Friday at the Longines Global Champions Tour set off to a rocking start with wins for young British riders in each of the 2* classes. Florence Bellm and Southbound won the 1.25/1.30m CSI2* class. Yesterday’s winner Lara Whiteway took top honours in the second class of the 2* portion, winning the 1.15m with Obelix Z. The 1.40/1.45m was won by Sophie Fawcett and Rembrant Blue.
The first class of the 5* portion of the day was a 1.45m speed class. Christian Ahlmann and Little Lady Z posted a very fast round early on and it held right the way through securing victory for the Swedish rider.
The setting sun peeking above the London skyline set a romantic backdrop for the last class of the day – the 1.50m boasting 60,000 Euros in prize money. The class was run as a jump-off class with a 13 jump first round including some familiar London 2012 fences. The London 2012 bus proved to be an issue for some, as well as the Uffington White Horse fence with a plank as the top rail. A few early clears by Steve Guerdat, Christian Ahlmann and Saer Coulter gave the impression that the course was easy, but several riders retired after encountering significant problems. The course rewarded accurate and efficient riding with several questions and a very tight time allowed. One very efficient and careful round was posted by Ben Maher on the very scopey Aristo Z. I was fortunate to be sitting next to the very knowledgeable Graham Fletcher, Tina Fletcher’s husband, and we both agreed this would be one to watch in the jump-off. A few riders later Tina Fletcher and Hello Sailor posted a clear and speedy round to secure their spot in the jump off, despite an earlier injury giving Tina a noticeable limp.
The jump off included questions such as a tight turn back to the London Bus, a related distance down to the Uffington White Horse and a strong gallop back to a gate on flat cups. The bus was the downfall of Ben Maher and Aristo Z, a pair that looked like they could win it in the first round. It was Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso 3 HDC that proved to be on top form in the evening’s class, winning the class by fractions of a second. In second place, a personal favourite, Steve Guerdat and Sidnay VIII. American young rider Saer Coulter and Springtime finished 4th after a very efficient and stylish jump off. It’s great to see the young talent rising up the ranks among the big dogs.
The grounds were empty again on Friday, although there were a few more spectators than Thursday. Rumour has it that the stands are sold out on the weekend, hopefully that is the case. Ben Maher was overheard saying that it’s a bit disappointing that there aren’t as many people, a sentiment shared by many. The venue is pristine – the only thing that’s missing is atmosphere. I had a chance to ask Graham Fletcher about the significance of this event and he shared the general opinion that the disappointing turnout may be prohibitive of future high-calibre shows in Britain. With only a very limited number of FEI ranked shows on home turf, Brits must generally go abroad to compete on the world stage. There aren’t many 1.50 and 1.60 grand prix classes in the UK, but this hasn’t seemed to prevent the Brits from dominating the rankings here at the Longines Global Champions Tour.
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