The Netherlands, where Maikel gives us an exclusive insight into the secret life of the very vibrant Verdi.

Verdi

Verdi likes to take the mornings slow… "He starts off with a gentle stretch. 30 mins on the walker [almost like a treadmill for horses] first thing is enough to wake his body up." 

But he gets his heart rate going at least once a day… “Depending on his competition schedule it might be we ride out into the forest, or work on some fitness training on the canter tracks or a gentle lunging session."

If the weather is good Verdi gets turned out in the field at the end of the day like every normal horse... "If the weather isn’t good, the grooms hand walk him around the yard for a nibble on grass."

Maikel believes careful management is key to Verdi’s success. “I know what I need to work on with him. We have a plan and a routine that has developed over the years. We know each other inside out." 

Verdi is a yoga kind of guy… “I never do big jumping at home - he knows what to do already! Instead I focus on gymnastics with him to keep his body loose. It’s important that his body stays athletic - he’s very supple naturally and it’s important to keep it in top condition."

But it all starts and ends with the mind… “What’s most important is to keep him clear in his mind, and happy. So that’s why we often go for walks in the woods after a show, or take time to graze him in-hand.”  

It’s taken years of practice… “We grew up with this routine together, since he was four years old and I was 17. It helps that he has an athletic body, but it’s my job to help him stay that way and keep him happy.” 

Maikel and Verdi at home in The Netherlands

Maikel reckons if Verdi was a human, he’d be the David Beckham of the horse world… “He’s very honest. He’s quiet but very focused... Good looking! He’s an easy person who likes to work, loves his sport and loves his job.”

But he’s also a master of getting it just right… “Under saddle he knows what he has to do - he’s never a horse who is aggressive or wild, he saves his energy for the show ring. I’ve been in all different kinds of situations with him; sand, grass, rain, sun... And he’s always consistent which is what makes him very special.” 

He likes to communicate… “It’s funny, when I give him an easy day on the lunge and he thinks he’s finished, he’ll always give a small whinny at me as I walk to him. I do ten minutes on the left rein, ten minutes on the right and then I walk over to pat him and he always gives a nicker, as if to say “Great, I’m done!”… Every time. It’s as though he’s talking to me.” 

Verdi might be gentle but he likes to think he’s in control… “I have to let him think everything is his idea. He’s quiet but if I ask too much of him for things that are not needed, he can get mad. He’s very clever, you never need to over-ask him.” 

Maikel reckons Verdi is the "David Beckham" of the horse world...

He eats like the absolute athlete he is… “Verdi has three meals a day. In the morning, afternoon and evening he gets 'Red Mills Horse Care 14' - a combined mix of an oat based formula, antioxidants and pro balance vitamins and minerals. He also gets hay of course. I try to keep it simple and very easy.” 

He’s become famous in the equestrian world for his celebratory leap and buck at the end of each round - his own signature celebration display a la Usain Bolt or Mo Farah… “It’s become his “thing”, to leap once the round is over. It’s always after the last jump. It’s nice that he does it because he know he’s finished, he can feel it, but he has to be careful he doesn’t kick the fence out!”

Verdi has his own special celebration style... 
He’s the epitome of a perfect LGCT and GCL competition horse… “If you want to be in the top three in the Championship -  which is very, very tough, because it's always the best riders and best horses - you have to be able to compete at all the different types of arenas on the circuit, and it’s the same for your horse. Verdi is a top horse because he’s so consistent. I can bring him everywhere, and he's brilliant. This year the LGCT and GCL title will be our focus.”

Maikel and Verdi in action for the GCL team Madrid in Motion

London Global Champions Tour


 
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Longines and Global Champions Tour has announced a significant new long-term partnership further cementing commitment to the top level of show jumping and the future growth of the sport.

The global agreement will see Longines renew and extend its status as Title Partner and Official Timekeeper of the Longines Global Champions Tour circuit as show jumping continues to expand its reach and popularity in the modern sporting era.

