Scott Brash (Great Britain) and Hello Forever triumphed in an epic battle for top honours in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Cannes, presented by Haras des Grillons. The two-time LGCT Champion of Champions took a sensational win against a star-studded field, which included eight out of the top ten riders in the world.
Four of the fastest riders on the circuit squared up for the finale against the clock and Scott, last to go, produced a brilliantly daring performance, drawing gasps from the crowd, as he delivered the winning round.
“He’s a real trier – but I think it can get a lot smoother yet!” said Scott of Hello Forever. “It’s still early days with him. He can make my life a bit difficult at times, but the best is yet to come with him.”
The British national anthem rang out to celebrate Scott’s second victory in the Cannes Grand Prix – his last one came with Hello Sanctos back in 2014. Edwina Tops-Alexander (Australia) with Lintea Tequila rode a brave and beautiful round to take the silver medal and Daniel Deusser (Germany) continued his run of good form for third with Equita Van’t Zorgvliet.
As the sun set and the floodlights came on in the Stade Des Hesperides in Cannes, it was standing room for the eighth leg of the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour, still led by Christian Ahlmann (Germany). It couldn’t have been more different from the thunder and lightning that hit the show on Thursday night.
Uliano Vezzani set a challenging course of full-blown Grand Prix fences: a mix of tall, gappy verticals, gaping oxers and tight turns in round one, with the last two fences – an oxer over a water tray to a vertical on either four or five strides – proving the biggest test.
Eight jumped clear, with Denis Lynch (Ireland), winner of Friday night’s CSI5* 1.50m with All Star 5, on an unfortunate time fault, and a pack of four-faulters, the quickest of which made it through as part of the top 18 for round two. In pole position were Brash and the ever-eager Hello Forever.
Uliano’s second-round track proved more straightforward with three doubles rather than a triple combination, and some hairpin bends to keep riders on their toes. For those carrying four faults, the strategy was to produce a quick clear to climb up the leaderboard and it was Laura Renwick (GBR) who profited the most, riding the fastest second-round clear and rising up to finish sixth with Bintang II, just ahead of Kevin Staut (FRA) and Marcus Ehning (Germany) who both put their foot down but kept the poles up.
Denis Lynch stayed on a steady tempo for another clean round to finish on the one fault carried through and finished fifth, just missing a spot in the third and final round.
The jump-off track contained two new fences, with some sharp turn-backs.
First up, Roger-Yves Bost (France) galloped the course with his mare Sangria Du Coty to post a brilliant clear in 40.52s, much to the delight of the home crowd. Hot on his heels, Daniel Deusser and Equita Van’t Zorgvliet found some amazing angles, with the courageous horse obliging at every turn. Their challenge was less than a second quicker, clear in 39.32sec.
Edwina Tops-Alexander and Lintea Tequila raced out of the starting blocks and the sparky mare did everything she could, twisting in the air and proving incredibly agile through the double. They met the last on a stunning stride and slid into the lead, clear in 38.67s.
However, it was the brilliant Scott Brash who stole the show, quickly finding top gear as he galloped to the fences. The crowds gasped as 10-year-old Hello Forever, owned by Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham, leapt cat-like, using his acrobatic skills to ensure every pole remained intact. The pair motored round the last bend to nail the final fence and stop the clock in a stunning 37.98s.
The Tour moves to Monaco in a fortnight for leg nine of the 2016 season.
Jan Tops, president of the Longines Global Champions Tour says: “When we started in 2006 with the new concept of the Global Tour, Francois was directly on board. We’ve been partners for 11 years now and I think we can see that every year is better and better. We have a great relationship between the organisation and the riders – there’s a lot of confidence there. And you see also today that the sport is exceptional again, because we have the great riders here and the great course-builder Uliano.
“I always say the horses feel good here in the south of France – with this weather, they are loose, they are relaxed, and they jump a little bit more than any other place. Also for the Tour, it’s getting closer – they are catching up to Christian. Of course he’s still in the lead but only seven legs are counting so everything is open till the end and Scott made it really exciting today.”
Francois Bourey, President of Jumping Cannes adds: “After Thursday we were a little bit worried about the weather but we had a fabulous jump-off and I would like to congratulate Scott, Edwina and Daniel, because we have probably one of the fastest and best jump-offs we’ve had since a very long time. I’d like to say thank you also to Uliano [Vezzani]. We have great support from the Mayor of Cannes, the City of Cannes is absolutely fantastic for the show. I have the honour tonight to say big, big works are starting next year on the Stadium of Hesperides which means between four and six million euros to start a new concept for the show. So it’s absolutely fantastic when a city follows you like this. It’s great for the Global Champions Tour and it’s great for the sport.”
Scott Brash, LGCT Cannes Gold Medallist: “My horse gave everything – he tries his hardest. He can make life a little difficult for me at times, but he really tries when he gets there and he’s a winner. The nice thing is I think the best is still to come from him, so I’m very happy. It’s nice to know it’s in him, and I hope we get more wins in the future.”
Edwina Tops-Alexander, LGCT Cannes Silver Medallist: “Going to the second fence I saw the distance that I needed, which is what Scott had, and I just couldn’t get it. I gave as much as possible but I knew when I came out that it wasn’t enough – he’d have had to have had one down for me to end up winning. He deserved it, he gave maximum effort today. It was an amazing jump-off, a fast jump-off; a difficult course, like it was a difficult course last night as well, but it can’t be too easy otherwise it’s not exciting, so thanks to the organisers and the sponsors, it was a great one tonight.”
Daniel Deusser, LGCT Cannes Bronze Medallist: “I have to say I’m really really happy with my horse. For me it’s quite a new horse, and only the third show we’ve done together and she really tried today. In the jump-off I knew I had two very fast riders behind me; Bosty was not slow also. I tried to be faster than Bosty, and I just got him, but I knew that the others might be faster. Big congratulations and I’m really happy with my third place.”
Christian Ahlmann, LGCT Ranking Leader: “I’m in a good position with more shows coming. Taloubet jumped really good today – we were a little bit unlucky in the first round with a fault. It was a very nice class with the right amount of riders in the jump-off. Everyone could see it was amazing sport, really nice to watch… but next time I’d like to be part of [the jump-off] again!”