Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Christian Ahlmann (GER) ensured all eyes were on the LGCT Ranking leader as he took a stunning win in this evening’s feature class in Cascais, Portugal, with his grey stallion Caribis Z. The pair proved to be a formidable combination, as the focus now turns to the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Cascais, where Christian currently sits in pole position with a 9 point lead over Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE).
The CSI5* 1.50/1.55m Camara Municipal De Cascais class was met by 36 international competitors from around the globe, with many of the best horses and riders in the world taking to the stunning Portuguese setting to battle it out in the final round of action ahead of the Grand Prix.
Frank Rothenberger’s flowing course utilised the full length and breadth of the arena, with the riders able to open up the horses to gallop across the distances, while requiring accuracy, delicacy, and as always scope to jump the imposing course. The time allowed of 85 seconds was tight in the huge open grass arena, with riders including Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chaman, and Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) and Carolina picking up a time fault despite jumping beautiful clears.
A total of eight riders went through to the jump off, and amongst them some of the very best in the world. LGCT Ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER), Scott Brash (GBR), John Whitaker (GBR), Ben Maher (GBR), Olivier Philippaerts (BEL), Marco Kutscher (GER), Faleh Al Ajami (QAT) and Marc Houtzager (NED) were the riders to go through, ready to take on the fast paced jump off.
First to go Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) put in an impressive effort to cross the line with H&M Henna de Goedereede in 47.48s after the pair galloped the long course, making up time between jumps and cutting as tight as they could to the corners. The next to try fought hard but failed, until enter the LGCT Ranking leader Christian Ahlmann (GER) and his stunning wall-eyed stallion Caribis Z. The powerful but speedy dapple grey stallion galloped flat out to the jumps, with the beautifully balanced top German rider giving a masterclass in how to win such a fast-paced class. They pipped the young Belgian talent to the line, finishing fourth tenths of a second ahead in 47.28s.
Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof”s Calimero were the penultimate riders to go, and came home a strong third place overall. It was a good result for Great Britain, with Rio Olympic combination John Whitaker (GBR) and his brilliant mare Ornellaia taking fourth, and compatriot Ben Maher (GBR) with Sarena close behind in 5th. Marco Kutscher (GER) with S I E C Carsten rounded out the top 6 as the riders now look to tomorrow’s LGCT Grand Prix.
The earlier class today was one that bodes well for the recently announced British Olympic team, with Gold Medallist Ben Maher (GBR) taking the win in this morning’s speed competition with his brilliant fiery chestnut gelding Aristo Z. Hot on his heels, and just 8 tenths of a second away was 2016 Rio Olympic teammate, John Whitaker (GBR) who chased his compatriot to the post but has to settle for second with his top class gelding Lord of Arabia.
This morning’s CSI5* 1.45m speed class was met with typically sunny skies, as the beautiful backdrop of Hipódromo Manuel Possolo played host to 33 international horses and riders, ready to do battle for the lion’s share of the prize purse. The flowing course, created by Frank Rothenberger, was a test for best, with many combinations caught out by the full height double, and others drawn in to a too-speedy galloping pace, with the light poles requiring scope and careful jumping.
Ben set the pace early on, as the fourth starter to go, and threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field after his blistering round with Aristo Z, a gelding famous for his speed and agility in classes such as these. Keeping the hot-blooded chestnut calm while maintaining pace and rhythm, Ben rode a masterful round to cross the line in an impressive 64.09s. The rest of the field tried, but failed to catch the pairing’s time, with John Whitaker (GBR) and Lord of Arabia the closest, stopping the clocks at 64.86s.
Abdullah Al Sharbatly (KSA) and Red Star d’Argent took third overall, with the rider having previous success here after his podium in the Grand Prix in 2015. Marco Kutscher (GER) with the big-striding Clenur came fourth with a time of 78.60s, and Alexandra Thornton (GBR) took a strong 5th place with her 14 year old bay gelding Caballero. Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) and the stunning grey Argelith Squid were the final riders to round out the top six, with the focus now on tomorrow’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Cascais, taking place at 17:00 local time.