Now the New Zealand show jumping season has concluded, we bring you some news from the international scene.
Canadian & American News
We’ll start with some sad news from Canadian Ian Millar who has ridden at Olympic Games a record ten times! His wonderful horse Star Power has passed away. He rode Star Power at the London Olympics, finishing in a three-way tie for ninth place.
Ian loved this horse, calling him a “freak of nature.” He went on to say: “He has unbelievable athletic ability—he’s fast, agile, powerful. He can do things that most horses can’t. And he really, really wants to leave the jumps up.”
Danny Ingratta, Star Power’s groom, posted a wonderful tribute to the horse on Facebook:
“On Friday we had to say goodbye to Star Power. He was loved by many and will always have a special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to take care of him almost every day for three years. He was the first horse I took care of representing the Canadian Team at Nations Cup events, and was the first horse that took me on numerous unforgettable adventures throughout North America. He always kept me on my toes, as he was constantly trying to squish them. He loved his bananas and pizza buns and would go nuts for honeydew melon. I will never forget his different “voices” nor his incredible personality and talent. Pookie, you were the best, with the biggest heart in the world. You did anything and everything that was ever asked of you. You will be truly missed. XOXO Rest in peace, Pookie.”
Now for some good news! Jeffery Fields continues to have an excellent run with Kiwi Iron Mark, finishing fourth out of a field of 29 in the Blenheim Spring Classic IV Grand Prix at The Oaks in California. They had just a single time fault in the first round over a testing Leopoldo Palacios course. Vani Khosla on Billy Mexico won the class, in a very tight jump off, beating Karl Cook and Tembla by one-thousandth of a second with Peter Petschenig on Colour Your Life third.
A number of horses produced by Katie Laurie are now competing in other parts of the world. Delilah with Clem Smith did well in the Aquis Grand Prix at Elysian Fields, Queensland, finishing fourth after being one of the four clear rounds out of a field of 32.
Also at the show were some Kiwi riders doing well. The ‘little Kiwi’, Lily Toothill, on Ulysses NZPH was a close second in the 1.30m Young Rider Championship, won by Savannah Hopkinson. Ross Smith was also competing, with good results, and Leeshelle Small was second in the 1.20 Junior Championship on Shakespear NZPH.
Lisa Cubitt and Amaretto MVNZ gave the crowd a thrilling jump-off to win the 1.40m in a time of 40.44 – shaving an impressive four seconds off the leading time.
Mexico – Longines Global Champions Tour
It was another ideal day in Mexico City as LGCT wrapped up a wonderful weekend of world-class jumping. In the opening competition, Trofeo Banorte (Banorte Trophy), 1.50m, thirty-seven entries attempted to master the track set by Uliano Vezzani of Italy. Of the eight who qualified for the dazzlingly competitive jump-off, it was Scott Brash (GBR) who led the victory gallop aboard the scopey Oldenburg gelding Hello Forever.
First to go in the round against the clock was two-time LGCT champion and 2016 LGCT Grand Prix Gold Medallist, Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) aboard the feisty mare Lintea Tequila. The pair set the track and time to beat, super-quick and clean in 43.53.
Harrie Smolders (NED) on the gorgeous Zangherziede stallion Don VHP Z executed a smooth and slick ride in 46.73s, not fast enough. Hometown hero, amateur rider Antonio Chedraui (MEX) made a super effort on La Bamba, stopping the clock in 46.13 to take over the second spot. Not for long, though, as Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) on the Selle Français gelding G&C Quitador Rochelais turned up the heat, clean in 44.86, stealing the second spot from Chedraui.
Kent Farrington (USA) and Gazelle were on track to take over the lead, when a tight rollback turn came up a bit too quick, causing a surprise refusal.
Demonstrating unbelievable scope, Hello Forever hopped each obstacle with ease for Scott, maintaining a slick pace that ultimately stopped the clock in 43.07s, .46 seconds faster than Tops-Alexander, and slipping into the top spot by a slight margin. Last to go, Jerome Guery (BEL) tried to catch them but had a rail along the way for four faults in 45.17.
Scott is a two-time LGCT champion and Olympic gold medallist, and showed the audience all his skills as he piloted Hello Forever to the win.
Grand Prix greatness
The day before, Roger-Yves Bost of France declared, “Today was my day,” after winning an adrenaline-fuelled Grand Prix on Quod’Couer de La Loge. The horse is an 11-year old stallion son of Bosty’s former great Selle Français champion, Ideal de la Loge, so it was a fitting ‘second-generation’ victory.
The experienced French speed demon fought off stiff competition from two youngsters, 20-year-olds Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Bertram Allen (IRE), in the four-man jump-off in the huge grass arena. Six out of the world’s top 10 riders were in the fray for the second GP of the 2016 series and new ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER), who finished fourth, said: “The first round was a really proper Grand Prix. I am really happy with this show.” The championship ranking has now been shaken up, with Christian on 68 points, ahead of veteran John Whitaker on 60 and Jos Verlooy and Sheikh Ali Al Thani both on 56.
Only a week after the season opener in Miami, the move to Mexico City at over 2,000 metres above sea level clearly brought out some fantastic performances from both human and equine athletes.
A perfect script
As LGCT Founder, Jan Tops, stated: “If I could write a perfect script of how we want it to go, the last two days are it.” Roger Yves Bost (‘Bosty’) would agree, as in a fantastic four-horse jump-off between four nations, it was he and Quod’Couer de La Loge who emerged victorious.
The script opened with ideal weather, a large and exuberant crowd (especially exuberant when a Mexican rider appeared), a colourful and challenging course and 42 world-class combinations, representing 16 countries. They included six of the world’s top-10 riders, Olympians, seasoned veterans and hotshot youngsters. Course designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) came up with a 16-effort 1.60m track that was ideal for such a competitive field. There were difficult questions throughout, but clean jumping was possible with a precise ride – particularly over the last two: a bright yellow oxer and a quiet five strides to a light vertical.
The first clear was from young superstar Jos Verlooy (BEL) on the grey stallion Caracas. Five more matched that effort: Kent Farrington (USA) and the Belgian mare Gazelle; Christian Ahlmann (GER) and the Belgian stallion Epleaser van’t Heike, Romain Duguet (SUI) and the Selle Français mare Quorida de Treho; Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) and Selle Français stallion Qoud’Couer de la Loge, and another young star, Ireland’s Bertram Allen aboard the also young Belgian stallion Hector van d’Abdijhoeve. Hometown favourite Antonio Chedraui (MEX) and Ninloubet finished just .7 seconds over the 79 seconds allowed for a one-fault score. Nine four-fault scores and two five-fault also earned a spot in the second round.
Riders returned in reverse order of score and time, and were once again thoroughly tested by Vezzani. Several who had a single rail in round one, rose to the occasion this time and moved up the scoreboard. Steve Guerdat (SUI) was one, riding the Swedish mare Bianca superbly for the fastest four-fault score overall and rising from 11th to fifth. Four of the final six in the second round went double clear, assuring a jump-off .
First into the ring for the deciding round was Christian Ahlmann, who won the bronze in last weekend’s LGCT Miami Beach. He had an unlucky rail, finishing with four faults in 39.72s. Veteran Bosty knew he had to ride clear and fast, as two of the best 20-year old riders in the world were still to come. He showed the appreciative audience and those youngsters how it’s done, fault-free in 37.23s.
Jos put in a gallant effort, clear in 41.63s on the gorgeous Caracas, but not quite fast enough to catch the flying Frenchman. Finally, in galloped Betram on his talented stallion Hector, who looked fast the whole round until one fence caught him out.
So, it was Bosty who proudly topped the podium, then took the victory gallop in front of a cheering crowd on the handsomeQuod’Couer de La Loge.