(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)
By Global Champions Tour
The Longines Global Champions Tour of Vienna Grand Prix presented by Icuras was won by Marcus Ehning (GER) and 17-year-old Plot Blue who looked untouchable from the start and finished with the only treble clear, following a roller-coaster class filled with thrills and spills. Second place went to 2014 WEG Team Silver medallist Simon Delestre (FRA) with Qlassic Bois Margot and third to Portugal’s Luciana Diniz with Winningmood. Championship Leader Ludger Beerbaum (GER) finished 5th, one place ahead of his close ranking rival Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE), enabling him to maintain his lead. Despite picking up 8 faults in the second round, reigning Champion Scott Brash has jumped up from 6th to 3rd making the race for the overall 2014 title between these three riders.
A testing first round
Tonight saw one of the toughest Grand Prix courses of the season set this evening by Frank Rotheberger in front of packed stands and a bustling VIP. The first round course was described as ‘not nice’ by one star rider. The placement of the fences was awkward, the distances were demanding and the lines were jagged. The time was also tight, meaning riders had to push when they might prefer to hold and cut corners where they would rather use the precious space available. The biggest test was the final line of the Longines combination on five long strides to a flimsy upright, similar to the line that sorted out the best from the rest in last night’s Gaston Glock’s Championat Vienna.
Championship Leader Ludger Beerbaum (GER) picked up four faults in the first round with his World Championship ride Chiara, putting him out of podium contention but high enough to make it through to the second round with the top 18. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) jumped clear with his inexperienced mare Unita ASK putting him in a great position to challenge for the overall lead. But World No1 and defending Champion Scott Brash with Hello Sanctos also made it around the course clean with a view to adding another medal to the three Golds and one Bronze the record-breaking pair have won this season.
A spooky second round
There would be some stiff competition in the second round, however, as the Championship contenders were joined by 11 other clears from the 46 starters, including Daniel Deusser (GER) with Cornet d’Amour, Cassio Rivetti (UKR) with Sea Coast Forlap, Alberto Michán Halbinger with Carusso LS La Silla, Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme and winner of two classes yesterday Denis Lynch (IRE) with All Star 5. Four riders went through on four faults, including Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) with Old Chap Tame and Sheikh Ali bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) with Eurocommerce California.
The second round brought a few surprises as the course once again presented very difficult fences – halfway through the course a brightly coloured orange double caught the eye of a few horses who didn’t jump the fence well, including Hello Sanctos who picked up faults here. As with the first round, the course asked a lot of the horses and riders, and the more experienced combinations fared much better than those with less mileage – only eventual winners Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue made every round appear deceptively straightforward.
A fault-filled jump-off
Four made it through to the final jump-off with a double clear – Diniz, Ehning, Delestre and Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with VDL Groep Sapphire B. The course took the riders on a long route around the arena, with obstacles coming in quick succession and off tight turns. First to go was Simon Delestre, who tried to set a strong time but lowered the final fence. Luciana Diniz also set off with a win in her sights, but a tight turn to the Longines double across the middle cost her the first part. Maikel van der Vleuten was next to go and though his horse rattled a few fences on his way around it looked as though he would complete the first clear, but he too lowered the final fence. With no clears on the board, Marcus Ehning had only to jump clear to win.
The Championship comes down to the wire
The hotly-contested final round of the 2014 Championship will be hosted by Doha from the 13-15th November. Now a three-horse race between Brash, Beerbaum and Bengtsson, it will come down to this final result before the 2014 Champ is officially crowned. Beerbaum is fighing hard for this victory and has said he will be keeping a close eye on rivals. Brash has also spoken about how important it is for him to retain his title and Bengtsson would love to go one better than his runner-up place in 2012 behind Tops-Alexander. With the lion’s share of €1million on offer to the season winner, each rider will be battling hard to clinch victory at Al Shaqab, but at this point there is still everything to play for for the top three.