Scott Brash made history at the Royal Hospital Chelsea winning the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London for the second year running.
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 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.
As first to go Scott had all the pressure on his shoulders - the 2017 LGCT Grand Prix of London winner this time riding his enthusiastic nine-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 responded magnificently.
Fans were thrilled with a second clear round for Britain after Michael Whitaker 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!”
British fans roared their approval as young star Harry Charles produced an incredible clear with ABC Quantum Cruise, the young talent making his first appearance on the Longines Global Champions Tour and delivering superbly.
The temperatures soared as Ben Maher joined those through, the chestnut gelding Explosion W jumping his heart out for the LGCT ranking leader. Just seven of 34 starters in total accessed the jump-off, Scott getting the short-straw as first to go.
Scott returned to the ring with the eager Hello Mr President, the pair setting off at a gallop as silence dropped around the arena. And he gave it his all, riding Hello Mr President magnificently to deliver yet another clear, taking a risky chance with a gallop to the last oxer, setting the pace for those behind him.
Multiple Olympian Ludger Beerbaum (Germany) flew around the arena with Casello, but the pair couldn’t match Scott’s time and finished a couple of seconds down.
British hopes were dashed after Michael Whitaker 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.
European champion Peder Fredricson (Sweden) 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 0.96 sec in arrears.
Harry Charles – at his second 5* show – also fell victim to the ‘Big Ben’ vertical in an otherwise foot-perfect round on ABC Quantum Cruise, but the four faults ruled them out of contention and dropped them down to an eventual sixth.
All eyes turned to Ben Maher 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 Big Ben fence tumbled, as the crowd groaned, and the pair finished off the podium despite clocking an impressive time, agonisingly quick enough to have taken the win by 0.06 sec.
So it would be a British win, with Scott taking his second LGCT Grand Prix of the season and handing third-placed Ludger Beerbaum a coveted ticket to the GC Prague Playoffs where he will compete in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
“He’s a young horse and I didn’t think he was ready to win today, but he got better and better,” said Scott on the Comme D’Api Jr nine-year-old Mr President.
“Luck was on my side today for sure. I thought my horse jumped fantastic. In the first round [speed] 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 him 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 bit 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 seven 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," Scott added.
Ben has extended his overall ranking lead, with a points tally of 270 in total, now 38 points from his closest rival. The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders keeps hold of second with 234 points overall, and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander keeps third with a score of 212. Scott has bounced up the order and is now in sixth on 197.
“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,” said Ben. “ 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’s 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 nine-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 next few shows."
The London Knights delivered a show stopping GCL London final today, with Ben Maher and Nicola Philippaerts victorious as the historic and picturesque Royal Hospital Chelsea.
It marked their fourth win of the season and the only team to win at their home event and also extended their overall ranking lead. They now sit on 299 points, pulling away from their closest rivals Valkenswaard United by 38 points.
It came down to the wire over a tricky, testing course, but there was no mistake from the overnight leaders of London Knights’ Ben Maher and Nicola Philippaerts and they finished as the only team on a total score of zero.
Spectators cheered their home city team the London Knights, as they entered the arena, proudly sporting their scarlet jackets but focused on keeping the team on a score of zero. First to go Nicola piloted top stallion Chilli Willi around the arena, the impressive horse eating up the ground with his huge stride and clearing the fences effortless to keep his team in the best possible position.
All eyes turned to home hero Ben Maher, the rider swapping yesterday’s mount Winning Good with the nine-year-old chestnut Explosion W. Fans held their breath as the British rider jumped a foot perfect clear, delivering another show stopping round to help the Knights collect their fourth victory of the season.
Clear yesterday, Shane Breen lowered the third part of the combination on Ipswich Van De Wolfsakker, putting pressure on Miami Celtics team-mate Denis Lynch. Denis rose to the occasion to come home clear on RMF Echo but they were not fast enough to catch the other four-faulter the Shanghai Swans in second four sec quicker and the Celtics finished third. And the Celtics also sit in third place in the overall rankings.
Ben finished fifth with Explosion in the 5* 1.55m speed – which ran concurrently as the second leg of the Leagues – 1.33 sec behind the winner, Canada’s Eric Lamaze on Chacco Kid. Harry Charles, 19, finished in sixth spot on ABC Quantum Cruise with William Whitaker in seventh place on Utamaro D Ecaussines. Michael Whitaker provided the steadiest of the clears for 17th on El Wee Widge.
Brits claimed victory in all three 2* classes, and filled the top three of the 1.40m with Jake Saywell taking the winning spot on Touch of Chilli. Forty-three contended this speed class with Jake guiding the Out of Touch/Diamond Chin 14-year-old into the top spot by just 0.21 sec.
Jess Mendoza chased hard but it was a feeling of déjà vu when she repeated her second and third places of 24 hours earlier with the eight-year-old Echo Van Het Neerenbosch stallion Kay and the Belgian-red 11-year-old Horst Van De Mispelaere. British-based South African Charles Luyckx was fifth on Virtusoe D’Eole, Nina Barbour was seventh on AK’s Culcha Candela and a steadier clear also handed Jake eighth with second ride Havinia Van De Roshoeve.
Jane Davies jumped to a win in the 2* 1.30m speed with more than three sec to spare on the Lupicor/Goodwill 11-year-old Colien V. Charles guided the nine-year-old Elina into fifth ith Charlotte Uden claiming seventh with the steadiest clear aboard Jericho. Claire Beecroft posted the fastest time by 1.54 sec but four faults dropped Vanda Cartier down to eighth.
Charlotte Lee was a winner in the 2* 1.15m speed on Zarina, the 14-year-old Matterhorn/Wolfgang mare taking the win with 0.31 sec to spare. Nina Barbour rode Cushlas Reviro into fourth, Alena Hughes was sixth on C’Mon Girl 2, Mark Hallion finished seventh on Hinde ES, Tess Carmichael was ninth aboard Chisinau W Z and Ellie Guy posted the steadiest clear on Camorra Des Nonains Z for 10th.
Photos © Jumping Around & Stefano Grasso/LGCT