Just hours after taking the Global Champions League as the London Knights, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Ben Maher claimed the top two places in the Longines Global Champions tour grand prix in Cascais, Estoril.
Ben led the way in the 11-strong jump-off with an exciting, edge-of-your-seats round on Explosion W, but team-mate turned rival Martin used his advantageous final draw to wipe 0.45 sec off the time on Chaplin. And British-based Irishman made his debut on the podium with third place aboard Jessie Drea's Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars.
The win was a repeat performance of Madrid where London Knights won the GCL team competition and Martin went on to win the LGCT Grand Prix qualifying him for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague.
Speaking about his jaw-dropping win, he said: “I could see Ben go and wanted to do one less from two to three and turn to the double and Chaplin is just a very quick horse. So is Explosion but today the luck was on my side!"
On the phenomenal double success in Portugal, Martin said: “It was great teamwork, we won the team competition and now we both have a ticket to Prague.”
Ben finished second in the LGCT Grand Prix and continued his stealthy move up the ranking into third place and only three points behind second-placed Daniel Deusser with Pieter Devos leading by 16 points. Ireland’s Michael Duffy finished in third place in the LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais after a brilliant ride on Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars.
Frank Rothenberger’s course was one of the most technical and substantial of the 2019 season so far. The track inside the immaculate velvety grass arena took no prisoners and it was literally standing room only as the action got underway under floodlights.
Ben and the super-talented chestnut Explosion W made mincemeat of the demanding round one course with six strides to the Longines triple combination. The big-striding chestnut displayed the elasticity in his body and responded brilliantly to the pressure.
The natural talent of young Irishman Michael Duffy was on show with Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars demanding plenty of attention but Michael was rewarded for his huge effort with a place in the jump off.
It was a who dares win jump-off track. A sharp turn across the LGCT oxer and taking out a stride to a vertical proved crucial to victory – and a final gallop to the last fence sealed the deal.
It was a high-octane night and tension mounted as 2018 LGCT Champion Ben and the explosive Explosion W entered the ring. They were in top gear out of the starting blocks but still managed to be careful to the oxer and the combination before releasing the handbrake to the penultimate upright and the final fence.
"Explosion had a long rest after last year and it has just taken some time to get into form again. He’s fresh and under used so hopefully will keep going strong till the end [of the season]. I just need to get faster. I left too much space for Martin today. I watched the others go, I decided to take the risk and do the five - I think it was faster for the way my horse jumps. Martin kept going to the last, I had to swing wide but Martin at the moment is with Chaplin one of the best horse in the world. I qualified for the [LGCT] Super Grand Prix so it is a nice conciliation prize."
Germany’s Marcus Ehning gave them a run for their money on Funky Fred beating Ben’s time but almost two sec, but a rail down along the way dropped them to seventh. However, last to go Martin had the edge to gallop into the top spot on Chaplin.
"It is an advantage to come in last. Marcus was quite a bit faster than Ben so that gave me lots of confidence.
Michael Duffy and Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars were ahead at the mid-section by around half a second but despite a massive effort they finished with a creditable clear but not quite fast enough and stood behind Ben by 0.49 sec.
"It is great to be on the podium - it is my first time on the [LGCT] podium and when you're against guys like this... when I was a kid growing up I watched them, I just need to ride a bit faster but good to be put it up against them. [Touch The Stars] is a very talented horse and has a great heart. I have only had him for four shows so I have a good feeling about him. We will be working hard to try go two better in Chantilly. Ben was just before me I knew he was going to be quick, all you can do is do the best. Hopefully next time it will be enough," said Michael.
Text © Jumping Around/Photos © LGCT & Stefano Grasso