Scott Brash (GBR) made history at the Royal Hospital Chelsea winning the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London presented by Sapinda for the second year running.
To jubilation in the sold-out grandstands the British Olympic Gold medallist has now won the most number of LGCT Grand Prix ever.
Piloting the 9 year old gelding Hello Mr President, Scott delivered a breathtaking performance in front of his home crowd, taking his eleventh LGCT Grand Prix win ahead of Peder Fredricson (SWE) and Ludger Beerbaum (GER). Ludger now joins the illustrious line up of show jumping superstars for Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs.
Scott has taken his second win of the 2018 season and has shot back up to sixth on the overall ranking as the Championship accelerates to the season finale, with the potential to realise his hope of securing a never-before achieved third title.
Ben Maher (GBR) has extended his overall ranking lead, with a points tally of 270 in total, now 38 points from his closest rival. Harrie Smolders (NED) keeps hold of second with 234 points overall, and Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) keeps third with a score of 212.
It was a quintessentially British scene as Royal Hospital Chelsea played host to the world’s greatest show jumpers. Families enjoyed top sport and a thrilling display by the Household Cavalry Musical Ride adding to the patriotic atmosphere at the beautiful venue.
Guests from around the world, including Bill Gates and Bruce Springsteen, applauded the veterans, known as the Chelsea Pensioners who once again joined the prize-giving ceremony adding to the emotional scenes around the arena. And Rory Bremner entertained spectators with an impromptu performance of his top impressions in the live GC TV studio. British brands such as HR Owen Bentley were also at the event and the victorious London Knights team were earlier paraded around the arena in a special sporty Bentley Supersports GTC to the delight of fans.
Uliano Vezzani set a big track for today’s LGCT Grand Prix of London – full height at the maximum 1.60m and requiring scopey horses who took a lot of care when they reached the fences. A delicate Sapinda vertical as well as a “Big Ben” winged skinny required absolute precision, with an imposing Longines treble set towards the in-gate asked complete focus, power and care in equal measure. The last line gave the option of six or seven strides, giving riders the choice best suited to their horses.
First to go Scott Brash (GBR) had all the pressure on his shoulders – the 2017 LGCT Grand Prix of London winner this time riding his enthusiastic 9 year old gelding Hello Mr President, and watched by owners Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham. And the “Iceman” delivered, the epitome of grace under pressure with fans on the edge of their seats as they willed their home rider to a clear, and the young horse responding magnificently to Brash’s careful requests.
He was quickly joined by multiple Olympic gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum who piloted Casello around the sand arena – the experienced 15 year old gelding jumping the course with ease to go clear. Ludger opened him up down the last line to get the six strides making it a very different horse into the jump-off compared to Scott’s younger gelding.
There was heartbreak for Maurice Tebbel (GER) the talented rider jumped the whole round foot perfect with Don Diarado but unfortunately the last fence went down. Similarly there was disappointment for Alberto Zorzi (ITA), last weekend’s winner of the LGCT Grand Prix of Berlin, the Italian picking up a disappointing twelve faults.
Mid-way through and there are only two clears so far, a testiment to the challenge set for the world’s best show jumpers.
Fans were thrilled with a second clear round for the United Kingdom after Michael Whitaker (GBR) jumped a brilliant zero fault round on the nine year old El Wee Widge. He really had to push to the last fence and was very close to having the back rail but cleared it putting a Whitaker into the jump-off. Speaking after his round, a smiling Michael said: “I won’t be giving this horse back [to son Jack]. He had a hesitation to fence four, but he was brilliant so I can’t complain! It’s exciting to be in the jump-off, for a change!”
Peder Fredricson (SWE) who has already qualified for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, jumped a very smooth clear round with his Cannes winning mount Hansson WL, raising the stakes for the jump-off where he would be joined by Denis Lynch (IRL) and RMF Echo.
British fans roared their approval as young star Harry Charles (GBR) produced an incredible clear with Abc Quantum Cruise, the 19 year old talent making his first appearance on the Longines Global Champions Tour and delivering superbly. The temperatures soared as Ben Maher (GBR) joined those through, the chestnut gelding Explosion W jumping his heart out for the LGCT ranking leader.
Final rider to go, Eric Lamaze (CAN) pulled out all the stops with Chacco Kid, the duo looked on top form, but a single pole ruled them out of a place into the seven-rider jump-off, and Maher in pole position as last to go.
Scott Brash (GBR) returned to the ring with the eager Hello Mr President, the pair setting off at a gallop as silence dropped around the arena. Brash gave it his all, riding Hello Mr President magnificently to deliver yet another clear, taking a chance at the last, but stopping the clock in 38.88s and setting the pace for those behind him.
Multiple Olympian Ludger Beerbaum (GER) flew around the arena with Casello, but the pair couldn’t match the British rider’s time and finished a couple of seconds down in 41.15s. British hopes were dashed after Michael Whitaker (GBR) clipped a pole with El Wee Widge, and then it started to unravel as the “Big Ben” fence fell, with the pair finishing on 12 faults.
