It was a fairytale ending to a stunning weekend of top sport in Germany, as four-time Olympic Gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum (GER) took a sensational win with his new horse Casello 2 in front of a sell-out crowd at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg. Fresh from the podium, a delighted Ludger said: “It was a little bit like Leicester winning the Premier League!
“It is very very special to win [in Germany], and if I could have a wish from the 15 legs, it would be to win here. Everyone has experienced today the atmosphere – it’s really something very special, and believe me, I’m more than happy and really enjoying this moment.”
It was standing room only for the big €300,000 Grand Prix class with a worldwide TV and online audience watching Ludger beat off heavyweight competition from a stellar international field. With the sport enjoying a boom globally Ludger commented: “If I see the sport from [when I started] to today, it’s unbelievable for myself to have the opportunity to experience this development in the last ten years. I really also have to say thanks to the Global Champions Tour which was a milestone in the development of our sport. I wish I was 10 years younger!”
Christian Alhmann (GER) now leads the LGCT Rankings on 161 points overall, with 2nd place man Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) on 96 points. World Number 1 Simon Delestre (FRA) has jumped up to 3rd with 95 points overall.
It was full house at the great Derby arena as tens of thousands of fans watched as the first round unfolded, with the passionate crowd cheering and gasping as world class action got underway with a 50 strong field. The young Belgian star Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) led the way with an impressive performance in the early stage of the 1.60m Grand Prix. Riding his beautiful grey Zilverstar T, Nicola delivered a quick and careful round across the expansive grass arena, while fans packed the grandstands and grassy banks in the picturesque setting. Georgina Bloomberg (USA) and Lilli delivered a polished round to progress to round two, and Brazil’s Marlon Módolo Zanotelli with the mighty Cash del Mar Z also jumped beautifully to secure their spot in the next round of the Grand Prix.
The last couple of fences caused a lot of damage, with the double of verticals posing a challenge to the top riders such as Pius Schwizer (SUI) and Leonard de la Ferme CH, who missed out on the second round after rolling the poles. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Casall ASK had an unlucky foot on the tape of the water jump despite stunning form throughout the course. Other big names to drop out of the running were Kevin Staut (FRA) with For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC, Marco Kutscher (GER) with Balermo, and home favourite Janne-Friederike Meyer (GER) with Goja.
Christian Alhmann (GER) delivered an immaculate round with stallion Codex One, much to the delight of the crowd who cheered passionately for the home rider. He was joined by compatriots Ludger Beerbaum (GER) who delivered a masterful round with the chestnut, Casello 2, Marcus Ehning (GER) with Pret a Tout, Daniel Deusser (GER) with First Class van Eeckelghem and young star Andreas Kreuzer (GER) with Calvilot who showed serious talent in the expansive grass arena. Also through were World Number 1 Simon Delestre with the Grand Prix winning horse Qlassic Bois Margot, Bertram Allen (IRL) with Molly Malone V, Lauren Hough (USA) with Cornet 39, Daniel Bluman (COL) with Sancha LS, Harrie Smolders (NED) with Don VHP Z, and Laura Kraut (USA) with Zeremonie.
The second course was carefully planned, pushing the riders to think about striding and their plan of attack. First to go clear was Denis Lynch (IRL) with All Star 5, however their earlier time fault meant they would not progress to the jump-off. Young German star Andreas Kreuzer (GER) rode a stunning double clear with the eye-catching Calvilot, however was just pipped to the post by the time allowed, and the crowds groaned as he was handed one time fault, putting him out off the final round. Harrie Smolders (NED) was the first to jump double clear, consistent as always and showcasing a masterful round. The crowds erupted in patriotic cheers as he was joined by Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Daniel Deusser (GER), Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Marcus Ehning (GER) all earning their places in what promised to be a mouth-watering jump-off to delight local fans.
Eight went through to the jump-off, with the crowd on the edge of their seats as the first rider Harrie Smolders (NED) with Don VHP Z entered the ring. The course was designed to encourage a flat out gallop, with intimidating full height oxers, and utilising the full length of the arena. Setting off at a gallop, Harrie crossed the line with 35.25s, throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the field. Next was the Columbian Daniel Bluman with Sancha LS who was unable to beat his time but came close with a 35.29s. Daniel Deusser (GER) had an unusual two down, and a slip for World Number 1 Simon Delestre’s (FRA) Qlassic Bois Margot cost them a fence putting them in 6th overall.
