It was a scorching afternoon in the coastal town of Cascais, Portugal, with the overall LGCT Rankings taking a dramatic turn as Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia rocketed to the top of the championship leaderboard. Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci and Casallo Z stole the show, taking a stunning win in the 1.60m €300,000 5* Grand Prix – Piergiorgio’s first LGCT GP victory – with Edwina second on Lintea Tequila and Bertram Allen of Ireland third on the flamboyant Hector van d’Abdijhoeve.
Edwina’s result has shot the two-time LGCT Champion of Champions to the top of the rankings, where she now sits on 234 points overall. Former leader Christian Ahlmann (GER) is a nail-biting two points away, and poised to regain the lead as the battle continues this season. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) has slipped to third, but still on 200 points, and Bertram’s result in Cascais has pushed him back up the order to fourth, just 11 points behind the top three.
The large, flowing course threw up several questions for the riders, with forethought needed for the related distances, and plenty of scope required as the fences grew bigger towards the second half of the round. Frank Rothenberger utilised the length and breadth of the grass arena, allowing the horses to open up the pace, while delicate poles and full height verticals demanded accuracy and power. A double of liverpools gave the horses something to think about, and a few top riders fell short of the final combination, either from their pace being too fast or from miscalculating the long distance between.
David Will of Germany with the spirited chestnut Mic Mac du Tillard was the leader into round two, after blowing away the rest of the field to clear the course in 79.59s. He and the small but mighty 16-year-old mare had stormed to the top of the time sheets early on in round one, setting an unbeatable time for the remaining 35 starters. The closest to their pace was Belgium’s young talent Olivier Philippaerts on H&M Legend of Love: the huge-striding grey mare delivered a classy round in 80.46s. Christian Ahlmann repeated his masterful round from yesterday’s win with Caribis Z, keeping his overall ranking lead alive.
A total of 13 jumped clear, and were joined by four four-faulters for round two. This was another big test, with a couple of delicate full-height verticals catching out some of the top combinations, including Lauren Hough (USA) with Cornet 39 and Andreas Kreuzer (GER) with Quick Jumper.
First to go clear was Michael Whitaker with his Olympic contender Cassionato, setting the pace at 80.26s. Piergiorgio and Casallo Z quickly joined him, ensuring a jump-off. Christian Ahlmann and Caribis Z caught an unlucky pole at the first fence, and another on the final run, eliminating themselves from the jump-off and putting Christian’s ranking lead in danger.
Edwina rode a flawless round with Lintea Tequila, and others through to the jump-off were Marco Kutscher (SIEC Carsten) Bertram Allen (Hector van d’Abdijhoeve), Abdullah Al Sharbatly (Tobalio) and Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Legend of Love).
The first two out, Michael Whitaker and Abdullah Al Sharbatly, each had a pole down. First to go clear was Piergiorgio Bucci with Casallo Z, setting the time at 49.07s. Marco Kutscher and the huge-striding SIEC Carsten rolled an unlucky pole, dropping down the order. Edwina and Lintea Tequila flew around, charging to the fences, and were quick but not quick enough, finishing in 50.08s.
Bertram Allen and the expressive Hector van d’Abdijhoeve were next to take centre stage, with the stunning grey kicking and bucking his way around the course. They were just shy of Edwina’s time, with 50.14s.
But the day belonged to Piergiorgio – who taught himself to ride as a boy – and Casallo Z, a chestnut Zangersheide stallion (Casall ASK x Carthago Z).