Peder Fredricson (SWE) pulled out all the stops with Hansson WL, matching Scott on turns and strides. But his horse was not as naturally quick as Hello Mr President, and he had to settle for second with a time of 39.84s. Poles down for Denis Lynch and Harry Charles ruled them out of contention, with all eyes turning to Ben Maher (GBR) to see if history would repeat his and Scott’s showdown from 2017.
Ben’s chestnut horse Explosion W jumped the course effortlessly, fast across the ground and up on time. But the penultimate fence tumbled, as the crowd groaned, and the pair finished off the podium despite clocking an impressive time of 38.82s, agonisingly quick enough to have taken the win.
So it would be a British win, with Scott Brash (GBR) taking his second LGCT Grand Prix of the season and handing Ludger Beerbaum a coveted ticket to the GC Prague Playoffs where he will compete in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
The LGCT now looks to it’s spiritual home, Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, for the 14th leg of the Championship race.
Jan Tops, LGCT Founder and President: ‘LGCT is known to have the best riders and at the end of the day seeing these types of riders on the podium is amazing to see and watch for the public. It was a special treat for them and nice to see the battle between Scott and Ben again. Who is going to win this year, they are tossing up all the time, they are both in great form. What Ben has achieved this year is amazing and Scott rode today on a young horse who is definitely a high prospect for next season. Ben is still the best, by far he is way ahead [in the rankings]. I put my odds on Ben to win the season at this moment. He has two great horses. But for Scott to win today as the first rider is very special. I must also say today Ludger has now qualified for the GC Playoffs, and it’s a great asset to have him for the final in Prague. He has not had the luckiest season but now is great to see he’s qualified for the Super Grand Prix. The final is going to be one of the most prestigious classes of the year to win. To get all these winners of the year together is going to be very, very exciting.”
Ben Maher, LGCT Ranking leader: “Congratulations to Scott – I can never seem to get that one step ahead at this show. Scott set off with an incredible round, he has a naturally very fast horse. I stuck with my plan and was just quick enough but a very unlikely fault from Explosion today and I very rarely say it but probably luck wasn’t on my side – but he is an incredible horse and I’m very grateful to be able to ride horses like this. It is another great result here for the overall championship. I feel like we are in great shape at the moment although there are still as few chances for the others to come back. I have a lot of high results, maybe my placing in Miami Beach I could improve on but I have two 9 year old horses who I have managed to do this with this year and I try my best not to overuse them. Explosion will have a break now. But I have had a huge amount of fun and if someone told me in January that I would be in this position in the Global I wouldn’t have believed them. I am enjoying every minute of it. And hopefully we can keep the results up for the nest few shows.”
Ludger Beerbaum, 3rd place: ‘I am really pleased. But to be honest I am not competing in the same league as the others sat on my left. But nethertheless I am really pleased to take the opportunity to go to the GC Playoffs now. As Jan said I have had a not so easy season with the start, I broke my arm into 15 pieces, so it took a while for me to really get going and find my rhythm back. So did my horse as he had about 14 months off. So under these circumstances I am really, really pleased. We have had quite a consistent year. To have Christian Kukuk in 7th place overall in the ranking at just 26 year old is also really nice. If I sum up everything I am really, really pleased.”
Peder Fredricson, 2nd place: “This is All In’s first big show since the European championships, he has been off for a while, I have done 3 small shows, just the small classes so I was a bit nervous before today as I really didn’t know how it was going to go. But I was very happy with the way he felt. He still needs a few rounds to get back to how I would like. I think a few more competitions he will be back as good as he can be. I tried my very best but Scott’s horse is just really naturally fast. I took away strides everywhere and I don’t think I could have gone any faster than I already did without risking a rail. So I just want to congratulate Scott.”
Scott Brash, winner: ‘Luck was on my side today for sure. I thought my horse jumped fantastic. In the first round I think he just saw the line up the side and that took him by surprise and had the back rail of the red and white, then in doing so it made he very careful. He is a very careful horse anyway and I really had no chance jumping out of the combination. But he finished off very well. I was going to swap horses but then I decided to stay on him because I thought he finished off the first round so well. I was unsure with how he would cope after having two big faults because he is so careful. But his Grand Prix felt fantastic, he was a little but more tired so easier for me to ride – he just jumped amazing I am delighted with him. I always knew he was quality but you never know if they have the scope to do these big courses until you are actually in there doing it. I thought he was a year off winning a big Grand Prix like this but I’m hungry to win in front of my home crowd and I try my best and he just gave me everything today.
“I must say Uliano Vezzani has done an amazing job, it is getting harder and harder to build that course to get 7 clears when the standard is so high. To be honest I didn’t think I had done enough. I am very aware of how quick my horse is and you have to ride him forward so that makes him even quicker, it’s the way he likes to be ridden. So that helps with the speed, but I did think I was a little slow back to the black oxer and I thought Ben would beat me. He did do the time and as he said luck wasn’t on his side today. I wasn’t sure I was going to win from the front but delighted with the way the horse jumped the jump off.”
Photo: LGCT/Stephano Grasso