(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)
By Global Champions Tour
Longines Global Champions Tour of Chantilly Grand Prix winner Rolf-Goran Bengtsson is making his move on the Championship lead with a fantastic clear from his new mount Unita ASK in the Longines Global Champions Tour of Valkenswaard Grand Prix presented by Qatar – the horse’s first-ever LGCT Grand Prix. The Swede pointed to the 10 year-old mare and smiled as he left the arena to applause from the crowd. Bengtsson is having a stellar season with three podium finishes to date – two Silver medals and a Gold – all with his great stallion Casall ASK. With Casall resting in preparation for WEG, the Swede brought his new less experienced horse to Valkenswaard, but she has taken it all in her stride so far.
Championship leader Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Old Chap Tame will not proceed to the next round of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Valkenswaard Grand Prix with her score of 12 faults. The 2011/2012 Champ leads the 2014 ranking race by just seven points from Bengtsson, but her lead is very much under threat following his clear round. A key result here at the 10th round of the Championship could have put Tops-Alexander comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, with just three events remaining until the final in Doha where the season winner will collect the majority share of €1million.
The first round of this afternoon’s feature Grand Prix course was a true test for the experienced horsemen and women who took the the stunning grass arena to be tested by Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani. VIPs and visitors crowded around the arena to catch a glimpse of the world-class show jumping on offer as threatening black clouds passed the venue leaving just a few drops in their wake to reveal more sunshine. Vezzani provided a smart challenge for some of the best riders in the world with an array of beautifully designed fences – he is one of the most popular course designers with the riders due to his ability to create a fair test that produces the right winner without taxing the horses unduly.
Of the 46 starters, 13 clears progressed into the the final 18 who come back for round two. Key points around the course were the difficult treble combination towards the end, which caught a number of top names, including Championship leader Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Luciana Diniz (POR). But it was the tall, lone uprights, sitting unobtrusively at points around the arena that caught out many riders – Gerco Schroder (NED), Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) and Kent Farrington (USA) all collected four faults at these deceptively tricky fences. The final oxer of the course with it’s brushes in the centre sat right in front of the busy stands also caught a few horses’ eyes and caused a few faults. The next round is sure to offer more drama and surprises so don’t miss it!
Tune in for the next round live now on GCT TV, beIN Sports, Equidia Life, Horse&CountryTV and ClassHorseTV or catch the highlights on Eurosport from 6pm CEST.