In 2018 Longines Global Champions Tour will expand to new destinations. A spectacular new Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix will take place on Saturday 15th December in the Czech capital Prague along with the newly announced Global Champions League team Play Offs.

In the new Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix the winning riders of all the LGCT Grand Prix in 2018 will be eligible to compete for a further prize purse. 

Jan Tops, Founder and President of Longines Global Champions Tour, said:

“I am delighted to announce this new extended partnership with Longines, which is another landmark for our series and I want to thank Longines for their vision, passion and incredible commitment to show jumping and equestrian sport. Since we launched GCT in 2006 we have strived to raise standards in all aspects of show jumping to benefit all stakeholders and we are committed to driving this further in future years with this tremendous support from our long-term partner Longines.”

Juan-Carlos Capelli, Longines Vice President and Head of International Marketing said:

“We are really proud of the strong partnership we have established with the Longines Global Champions Tour over the years, which has contributed to make Longines a major player in the field of show jumping. Today, it is a great pleasure to further illustrate our passion for equestrian sports and we look forward to this new common adventure. This new step in our cooperation with the LGCT can only demonstrate how successful our collaboration has been."

Since the launch of the partnership with the Swiss watchmaker in 2013, Longines Global Champions Tour has expanded to spectacular and unique new venues in some of the world’s most dynamic cities. Building together the partnership has seen expanded TV exposure, including CNN as well as Eurosport, and growth across digital and social media platforms with innovative new features for viewers.

Next year will see a breathtaking calendar of events including Shanghai, Paris, London, Miami Beach, Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Monaco. The traditional final leg of the season will take place in Doha, Qatar.

The next seasons will see continuing investment in digital strategy and entertaining content for fans worldwide, introducing new technology to deliver enhanced experiences for Longines Global Champions Tour audiences.

The high calibre of competition on the LGCT circuit continues to reach new levels with the majority of the world’s Top 10 ranked riders at the events. Newly crowned 2017 LGCT Champion Harrie Smolders said:

“A higher level is not possible.”


 Source: Press Release

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All clear scan results. Good news for John Whitaker as he recovers from a worrying fall when Cassinis Chaplin made an abrupt refusal last Saturday, 5th August, at the Longines Global Champions Tour in London.

“When you hit the ground, your first instinct is always to get up and get straight back on the horse but I couldn’t feel my feet,” said John. “That was the most worrying time, and that’s why the paramedics put the screens up round me.

“But it wasn’t too long before the feeling came back to my feet and as soon as it did I knew I was all right. I could move my arms OK and I didn’t lose consciousness — I was just a bit dazed.

With cheeky humour, John added,

“The scans came back all clear, thankfully. My neck and back are still stiff — as I said to Geoff Billington, I’m stiff but in all the wrong places!

 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs

British Olympic showjumper John Whitaker has been injured after falling from his horse at the Global Champions Tour event in London.

Competing on his 62nd Birthday, John started off well on the nine-year old Cassinis Chaplin. But, the stallion put in a sudden refusal, unseating him over the fence. Spectators were relieved as it was announced John was speaking with the medics and was taken to hospital for medical checks.  

His son, Robert, later said the showjumper was "sore and stiff" but "should be OK".

Scott Brash and Hello Forever.  photo Steffano Grasso/LGCT

However, 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.

 

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.

Ben Maher and MTF Madame X pictured together on Friday's CSI5* (1.45m)

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,
"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."

 
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Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts impressed the crowds in the jump-off of Friday’s CIS5* Longines Global Champions Tour of London on his big jumping horse 11 year old Aikido Z . There was no doubt that he was riding to win as he came out hard over the first fence and galloped into the Union Jack, keeping up the pace into the Longines upright, securing a beautiful and fast clear, finishing at 39.13s.

“Today is my third show on this horse. He doesn’t look that quick – but he’s got a good canter. I am so happy that owners gave him to me to ride. He’s getting better and better!” said Philippaerts.

