The Longines Global Champions Tour has moved to Cascais, Portugal, and is once again showcasing some incredible jumping, with plenty more to come. Here are reports from the first classes.
Julien Epaillard has stunning Mercedes-Benz CSI5* win
It was an evening where France reigned supreme, as Julien Epaillard took top honours with Quatrin de la Roque LM in the opening Mercedes-Benz CSI5* competition in Cascais. Mirroring his nation’s success in the 2016 Euros, Julien rode a stunning class, beating the field by three seconds.
Forty riders took part in the 1.45m two-phase competition, flexing their muscles ahead of Saturday’s LGCT Grand Prix.
Olivier Philippaerts (Belgium) and H&M Henna de Goedereede were the first to set the pace, powering around the speed phase in 39.44s. This was soon topped by young Spanish talent Gonzalo Añón Suarez and AD Amigo B, who turned tighter to the full-height jumps. Hot on their heels came Daniel Bluman of Colombia and Believe, who stormed to the top of the timesheets with an impressive 36.15s, two tenths of a second faster than Gonzalo.
But it was one of the final riders to go, Julien Epaillard and the 12-year-old bay gelding Quatrin de la Roque LM, who stole the show, taking some phenomenal turns and galloping across the distances in style. They stopped the clock at 32.86s, three seconds faster than Daniel’s time. Daniel took second place, and Gonzalo was third. Jane Richard Philips of Switzerland rode a perfect round with the fiery Foica van den Bisschop, and finished fourth on 37.64s: the second to fourth placegetters were split by just tenths of a second.
Brilliant Ben Maher and Aristo Z unstoppable with CSI5* 1.45m Speed Class Win
The result of Friday’s speed competition bodes well for the recently announced British Olympic team: 2012 gold medallist Ben Maher took the win on his brilliant, fiery chestnut gelding Aristo Z and, hot on his heels, just eight-tenths of a second away was 2016 Rio Olympic teammate, John Whitaker with Lord of Arabia.
The course created by Frank Rothenberger was a test for best, and many combinations were caught out by the full-height double, while others were drawn into a too-speedy gallop, with the light poles requiring scope and careful jumping.
Ben was the fourth starter and threw down the gauntlet with a blistering round on Aristo Z, a gelding famous for his speed and agility. Keeping the hot-blooded chestnut calm while maintaining pace and rhythm, Ben rode a masterful round in 64.09s. The rest of the field tried but failed to catch him, with John Whitaker and Lord of Arabia the closest at 64.86s.
Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia and Red Star d’’Argent finished third, Marco Kutscher (GER) with the big-striding Clenur was fourth, and Alexandra Thornton (GBR) took a strong fifth place with Caballero. Bassem Hassan Mohammed from Qatar and the stunning grey Argelith Squid rounded out the top six