Showjumping made a splash in Mexico City, which hosted the second leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour for the first time ever. A huge crowd welcomed the world’s best showjumpers to a vast grass arena 2000 metres above sea level.
It was a massive step-change for both horses and riders, who one week earlier had competed in a smallish sand arena by the ocean in Miami Beach, but they rose to the challenge.
Designer Uliano Vezzani tested the field with a complex track that saw a shake up between the first and the second round. Kent Farrington, one of the only six clears in the first round of the Grand Prix, had a rail down in the second round and dropped to tenth place, while Steve Guerdat, who carried four penalties from the first round, pulled off a fast, faultless performance in the second go, moving up from eleventh to fifth place.
Four riders however, went double clear, ensuring a dramatic jump off. They were Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, French veteran Roger-Yves Bost and two twenty year-olds — Belgium’s Jos Verlooy and Ireland’s Bertram Allen.
First in the arena was Ahlmann, who had finished in third place in the previous leg of the competition. He had one fence down on Epleaser van’t Heike and finished with four faults in 39.72s. Second in was Bost, who was both fast and foot-perfect aboard, finishing in 37.23s.
It was a tough act to follow for Verlooy and Allen, who nonetheless put in a creditable effort. Verlooy and Caracas jumped clear in 41.63s to claim silver while the impressively fast combination of Allen and Hector van d’Abdijhoeve were caught out by a fence to finish in bronze.
“Bosty had a really good round, he was fast,” Allen explained. “I knew it was going to be difficult for me to beat that — my horse has only done three 5* Grands Prix so I gave it a bit of a go, and had a bit of an unlucky fence down, but I’m delighted to be sitting here.”
Ahlmann was relegated to fourth place this time round, but the German rider had good reason to be pleased with himself — he is now at the top of the Longines Global Champions Tour leaderboard with 68 points.
“I’m really happy with my first two shows,” he said. “Epleaser did a very, very good job; one time on the small sand ring the other week, and then on this big grass field. He’s showing everyone how special he is. Especially the first round, it was a real, proper Grand Prix.
“For the second time outside in this big ring, it was hard work — I had an unlucky rail in the jump-off, but in general I’m very happy with my horse.”
Bost too was elated by his success, especially because it came on a horse with whom he has a special relationship. “I’ve won two Global Grand Prix with the father of this horse, one in the final of Abu Dhabi, so to win with the son is a very good feeling,” he said. “The show is so good — my horse felt very good in the class. When I jumped yesterday I felt I had a good chance to win — today is my day! For the first time to jump here, this place is amazing.”
Best of the Brits in the Grand Prix was John Whitaker, who finished sixth on Argento and is now second in the overall rankings with 60 points, just behind Ahlmann. Scott Brash, who had to retire from the Grand Prix, took the 1.50 metre against the clock Banorte Trophy, beating a hugely competitive class aboard Hello Forever.
The competition was equally fierce in the second leg of the new Longines Global Champions League, which sees riders from different countries team up and battle it out in a football-style championship.
The Shanghai Swans team of Edwina Tops-Alexander, Janne-Friederike Meyer, Ben Maher, Jessica Springsteen and Alexandra Thornton (represented on this occasion by Tops-Alexander on Ego van Orti and Maher on Charlotta) triumphed ahead of Cannes Stars (Bost and Kevin Jochems, plus Marco Kutscher and Roosje Brouwer).
The team rankings now see the Monaco Aces (Leopold Van Asten, Daniel Bluman, Schuyler Riley, Maikel van der Vleuten and Lisa Nooren) in the lead with 48 points, a mere point ahead of the Shanghai Swans, and two ahead of Valkenswaard United (John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, Eduardo Menezes, Alberto Zorzi and Emily Moffitt).
“The cards are totally shuffled again from last week, which is very exciting,” said organiser Jan Tops. “It was a tough first round, and more demanding than last week. The whole ranking has changed, and that’s what it’s about – it’s exciting to the last moment.”
But the true winner was the special atmosphere of the Mexico City event, for which both the riders and Tops had plenty of praise. “If you’d wanted to write the perfect script a week ago, you would end up with what you are seeing here in the last couple of days,” Tops said.
“Not only was it perfect organisation and with great riders, the public here were unique – they are very warm, they know about the sport, and they really appreciate the riders and the performance. This makes it a special place.”
All images by Stefano Grasso/LGCT