It was a spell-binding Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco, with Italian speed demon Emanuele Gaudiano and his impressive grey Caspar 232 claiming top honours after a nine-rider jump-off. Talking about what it means to win a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix, an elated Emanuele said: “For every rider to win a Grand Prix is good, but to win a Global Champions Tour Grand Prix is special – it’s amazing.” Compatriot Piergiorgio Bucci took a well-earned silver medal on his horse Casallo Z, with the horse’s sire Casall ASK finishing in third place for Swedish rider Rolf-Göran Bengtsson.
Christian Alhmann (GER) retains his place as overall ranking leader, still on a tally of 209. However the Championship fight has intensified, with Australian Edwina Tops-Alexander closing the gap, moving up to 169, and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) just a whisker away in third with 160. Drop scores now come into play, with the top eight results counting towards the final LGCT Champion of Champions title battle, and with six events remaining it’s set to be an exciting finish.
The Grand Prix took place in the presence of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and other royal guests, including Queen Noor of Jordan, Princess Caroline of Hanover, daughter Charlotte Casiraghi, and Princess Beatrice of York. Prince Albert was joined at the prizegiving by the sponsor Sapinda’s Chairman, Lars Windhorst.
Luc Musette set the bar high for the first round of competition, and 42 top combinations took to the arena in the heart of Monaco. A few big names failed to make it through to round two: LGCT Ranking leader Christian Ahlmann was one of the surprise drop-outs, with his eye-catching stallion Colorit clipping a pole, leaving them with four penalties.
The USA’s Audrey Coulter on Capital Colnardo was the first to jump clear, making the 1.60m fences look easy as the stallion took them in his stride. She was quickly joined by Christina Liebherr (SUI), Janne-Friederike Meyer (GER) and Jos Verlooy (BEL) with Caracas.
Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) set the initial early pace after a beautiful round with his 11-year-old bay stallion Bisquet Balou C, but was soon pipped to pole position for round two by Germany’s David Will who set off at a blistering pace around the tight course. David rode his chestnut mare Mic Mac du Tillard beautifully, turning sharply but allowing enough time to allow for careful jumping.
Scott Brash (GBR) had another masterful round with the relatively young Hello Guv’Nor, and was joined by compatriot Laura Renwick with Bintang II. Final rider to go John Whitaker on Ornellaia and the legendary British rider didn’t disappoint, joining those through to round two and splitting the two young riders, Nicola and David. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Emanuele Gaudiano, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Jerome Guery (BEL), Denis Lynch (IRL) and Ukrainian Cassio Rivetti were some of the strongest contenders, but it was David Will and top horse, the spirited chestnut mare Mic Mac du Tillard, who led the way into the second round, looking on fantastic form.
Round two saw the top 18 return to the sand arena as the floodlights came on. The course was technical and again asked many questions, with tight cut backs and galloping distances creating a challenge for the top riders. Both Scott Brash and Laura Renwick were caught out by the double combination, rolling a pole to the groans of the crowd. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson looked competitive with the 17-year-old Casall showing all his experience and flair. John Whitaker set a blistering pace with Ornellaia, putting them in prime position for the jump-off, with Nicola Philippaerts, Jerome Guery and Emanuele Gaudiano all looking dangerous too. Last rider to go, David Will rode at Formula One pace, galloping the distances, but the fiery Mic Mac du Tillard got away from him at the final fence, knocking the pole and eliminating them from the last round.
Nine went through to the jump-off, with Janne-Friederike Meyer (GER) and Chuck 27 starting first and setting the pace at 40.51s. But the jump-off immediately moved up a gear, with Rolf shaving off a full two seconds to stop the clock at 37.95s. Next to go, Emanuele Gaudiano and Caspar 232 galloped around the course, turning tight to the fences and covering the ground with the grey horse’s large strides to finish in 36.64s. His compatriot Piergiorgio Bucci and Casallo Z pushed to beat the time, but had to setttle splitting the top two to finish in 37.37s. Jerome Guery nd Alicante looked impressively fast, but the gallop to the last was too much for the grey stallion and he refused the final fence. Last rider to go, John Whitaker took some brave shortcuts with Ornellaia but couldn’t match the timing of the top three, finishing fourth and handing the win to an ecstatic Emanuele.
The Tour now looks to Paris for the 10th round of action in the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour.
Jan Tops, Founder and President Longines Global Champions Tour: “It was a very Italian day! Emanuele took off at the final fence and I think he could have taken one fence more! He’s a great trier, he’s always a great trier, and today was his day. Piergiorgio was also fantastic, I think it’s the first time we have him on the podium. It’s great to see new faces do so well. Rolf has been with us for the past 10 years, he’s a machine of clear rounds, and I don’t think there are many more who have been on the podium as much as he – Casall is incredible. In the Rankings everything has become closer together – Christian is still very comfortable but only eight results count, so it’s still open. Monaco is unique; all the riders are happy and pleased to ride in such nice environment – the crowd are amazing, the setting is beautiful.”
Emanuele Gaudiano, LGCT Monaco Gold Medallist: “We bought Caspar when he was young, and have worked together to this point today. Today was his first 5* Grand Prix win, he jumped every round better and better. He’s not a typical horse for this ring but he did an amazing job. I think for every rider to win a Grand Prix is good, but to win a Global Champions Tour Grand Prix is special – it’s amazing.”
Piergiorgio Bucci, LGCT Monaco Silver Medallist: “It’s great to be on the podium. My horse jumped amazing. It was a great atmosphere and really like a Formula 1 – and I would like to thank [Jan Tops] who made it all happen. It’s another sport, it’s another feeling and I’m very happy to be sitting here next to this man. Congratulations to Emanuele; he’s a great jockey and it was a super day for him, like many other days! I’m very happy with the result.”
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, LGCT Monaco Bronze Medallist: “It’s nice to see there are five [offspring of stallion] Casall here, and two on the podium. They’ve all done well. Casall is 17 years of age, he’s strong, and he’s been so many times on the podium – he’s an incredible horse. It was fantastic sport here tonight, everyone went faster and faster and tried so hard – it’s fantastic surroundings in Monaco. The crowd are very enthusiastic which is very good for us.”
Christian Ahlmann, LGCT Ranking Leader: “On the paper it looks quite good but now only eight results are counting. I hope some wins are coming in the next few shows! To watch again a wonderful, really hot jump off, like it was in Cannes was nice, but it would be better to be taking part in it again next time!”
Top Ten – LGCT Grand Prix du Prince de Monaco presented by Sapinda
1. Emanuele Gaudiano // Caspar 232
2. Piergiorgio Bucci // Casallo Z
3. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson // Casall ASK
4. John Whitaker // Ornellaia
5. Christina Liebherr // L.B. Eagle Eye
6. Janne-Friederike Meyer // Chuck 27
7. Cassio Rivetti // Coleman
8. Nicola Philippaerts // Bisquet Balou C
9. Jerome Guery // Alicante
10. David Will // Mic Mac du Tillard