Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever triumphed in an epic battle set against the stunning backdrop of Cannes, taking 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 8 out of the top 10 riders in the world.
Four of the fastest riders on the circuit squared up for the finale against the clock and it was the last rider Scott who produced a brilliant and 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. “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 victory came with Hello Sanctos back in 2014. Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) with Lintea Tequila rode a brave and beautiful round to take the silver medal and Daniel Deusser (GER) continued his run of good form taking third spot on the podium with Equita Van’t Zorgvliet.
As the sun set and the floodlights came on in the Stade Des Hesperides in Cannes, only 50m from the world-famous La Croisette and super-yachts moored at this glamorous location on the French Riviera, it was standing room only as crowds were treated to turbo charged sport on the eighth leg of the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour, still led by Christian Ahlmann (GER). It couldn’t have been more different from the thunder and lightning storms that hit the show on Thursday night.
Last night it was announced that the venue would have a mulit-million re-development further enhancing the facility as a sporting venue.
Uliano Vezzani set a challenging test of full blown Grand Prix fences with a mix of tall, gappy verticals and gaping oxers required precision, especially round the tight turns in round one with the last two fences of 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 (IRL), winner of Friday night’s CSI5* 1.50m with All Star 5, on an unfortunate time-fault, and a raft of four-faulters, the quickest of which made it through as part of the top 18, creating a stellar line-up for round two. Taking pole position was the 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash (GBR), who showcased skilful riding with 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 forward 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 (GER) who both put their foot down but kept the poles up.
Denis Lynch (IRL) stayed on a steady tempo for another clean round of jumping to finish on the one fault carried through and was placed fifth, just missing a spot in the third and final round.
The jump-off track contained two new fences, with some sharp turn backs and concluded with the Longines double, followed by a right hand turn and a race to the final oxer and over the finish line.
First up, Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) 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 who leapt to their feet as he crossed the line. Hot on his heels, Daniel Deusser (GER) and Equita Van’t Zorgvliet found some amazing angles with the courageous horse obliged at every turn. Their challenge was less than a second quicker, with the pair clear in 39.32sec.
Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Lintea Tequila raced out of the starting block 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 (GBR) who stole the show, with the combination in a determined mood, quickly finding top gear as they 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 final bend to nail the final fence and stop the clock in a stunning 37.98s which had the crowd on their feet all around the arena.
Christian Ahlmann (GER) still dominates at the top of the table as the Tour progresses to Monaco in a fortnight for leg nine of what is already an incredible and hotly-contested 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour season.
Jan Tops, president of the Longines Global Champions Tour: “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 relation 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 great course-builder Uliano. I must say the first day we were a little bit unlucky but today the circumstances were great, and in this weather the horses feel good. I always say the horses feel good here in the south of France – with this weather, the horses 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: “It’s a fantastic evening. 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. That man trusts our organisation also, which is a great honour for us and I’m very pleased to say that to you this tonight because I think it’s one of the most exceptional things that could happen for us.”
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 today with a fault. I have to thank the organisers, Jan and all the sponsors, for the very nice show. I’d like to congratulate the podium winners, and the course designer – 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!”
Photos: Stefano Grasso/LGCT