Ludger Beerbaum took a sensational second Grand Prix win on the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour following a stunning competition set against the beautiful backdrop of the Chateau de Chantilly. Riding his 13-year-old grey mare Chiara 222, the master of the sport took his second gold medal of the 2016 season, claiming the full 40 points available and shooting up to second on the overall rankings. Fellow German Daniel Deusser was just tenths of a second behind with the chestnut First Class van Eeckelghem, and Columbia’s Daniel Bluman was third with his 11 year old stallion, Conconcreto Apardi.
The cream of show jumping featured heavily in Chantilly for the seventh leg of the Tour, with a nail biting eight rider jump-off which left the thousands of passionate crowds right on the edge of their seats. The high calibre field in the jump-off produced extraordinary split second finishing times, repeatedly shaking up the final result.
It was a chic VIP scene with high profile figures from the worlds of entertainment and business watching the action unfold on a large grass arena. Despite the threat of stormy weather, crowds packed the grandstands with no seat spare to witness a true battle of the Titans in France’s ‘Capital of the Horse’.
In the LGCT Ranking battle, Christian Ahlmann (GER) still leads the way on 186 points overall. Ludger Beerbaum (GER) moves to second on 126, and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) lies third, just one point behind,with 125 overall.
Fifty riders took part at Chantilly. The first round course was set by Luc Musette and required careful horses as well as scopey jumping: light poles and full-height verticals demanded precision, and there was the temptation to gallop at fences in the large arena. With wide oxers followed by delicate 1.60m verticals, the course tested the elasticity of the horses and the forethought of the riders.
A few big names were caught out, including LGCT Ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER), who uncharacteristically tipped two fences with his stallion Colorit during round one – breaking his run of six consecutive Grand Prix placings on the Tour so far. Last year’s winner Gregory Wathelet (BEL) was another who missed out on round two, joined by Jerome Guery (BEL), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and leading French rider Patrice Delaveau.
Those through and at the sharp end of the grid were Luciana Diniz (POR) with the chestnut mare Fit For Fun 13, Pieter Devos (BEL) with Espoir, home rider Robert Breul (FRA) with Arsouille du Seigneur, young talent Jos Verlooy (BEL) and his phenomenal grey stallion Caracas, Daniel Bluman (COL) with Conconcreto Apardi and Hans-Dieter Dreher (GER) with Cool and Easy. Other big names through included Ludger Beerbaum, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson of Sweden with his formidable stallion Casall ASK, Lauren Hough (USA) with the eye-catching Cornet 39, Australian Edwina Tops-Alexander with Caretina de Joter, Jessica Springsteen (USA) with Cynar V and Daniel Deusser (GER) on First Class van Eeckelghem. French rider Julien Epaillard led the way into round two, much to the delight of the local crowd, after a blistering round with his 12-year-old bay gelding, Quatrin de la Roque LM.
The second round threw up new challenges, with a tough triple catching out many of those through. The same delicate poles cost a few their place in the jump-off, and the crowd watched anxiously to see who, if any, would jump clear and ensure a third round.
David Will (GER) and Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) both put in two brilliant clears, but each carried four faults through from round one, meaning they would not progress any further. Jessica Springsteen rode two stunning rounds with Cynar V, narrowly missing out on the jump-off when the grey put in an extra stride to the penultimate fence, tipping through it and collecting four faults. Compatriot Lauren Hough was caught out by an unlucky first rail at the triple, and unable to go through to the jump-off, and Jos Verlooy jumped a stunning double clear with the grey stallion Caracas, but was just a little slow and picked up an agonising time fault.
A total of eight qualified for the jump-off, including Ludger Beerbaum, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Luciana Diniz from Portugal and France’s Robert Breul, and were welcomed into the arena by a clapping, chanting crowd. The course was full of sharp turns and long, galloping distances, ensuring an exhilarating spectacle.
Sweden’s mighty combination of Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ASK were first to go, but took the corner a touch too tight to the second fence – a full-height 1.60m vertical – knocking the light pole and side-wing and collecting four faults, with a base time of 39.75s. Next up, Leopold van Asten (NED) had an unlucky pole at the wide oxer. Edwina Tops-Alexander and Caretina de Joter were the first to achieve a beautiful clear round, putting pressure on the remaining riders as they crossed the line with a spectacular time of 39.77s. Next in was Germany’s Daniel Deusser on First Class van Eeckelghem; Daniel rode a beautifully crafted round and took a stunning line to the double, cutting a stride out and crossing the line in 38.98s.
Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara were next to go and took six strides to the double, but their turn was sensational, and they pipped Daniel to the line in 38.28s.
Columbia’s Daniel Bluman and his stallion Conconcreto Apardi put in a flat-out round, but couldn’t beat the German’s time, coming home in 39.45s. The final rider was 2015 LGCT Champion of Champions Luciana Diniz of Portugal who looked to be a huge threat until she and Fit For Fun clipped the final pole at a flat out gallop.
So, it was the legendary Ludger Beerbaum who triumphed: his second win out of four competitions on the Longines Global Champions Tour so far.
In other classes, New Zealand’s Samantha McIntosh was 11th on Estina in the 1.45m Grand Prix, and ninth on Check In 2 in the CSI5*1.5m International.
The Tour now turns to leg 8, remaining in France and heading south to the Riviera and the city of Cannes on June 9-11.