Marcus Ehning (GER) with Pret a Tout were incredibly fast with a time of 34.72s, but a tight turn to a vertical with the chestnut horse unfolding a touch too early cost them a fence, but earning them 4th place overall. Ranking leader Christian had one down with Codex One, putting them in 5th, but it was compatriot Ludger Beerbaum who stole the show, turning tightly and galloping across the course to meet the line in an impressive 34.81s.
The Tour now looks to leg six and Madrid, for the next round of action on the incredible 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour season.
Jan Tops, Founder and President of the Longines Global Champions Tour: “If you want to be in Germany – which is a great horse nation – then where better to be than Hamburg. It’s a traditional place, with a beautiful grass arena. The people here know the sport, which is very nice, and you can see people really rooting for their favourites. It’s great to see [Ludger] with his new mount – a horse that he’s only had since the beginning of the year, so to come back and win this important class will give them a great boost for the coming months and a lot of confidence – it’s nice to see. The one who is on incredible form is Christian [Ahlmann], he’s not missed one leg [where he has finished placed] out of the top seven. He’s by far leading, he has his mind set for the whole Tour and there’s a big chance he can achieve it.”
Volker Wulff, Show Organiser Jumping Hamburg: “Today was another really great day today. We had 13 hours of sunshine, and it was the first time we were sold out on Saturday. It was amazing sport and a lot of people who have been here today will definitely come back next year; they’ll tell some neighbours so it might be too small here for the next year!”
Ludger Beerbaum, LGCT Grand Prix of Hamburg Gold Medallist: “I could not be more pleased. It’s really nice to achieve this today with this horse – it’s not expected. If you saw my jump-off two days ago I was swimming around the track. So it was a little bit like Leicester winning the Premier League in England! You would have had a good call betting for me today! It’s amazing that it can happen. Overall, the first round was ok, the horse jumped good – the fact that the time was short made a difference, and I think it was the most harmonious round. The second round; the time was short but I felt for the first time really confident from start to finish. In the jump-off there was no special plan – my colleagues here know their horses much better and I still have to find out which is his favourite turns and strides. But I just went for it and thanks to the quality of the horse, it was possible to win today.
“It is very very special to win [in Germany], and if I could have a wish from the 15 legs, it would be to win here. Everyone has experienced today the atmosphere – it’s really something very special, and believe me, I’m more than happy and really enjoying this moment. I see the sport developing – if I see the sport from [when I started] to today, it’s unbelievable for myself to have the opportunity to experience this development in the last ten years. I really also have to say thanks to the Global Champions Tour which was a milestone in the development of our sport. It put healthy competition to a lot of other shows also, and I wish I would be ten years younger!”
Harrie Smolders, LGCT Grand Prix of Hamburg Silver Medallist: “With eight in the jump-off I think we had a very strong field today of horses and riders. I’ve not the fastest horse but I tried to put as much pressure on as I could. After my round I was satisfied anyway, as my horse jumped good – he was light, and after his break this is the first time I have really felt his power and lightness back. I think the favourites in the jump-off were Christian [Ahlmann], Simon [Delestre] and Marcus [Ehning]. But as you can see, that’s the beauty of our sport, that sometimes the leaderboard changes!”
Daniel Bluman, LGCT Grand Prix of Hamburg Bronze Medallist: “It’s been for many years that I’ve watched the Tour from home on the computer, watching the greatest riders compete. It’s the first year that I get to do it, thanks to the Global Champions League, that allowed me to be part of the Monaco Aces. I’m delighted to be jumping three very good rounds with my Olympic hopeful for this year and sitting beside Ludger, who I’ve been looking up to since I was a little kid, and next to Harrie who is having an amazing time and has come from a second place finish in the World Cup Finals – I’m very happy; it’s a great day for sure.”
Christian Ahlmann, LGCT Ranking Leader: “On paper it looks good – it’s only a shame we’re in Hamburg and not [at the final in] Doha! For sure it’s a very good feeling, especially when there are a few horses to catch the points and can change the situation a little bit – it’s a good situation for me at the moment. So I’ll cross my figures, work for it, and try to keep it long like that.”
Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT