Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) declared “today was my day” after winning an adrenaline-fuelled Grand Prix at the debut Longines Global Champions Tour in the vibrant Mexico City.
The experienced French speed demon fought off stiff competition from two youngsters – 20 year olds Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Bertram Allen (IRE) in the four-man jump off in the huge grass arena. It was an impressive debut for Mexico City on the championship circuit with a colourful fiesta atmosphere and a passionate crowd of tens of thousands enjoying world class equestrian show jumping. The winning riders were besieged by autograph hunters with the sport proving to be an instant hit in Mexico City.
Six out of the world’s top 10 riders were in the fray for the second Grand Prix of the 2016 series and new ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER), who finished 4th in the jump off, said: “The first round was a really proper Grand Prix. I am really happy with this show.” The championship ranking has been shaken up with Christian now on 68 points ahead of veteran John Whitaker on 60 points and Jos Verlooy and Sheikh Ali Al Thani on 56 points.
Only a week after the season opener in Miami Beach – on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean – the move to Mexico City at over 2,000 metres above sea level clearly brought out some fantastic performances from both human and equine athletes. Mexican riders were cheered wildly by fans as national riders showed their strength against the best in the world.
Government ministers and business leaders joined the thousands of international guests for the prestigious event. One of Mexico’s leading business figures Carlos Hank Gonzales, President of Banorte Group, said: “We are incredibly proud and happy to have world class athletes and this world class event in Mexico. It reflects that Mexico is going through a growing phase and we are showing the world Mexico is ready to have this kind of event.” Mr Gonzeles is also co-owner of the Global Champions League team Valkenswaard United. His team is competing tomorrow in the second GCL team competition and aiming to hold on to their lead. He said: “I think Global Champions League is going to change the sport, it will bring a lot of excitement and I hope everyone comes out to cheer on their favourite teams tomorrow.”
Today’s action saw the inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Mexico City magnificent from beginning to end. As LGCT Founder, Jan Tops, stated: “If I could write a perfect script of how we want it to go the last two days are it.” Frenchman Roger Yves Bost would agree, as in a fantastic four horse jump-off between four nations, it was ‘Bosty’ and Quod’Couer de La Loge who went fault-free and fast for flawless day and the win here in Mexico City.
The script opened with ideal weather, a large and exuberant crowd, a colorful and challenging course and forty-two world-class participants performing with their talented equine partners. The stage was set for superb sport.
The forty-two riders on the starting list represented sixteen countries, six of the world’s top-ten riders, Olympians, seasoned veterans and hotshot youngsters, showcasing the high calibre of sport on the LGCT. With credit to Course Designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) the sixteen effort 1.60m track was ideal for the very competitive field. Asking difficult questions throughout, the track could be jumped clean with a precise ride, especially in the final line. Set at the far end of the field, the final two efforts were a bright yellow oxer in a quiet five strides to a light vertical.
In the two round format, the top eighteen scores return for a second round. Sixteenth to go and first clear was young superstar Jos Verlooy (BEL) on the gray stallion Caracas. Five more matched that faultless effort, Kent Farrington (USA) and the Belgian mare Gazelle; Christian Ahlmann (GER) and the Belgian stallion Epleaser van’t Heike, Swiss rider Romain Duguet and the Selle Francais mare Quorida de Treho; Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) and Selle Francais stallion Qoud’Couer de la Loge, and another young show jumping young superstar, Ireland’s Bertram Allen aboard the also young Belgian stallion Hector van d’Abdijhoeve.
Seventh through eighteenth riders included hometown favorite Antonio Chedraui (MEX) and Ninloubet who finished just .7 seconds over the 79 seconds allowed for a one fault score. Nine four-fault scores and two five fault rides also earned a spot in the second round.
Returning in reverse order of score and time, once again Vezzani tested the riders. Several who had a single rail in round one, rose to the occasion the second time out, moving them up in the final results. Steve Guerdat (SUI) was one, riding the Swedish mare Bianca flawlessly and efficiently for the fastest four fault score overall, moving up from eleventh to fifth place.
