The Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai was a feast of show jumping action with fiercely intense competition between many of the world’s best combinations.
CSI5* 1.50/1.55 class
Jack Towell (USA) and his 10-year-old bay gelding New York won Friday’s CSI5* class after a phenomenal 15-rider jump-off. The full-height course called for every trick in the book, with the double of verticals requiring careful set up before a flat-out gallop over three-quarters of the arena to the last, a solid hedged fence.
The crowd were on the edge of their seats when final rider Michael Whitaker (GBR) and the eye-catching Viking powered around, looking certain to win. But it was not to be: groans erupted as they rolled the final pole and, despite being fastest across the line in 34.95s, dropped back to 12th.
World Number 3 Scott Brash (GBR) finished agonisingly close to Jack Towell – just a tenth of a second behind – after an impressive showing with the 10-year-old chestnut gelding Hello Forever. Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano continued his exceptional form, riding the grey stallion Caspar 232 to third. World Number 1, Simon Delestre (FRA), came a strong fourth with Chesall Zimequest, and other combinations of note were Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) on VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P, Gerco Schröder (NED) with Glock’s Zaranza showing for the first time on the 2016 season, Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Cornado II, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chaman, Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) with Lintea Tequila and Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Eldorado van het Vijverhof.
But it was Jack and New York who took the title in 35.18s, ahead of Scott and Hello Forever, who finished just a tenth of a second behind.
Emanuele Gaudiano was simply untouchable in the opening CSI5* class. The Italian, well known for his prowess and incredible pace, rode his dark bay 10-year-old mare Guess 6 to win the two-phase 1.45m competition, with the second half of the round in an incredible 19.84s, almost a full three seconds clear of the field.
David Will (GER) on his experienced chestnut mare, Mic Mac du Tillard, put in a strong performance for second. He was closely followed by Simon Delestre, who rode Stardust Quinhon to third in 23.10s. Other notable performances were Eduardo Menezes (BRA) with Caruschka 2, fourth; Puis Schwizer (SUI) and Electric Z, fifth and Laura Renwick (GBR) with MHS Washington sixth, while Hong Kong’s Kenneth Cheng and Dragon Leon finished eighth. But it was Emanuele and his big-striding mare who stole the show, flying at Formula 1 speed.
Great Britain’s Laura Renwick and her bay mare MHS Washington delivered a flawless masterclass in the other speed competition on Saturday, finishing almost a full second ahead of the field in an impressive 56.67s.
Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) looks to be on fantastic form, taking his second placing of the show with the nine-year-old gelding, Chacanno. Third went to Marc Houtzager (NED) and his Sterrehof’s Bylou. Ludger Beerbaum (GER) with Colestus, Andreas Kreuzer (GER) with Clintash and local rider Raena Leung (CHN) with Lalik 2 were all placed, much to the delight of the crowd.
The 1.60m Grand Prix saw some big names return to the arena for the first time this season, with Ludger Beerbaum’s stallion Chaman in action and fellow German Marco Kutscher’s Van Gogh back after a long break. Maikel van der Vleuten’s (NED) top horse VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P. was one of the headliners, as was Christian Ahlmann’s eye-catching stallion Colorit, both of whom looked in fantastic form throughout the Grand Prix.
Uliano Vezzani’s course demanded horse and rider use delicacy and power with full-height verticals, intimidating oxers and a spook-inducing liverpool which caught out a few combinations. It was Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and his nine-year-old bay gelding Tarioso Manciais who led the way after a captivating first round performance.
Simon Delestre was hot on his heels with Chesall Zimequest, and Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) with H&M Legend of Love put in an impressive performance to finish round one at the sharp end. A total of 13 went clear, with notable names such as Ludger Beerbaum and Chaman, Scott Brash and Hello Forever, Christian Ahlmann with Colorit, Edwina Tops-Alexander with Caretina de Joter, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani of Qatar with Vienna Olympic, and Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa with Ferro Chin van het Lindenhof leading the way into the next round. This was a longer course, making full use of the arena and requiring plenty of energy left in the tank. Michael Whitaker and Viking picked up an unlucky four after clipping a fence near the end, and compatriot Scott Brash had an unusual refusal with Hello Forever at the combination. Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P, Olivier Philippaerts with H&M Legend Of Love, Emanuele Gaudiano with Caspar 232 and Simon Delestre all picked up four faults and dropped out of contention.
Five lined up for the jump-off and to go was LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach winner Edwina Tops-Alexander who looked in phenomenal form with Caretina de Joter. Edwina rode brilliantly, posting 43.45s as the time to beat. Next up was Dutchman Marc Houtzager with Sterrehof’s Calimero, a bigger-striding horse with paces that ate up the distances, and the pair pipped Edwina’s time to finish just tenths of a second ahead.
Spectators were on the edge of their seats as Marco Kutscher and the beautiful dark bay stallion Van Gogh entered the arena. Right from the outset the pair shaved every corner possible, flying to the last and stopping the clock in 42.27s – just shy of a full second ahead of the previous two. Watching intently was Christian Ahlmann with the stunning Colorit. Careful, powerful and fast, this pair galloped around the course, with Christian taking out strides and guiding Colorit beautifully, maximising shortcuts and showcasing a foot-perfect performance. They approached the final fence ahead on time, but it was not to be. There was a loud groan as Christian collected four faults despite his impressive 40.68s.
Last to go were Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia and Tobalio, who set off at a blinding pace, raced throughout, and with a stag-like leap flew the final fence and crossed the finish line in 41.97s. The crowd erupted in cheers: a win for Abdullah!
Full results can be found on this link.
Massimo Dutti Trophy CSI5*
This feature class saw Simon Delestre showcase his talent with the phenomenal chestnut gelding Chesall Zimequest and claim the lion’s share of the $377,000 prize money after a masterful round. Eleven went through to the jump-off, with the crowds once more on the edges of their seats as the drama unfolded.
The competition went right down to the wire after Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Legend of Love set a blinding pace in the jump-off, crossing the line in 39.91s. Olivier and Simon were evenly paced, with Olivier ahead for most of the round, but Simon won on a scorching final turn and gallop to the last.
Christian Ahlmann and the vocal grey stallion Cornado II were third, with the crowd cheering in delight as Cornado neighed upon entering the arena. They put in an impressive round just three-tenths of a second behind Olivier.
Danielle Goldstein of Israel with Caspar 213, Edwina Tops-Alexander with Lintea Tequila and Gerco Schröder (NED) on Glock’s Zaranza made up the other places, with Gregory Wathelet (BEL) seventh after an unlucky pole with Oh d’Eole. So speedy were Gregory and his black mare that they crossed the line in 38.65s, and would have been sure winners.
The Grand Prix result dramatically extended Christian Ahlmann’s ranking lead to 129 points, with Emanuele Gaudiano now second on 96, and John Whitaker third on 85.
At the conclusion of the competition, it was announced that Longines Global Champions Tour and partner Juss Event have signed a long-term agreement for the future of the 5* event in Shanghai, which has become a hot favourite with spectators. The Tour now returns to Europe and to Hamburg for the fifth round of action.