(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT).
By Longines Global Champions Tour
The electrifying Longines Global Champions Tour of Hamburg Grand Prix was won by young German star Katrin Eckermann and her beautiful chestnut Firth of Lorne in front of tens of thousands of cheering home fans at the stunning Derby Park, Hamburg. Eckermann had to give everything she had to better World No2 Ben Maher (GBR) and Cella, and World No1 Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Sanctos, into 2nd and 3rd place.
The 2014 LGCT Championship race is already on fire with the latest Grand Prix cliff-hanger propelling Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) to the top of the Championship Leaderboard – the only rider so far to win points and be placed at each of the first three events.
A respectful hush came over the packed arena as the first horse of the Grand Prix entered. Frank Rothenburger’s first round proved to be a truly testing track for the all-star 47-strong line-up. Many world-class riders collected four faults down the tricky last line and a few unlucky riders collected an excruciating single time fault in otherwise faultless rounds. But the nine riders who finished the course with a zero score really showed their class, making a difficult course look easy.
The second round was an easier test for the 18 riders that progressed. Despite looking like he wouldn’t touch a pole in the first round, last year’s winners Christian Ahlmann and Codex One were one of six four-fault rounds around the second track that produced ten clears in total. Hotly-tipped 2014 LGCT Championship favourite Marcus Ehning (GER) and Plot Blue also lowered a rail – the final fence – eliciting disappointed groans from the crowd.
Five went through to the jump-off, which was fast and furious. Scott Brash set the pace with a treble clear in 37.52s only to be immediately bettered by Eckermann, who stopped the clock at 36.16 with a blistering round. Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chaman did their best to catch Brash and Eckermann, ending up fourth with 37.57s. Ben Maher, last to go, came within 0.5s of the winner’s time but had to settle for 2nd place.
The young German leapt in the air with joy as the World No2 stopped the clock just short of her time. As one of the biggest wins of her career and on home soil, this will be a moment to remember for Katrin Eckermann as she stepped to the top of the podium in front of a roaring home crowd to be presented with her first LGCT Grand Prix Gold medal.
The result put 2011 and 2012 LGCT Champion Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) at the top of the LGCT Ranking after three events, with 77 points. The lady-rider recently announced the retirement of her famous gelding Itot du Chateau, her partner for a record five LGCT Grand Prix wins. Itot will say goodbye to international competition at a ceremony during the LGCT Paris event in July. Ben Maher lies in 2nd just 10 points behind Tops-Alexander, while Marcus Ehning sits in 3rd 15 points behind the leader.
Katrin Eckermann (GER) – LGCT Hamburg Grand Prix winner
Ben Maher (GBR) – Runner-up, LGCT Hamburg Grand Prix
Scott Brash (GBR) – 3rd, LGCT Hamburg Grand Prix
Jan Tops – President of Longines Global Champions Tour
Rainer Eckert – Brand Manager Longines Germany
Volker Wulff – Event Director Hamburg
Katrin Eckermann: “I didn’t expect this coming here. But I really like Hamburg, two years ago I was third in this competition, and today I won and I am really proud. It was a hard competition, the second round was not so difficult as the first round and it was a really fast jump-off. The owner is here and he is really proud, he is the breeder too, the horse jumped really good – he is so careful and fast.”
Ben Maher: “I went as fast as I could go. I watched Katrin on the screen and she looked very quick, I know how fast Scott’s horse is so I tried to take as many chances as possible. I had a bit of a slip after the double, I had a big jump out and I lost a bit of momentum out of the double, I couldn’t go any quicker today – congratulations to Katrin. I will be in Cannes and Monte Carlo with some of the other horses. Cella will probably have a rest now until Paris. It was an aim this year to attempt the Global Champions Tour and hopefully the other horses can help on the other two stages.”
Scott Brash: “I didn’t see Katrin’s round, but I went as fast as I could at that point in the competition and she must have been very, very fast, because I know how fast Ben’s horse is and I saw Ben’s round and he was very quick. I think she must have missed a jump out! It was my first time in Hamburg last year, I really like the ring – it’s fantastic – the crowd is amazing and we had a fantastic turnout today, and I really enjoy jumping here. It was a tough course, really well-build and it got a good result. It’s great to jump here.”
Edwina Tops-Alexander: “There are many more Grand Prix to come, I am the only one to have three placings, so it’s really early days. It is a nice position to be in and it would be great if I can continue that place, but my horse jumped great today, I had a really unlucky fault. It was a shame really because he jumped very good and that dropped me a lot. But there is a long way to go and a lot is going to change.”
(Edwina is asked to comment on Katrin being a female winner) “I think it is fantastic that Katrin won – it’s not a competition between men and women, we are all against each other. Horses have changed a lot and allow women to ride with a lot more feeling and she is a very competitive rider placed here in the Grand Prix a few years ago, so I am not surprised at all.”
Jan Tops: “Hamburg has been a traditional, fantastic show for many years. The last few years I see the sport maturing, everything is more stabilised and all the top riders are looking forward to being here with their best horses. The show is not only growing on-site, we know the figures for our live-streaming and figures for the TV all around the world are growing, it’s a spectacular thing for our sport. For Longines and all the sponsors involved, it is important we have good exposure like we have today and we are increasing all the time. So the sport is growing in all areas, which is good for the riders as there is more prize money, good exposure for the sponsors and the people get to see better sport.”
Volker Wulff: “I didn’t expect so many people to come over the last three days, last year we had a big jump, we had more than 80,000 and I thought we wouldn’t get that again, but we will now definitely because we are sold out on Sunday. The sport today will attract even more people for next year, I guess. With Katrin winning and beating World No1 and No2 in the jump-off with a really big performance, and her show during the prize giving was excellent! Having two international series (DKB Riders Tour and LGCT), I can repeat what Jan told me in the first year, “It’s the only show in the world where you can see the best riders in the world competing in the LGCT and on the Sunday you have the hardest class ever in show jumping, both on the same weekend at the same place.” The combination of the Derby and the LGCT is perfect, that’s why we signed last year for another five years and maybe we will become old here together.”