Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Michael Whitaker (GBR) and his brilliant top horse, the 14 year old chestnut Viking, won the €75,000 CSI5* 1.55m Copa Del Rey on the final day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid. The prestigious class was the prelude to the Global Champions League competition, which kicks off at 18:00 local time, and will see 12 teams compete for top honours in the stunning Spanish setting of Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
39 top class combinations lined up for round one of the esteemed competition, with any rider clear, or the top ten finishers, able to progress to round two. The course was set by Guilherme Nogueira, the designer for the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics, and was a challenging but fair test for the world’s best riders. A total of 10 riders jumped clear, with Great Britain’s Scott Brash narrowly missing out on returning with Hello Guv’Nor after picking up an unlucky time fault.
The second round would be determined by speed, with LGCT Ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER) setting the pace for the rest of the field, crossing the line with the stunning grey stallion Caribis Z in an impressive 37.45s. The pair looked set to secure another strong win, however Michael Whitaker and the big striding and brave Viking galloped the fast paced course, pushing to the finish to end their round in 36.95s. Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) was the rider to take the final podium position, finishing just a tenth of a second behind Christian, with his horse Sandbar 89, and the crowd were on the edge of their seats until the final fence, with Henrik looking in contention for the win.
But it was Michael’s time which reigned supreme and the pair took top honours as they collected their trophy from Her Royal Highness Elena De Borbon. The pair previously won the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid in 2013, with the chestnut gelding suited to the expansive grass arena.