Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Ahead of the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Vienna, presented by LGT Private Banking, spectators were treated to an exhilarating 1,45/1,50m CSI5* speed class, the Mercedes Benz Championat. The high speed class showcased thrills and spills aplenty, with the French rider Julien Epaillard (FRA) moving the competition up a gear, storming to the win right from the sharp end of the grid.
In stark contrast to yesterday’s competition, where the final riders to go prevailed, it was the early riders who fortune favoured in this afternoon’s €25,000 class. As the drama unfolded up and down the field – Luciana Diniz (POR) took an unlucky tumble from Lennox after the gelding took a flying leap from a long distance at fence ten, walking away to the cheer of the crowd. Michael Whitaker’s Celine took a dramatic dislike to the gold and white double, rearing in refusal before neatly popping the fences. Many combinations had a pole down, and while the rain held off, high winds added further intensity to the class. Tobias Meyer’s grey horse Indora also took a dislike to the arena, napping back to the Longines archway entrance and eliminating the pair.
The first rider to go Julien Epaillard (FRA) set the pace to beat with his black nine year old mare Tradition de la Roque, stopping the clock at an impressive 56.59s. The pressure was truly on the following 34 international riders, with many trying, but failing to better the Frenchman’s time. Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof’s Bylou put in a strong performance, but were only able to manage a clear in 60.42s, and Daniel Bluman (COL) with Believe finished just tenths of a second off in 60.66s.
Home hero Max Kühner (AUT) broke the 60 second barrier, stopping the clock with Electric Touch in 59.35s much to the delight of the crowd, slotting him up into second place. Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello M’Lady rode a calm and collected clear however were not racing for the time, with this one of the first major CSI5* competitions since M’Lady’s break.
It was a nervous wait for Julien as the final riders to go Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with VDL Groep Quatro and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) with Unita ASK both put in valiant efforts, to beat the time. A pole down for the Dutch rider put him out of the running, and despite a brilliant clear from Rolf and his 12 year old bay mare Unita ASK, they were unable to match the Frenchman’s time, leaving him in pole position and taking the lion’s share of the €25,000 class.