 As the summer evening shadows lengthened across the sand arena at the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea, the crowds were kept enthralled by some of the world’s top riders as they battled it out. Whilst fourteen riders qualified for the jump-off, Max Kühner (AUT), Harrie Smolders (NED), Bassem Mohammed (QAT) and Anna Kellnerova (CZE) opted to miss it and rest their horses ahead of Saturday’s action. However, with ten riding, it was tight at the top, with just fractions of a second separating the riders.

Denis Lynch (IRL) took the Big Ben inspired fence at a rapid pace which he maintained throughout the jump off, despite a little buck into the Roman columns, he finished with a lovely clear and with a fast enough time to take him into an early lead with 39.61s. He finally secured a podium finish, taking second.

Christian Kukuk (GER) came out of the starting gate with one thing on his mind and the crowd loved his smooth round. However, it was not enough to beat Lynch and he finished on 39.84.

The 325 year old Grade I and II listed building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, provided the perfect backdrop as fantastic horse and rider combinations used determination and focus to tackle the course.

Daniel Deusser (GER) was the first out of the starting gate for the evening event. He took the first fences quickly, but his smooth and relaxed ride came to an abrupt halt at the Union Jack fence as SX Hidalgo VG refused, rearing in disapproval and the poles came down, leaving him finishing on 48.71s and four faults.

Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) stayed governed throughout, finishing on 41.19s and fourth place. Meanwhile, Darragh Kenny picked up the pace with some superbly tight turns, but took the Longines final fence down at a gallop to groans of dismay from the crowds. He finished with a rapid time of 38.11, but with four penalty points.

Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels suffered the same fate, flying round the course and was looking good to the last, but finished a little flat and nudged the last fence down. Jérôme Guery (BEL) was tight into the turns with Garfield de Tiji Des Templiers, however he was unlucky to get the last fence down to finish on four penalty points too.

Tiffany Foster (CAN) started well, but was unfortunate to wobble the red phone box fence and missed out on a clear.

Finally, last to go was Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme who enjoyed a solid round and fifth position. But it was Nicola Philippaerts' day, with the popular Belgian rider taking the first feature class win of the weekend.


 

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It was a great start for the home talent on the first day of day of action at the Longines Global Champions Tour in London, with four British riders in the top ten of the first CIS5* of the show. However, they did not have enough to beat Harrie Smolders (NED) - the current leader of the overall LGCT Rankings. He came through the starting gate on his bay gelding Zinius with big ambitions and rapid pace, taking the top spot with a very fast clear of 26.39s.

“I have a quick horse – he’s here for this class and Sunday, which only gives us two options to win and we had a good start! This horse does really well and he wins a lot! I was fast in the beginning of the second phase – I knew I had the time!”

William Funnell (GBR) and Billy Angelo jump the last fence on the course

William Funnell (GBR) on Billy Angelo held the top spot for most of the first CSI5* class, finishing a beautiful clear round on 23.91s, putting him into second. There was not even a breath between him and fellow Brit Laura Renwick on her 14 year old chestnut stallion Van de Vivaldi, who did an impressively economical round, stopping the clock at 27.05s, finding a place on podium and taking third.

Laura Renwick set a fast pace with Van De Vivaldi

Hosted for the first time in history at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, spectators have been treated to some glorious sunshine and stunning performances from some of the best riders in the world, all set against the beautiful and iconic grounds. Amongst those watching the action from the covered grandstands have been several of the three hundred Chelsea Pensioners who live on site, resplendent in their scarlet coats.

Despite having some challenging combinations, including a large oxer heading into a triple combination taking inspiration from the London Underground tube sign, the course was one of the softer ones of the Tour. It meant a number of fast clears and there was not a lot of space between any of the top riders.

Swiss rider Martin Fuchs took the fourth spot finishing on 28.32s, with two more Brits chasing him in fifth and sixth. John Whitaker (GBR) who turns sixty-two on Saturday went clear on 15 year old stallion Argento, finishing on 28.59s, and Olympic Gold medallist Ben Maher followed behind him on his bay mare MTF Madame X with 29.58s, wowing the crowds with some nifty turns.


 

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