The 2016 edition of the Longines Global Champion Tour 2016 kicked off in style at Miami Beach last weekend.
America’s rich and famous, including a stylish Elle McPherson and Sir Michael Caine, descended on the stunning Florida venue, which sits right by the ocean, to watch the world’s best riders battle it out in the Grand Prix — the VIP area was full to the brim.
And the competitors, many of whom are glitterati in their own right, didn’t disappoint. Edwina Tops-Alexander put in a faultless performance aboard Lintea Tequila to win the Grand Prix — and the $500,000 purse that goes with it — in 34.59. “She [Lintea Tequila] has been in really good shape, she was really good in the last show I did in Paris and I had a really super feeling,” said an elated Tops-Alexander. “Honestly, the first round — I never felt I had jumped that good in my life. I have had her for a couple of years and I felt like today was her day.”
Second- and third-placed riders, America’s McLain Ward, on HH Azur, and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, on Epleaser van’t Heike, also jumped clear in every round of the course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, but were marginally slower at 35.68 and 37.38 respectively. “I was thrilled. My horse, I felt, could have gone another couple of rounds. She was getting better at every round. I had a very good start to the jump off and then I checked up across the middle. The last line unfortunately was very slow for me and Edwina was great. It was a whisker but my horse was fantastic and I’m thrilled with that,” said Ward.
America’s Georgina Bloomberg, who rode Lilli and was cheered on by her two-year-old son, Jasper, Qatar’s Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, aboard First Devision, and the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten, riding VDL Groep Arera C, also made it to the jump off, but they each knocked down one rail, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
The best placed Brit was John Whitaker, eighth aboard Argento, while Laura Renwick and MHS Washington finished 19th, Michael Whitaker was 23rd on Viking, Scott Brash 24th on the “mischievous” Hello Guv’Nor and Ben Maher 34th on Sarena.
The first leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2016 also saw the launch of its brand-new team competition, the Global Champions League, and it is here that Whitaker distinguished himself. The League breaks new ground, allowing competitors from different countries to join forces and compete in a football-style team championship. The format, in the words of co-founder Jan Tops, will “transform the experience for millions of fans”, making for some extraordinary battles. Two riders from every team will compete at each event.
Whitaker partnered Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who alongside Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes, Italy’s Alberto Zorzi and America’s Emily Moffitt makes up the Valkenswaard United team, to win the first leg of the competition and lead the rankings with 30 points.
Second is Antwerp Diamonds (Holland’s Harrie Smolders and America’s Audrey Coulter, plus Dutch rider Marc Houtzager, Germany’s Katharina Offer and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy) at 27, followed by Miami Glory (America’s Kent Farrington and Georgina Bloomberg competed but the team also includes Scott Brash, Jessica Mendoza and Kimberly Prince) at 24, Monaco Aces (Holland’s Leopold Van Asten and Colombia’s Daniel Bluman, plus America’s Schuyler Riley and Dutch riders Maikel van der Vleuten and Lisa Nooren) at 21 and Madrid in Motion (Brazil’s Doda de Miranda and Pedro Veniss, plus de Miranda’s wife, Athina Onassis, and Spaniards Marta Ortega Perez and Gonzalo Añón Suarez) at 20.
The next leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2016 takes place in Mexico City.
All images by Stefano Grasso/LGCT