The level of excitement went up several notches as four of the final six riders in the second round went double clear, assuring a jump-off to determine the winner.
First in, Ahlmann, who earned the Bronze Medal in last weekend’s LGCT Miami Beach, had an unlucky rail coming out of the pink combination towards the end of the jump-off, finishing with four faults in 39.72s. Veteran Bosty knew he had to ride clear and fast, as two of the best twenty-year old riders in the world were still to come. He showed the appreciative audience and those youngsters how it’s done, fault-free in 37.23s.
Verlooy gave a gallant effort, clear in 41.63s, which was not quite fast enough to catch the flying Frenchman. Finally, in galloped Allen on the talented stallion Hector, who looked fast the whole round until the final fence caught the impressive combination out.
Riding the son of his Selle Francais stallion Ideal de la Loge, Bosty proudly stood on the top of the podium and took the victory gallop in front of a cheering crowd.
Álvaro Arrieta Konyay, CEO Oxer Sport: “First of all, I want to congratulate Bosty for his fantastic performance. And to the other top riders who are on this table – this is like a dream! Here there are four of the best riders in the world, and here we are in Mexico. We started working two years ago – thanks to the confidence and the trust of my friend Jan. The team of my company, of Oxer Sport, the Pascal family, all of us we have done our best to get this amazing event. We have great pride in the excellent, excellent assistance of the public this Saturday – today we’ve seen fantastic sport here, thanks to the course designer who is part of this magic moment. Thank you to Mexico, to the Secretary of Tourism, as well as the Director of Longines. In Mexico they have supported this fantastic Grand Prix. Thank you.”
Jan Tops, Longines Global Champions Tour Founder and President: “If you’d wanted to write the perfect script a week ago, you would end up with what you are seeing here in the last couple of days. Not only was it perfect organisation and with great riders, the public here were unique – they are very warm, they know about the sport, and they really appreciate the riders and the performance. This makes it a special place. I would like to thank our partner Oxer who we’ve known for many years, and have a lot of trust in each other. Also the Pascale family, it was a great partnership. Also thanks to the Mexican Government who are behind us. Without these people we couldn’t have had a weekend like this. The winner was the sport – it was a great finish thanks to the course builder again, and I’d like to thank all the stakeholders who make this happen.”
Christian Ahlmann (GER), LGCT Ranking leader: “I’m really happy with my first two shows, Epleaser did a very very good job; one time on the small sand ring the other week, and then on this big grass field. He’s showing everyone how special he is. Especially the first round, it was a real, real proper Grand Prix. For the second time outside in this big ring, it was hard work – I had an unlucky rail in the jump-off, but in general I’m very happy with my horse. I’m really happy with the show, as Jan said it’s organised very well, especially with the public – it’s really a lot of fun for all of us to ride in.
“I’m really looking forward to the next shows. It was a good start, but we have to keep concentrating to keep this [ranking leader armband].”
Roger-Yves Bost (FRA), gold medallist: “I’ve won two Global Grands Prix with the father of this horse, one in the final of Abu Dhabi, so to win with the son is a very good feeling. The show is so good – my horse felt very good in the class. When I jumped yesterday I felt I had a good chance to win – today is my day! For the first time to jump here, this place is amazing.”
Jos Verlooy (BEL), silver medallist: “Every show [my horse] is going better and better. I built him up in the winter, we’re going up together and he’s going faster than I thought. I am very pleased with how he went this weekend. Miami was also super and gave me a good feeling for this week.”
Bertram Allen (IRL), bronze medallist: “Bosty had a really good round, he was fast. I knew it was going to be difficult for me to beat that – my horse has only done three 5* Grands Prix so I gave it a bit of a go, and had a bit of an unlucky fence down, but I’m delighted to be sitting here.”
Photos: Stefano Grasso/LGCT