(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)
By Global Champions Tour
It was a triumphant home win for France in tonight’s seventh leg of the 2014 LGCT Championship, hosted for the very first time by the City of Lights – Paris. The inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour of Paris Grand Prix was won by a thrilled and emotional Kevin Staut and Silvana, who left the arena to resounding cheers and applause from the crowd. Second went to a very happy Pius Schwizer (SUI) with Toulago, and 3rd to Marcus Ehning (GER) and Cornado NRW. The result catapulted Staut to the top of the LGCT Ranking where he reigns supreme with 155 points, one point ahead of Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and nine points ahead of Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) in third. The championship race is back on a knife edge at the top of the leader board.
The Grand Prix first round played out in front of packed stands and buzzing VIP hospitality areas. The Paris debut of the LGCT was an instant social hit with stars of film, music, art and fashion who joined business leaders from around the world for a champagne VIP experience. Americans in Europe for the summer social season were out in force at the new world-famous destination on the Tour circuit. Crowds gathered on all sides of the spectacular arena to see the world’s best show jumpers compete in the shadow of the great Eiffel Tower. Showjumping enthusiasts, families and tourists, drawn by the spectacle, enjoyed a fantastic display of horsemanship from many of the best riders in the sport.
For the 49 starters, the problem fences in Uliano Vezzani’s preliminary course were the last four jumps – a wide, green oxer on a short four strides to a double of Gucci uprights across the diagonal, followed by another big, orange oxer on five strides to the last fence – an airy upright. Sheikh Ali Al Thani (QAT), 6th to go, remained the sole clear for the first section of the class until Georgina Bloomberg joined him from 24th in the draw with a round that brought her happy mother to tears. The talented young American went on to complete two more clears to finish 4th overall collecting one of the biggest results of her career so far.
There were unfortunate errors for fan-favourites Luciana Diniz (POR), Gerco Schröder (NED), Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Ben Maher (GBR), who did not make the cut for the Top 18 with their eight fault rounds. German Champion Daniel Deusser, World No1 Scott Brash (GBR), LGCT No2 Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and LGCT Madrid Grand Prix winner Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) were among the 12 clears through to the 2nd round along with six riders on four faults.
The second round was a smooth and sweeping course that saw nine of the eighteen riders jump a double clear. The iconic fences, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Gucci, Longines and GCT jumps, stood bright and imposing in this stunning setting, but offering few of the tricky complexes seen in the previous round. The final nail-biting jump-off proved a much more difficult course, with many places for riders to take a risk or even throw caution to the wind completely.
As the nine-horse jump-off got underway, it became clear that the bogey fence was the LGCT oxer, set on a distance where riders could attempt to take a stride out if they dared. Hot favourite Rolf-Goran Bengtsson came to grief here when he tried to do just that and Casall ASK was not quite able to make the distance, paddling through the oxer and dislodging Bengtsson who was thankfully unhurt. But it was Marcus Ehning who set the pace of 43.04s from the start of the draw and he was not caught until part way through when Pius Schwizer blazed a trail to the top spot with a time of 41.07s.
But entering to cheers from the crowd, it was home hero Kevin Staut who raised the roof from last to go in the jump-off, galloping to victory with Silvana and stopping the clock at 40.74s. Clearly emotional in the press conference, Staut touchingly dedicated his win to his horse, his owners and his team. The result has intensified the competition at the top of the LGCT Leaderboard with the top five riders all within 35 points of each other. Next weekend’s Round 8 in Cascais, Estoril will be packed with stars and plenty of drama as we head into the homestraight of this year’s season.
Jan Tops – President of Longines Global Champions Tour
Virginie Couperie-Eiffel – President of Paris Eiffel Jumping
Juan-Carlos Capelli – Vice-President of Longines and Head of International Marketing
Kevin Staut (FRA) – LGCT Paris Grand Prix winner and LGCT Ranking Leader
Pius Schwizer (SUI) – Runner-up, Grand Prix
Marcus Ehning (GER) – 3rd, Grand Prix
Kevin Staut: “For sure it was a fantastic scenario for me to be last to go and the jump-off was not crazy fast. I did not start too fast and my mare is so careful I knew I could try a bit to the last vertical. It’s fantastic to win here and it was a fantastic audience full of people, and I would like the congratulate Virginie and all the sponsors as it was a fantastic show for the first edition. It is a special show, the arena is square and it is not often we can have a show like this, so I would like to congratulate Uliano (Vezzani) who build a fantastic course. Sometimes in the sport you can do great things because you feel something special is here this day and for me it is very special. We were just nine in the jump-off, so it was good to try something for the people. Silvana likes Paris, she won a show here six months ago. Everything was there today. You can try to win classes like this ten times and it never happens, so I am very happy this happened to me. For sure, Silvana likes small arenas, she is good in indoor atmospheres, and today was a great atmosphere and that is why I chose her to come here. I dedicate the win to Silvana because she is an old mare and she is still giving her best and I dedicate it to my whole team, and my groom and my owners.”
Pius Schwizer: “Toulago was in very good shape today, and I watch Marcus in the jump-off and knew what I had to do. I did the best in the jump-off that I could knowing who was coming after me and I am very happy with second place.”
Marcus Ehning: “I had a lot of trouble in the first round. I changed the bit and the second round was really good. I was first to go in the jump-off and for me there were too many in the jump-off – if you try everything and have one down, you are really far behind. I think I had a nice flowing round, and I give him a good feeling for the next shows and I am really happy with third place. Tomorrow is also an exciting class, there is good money and we are looking forward to it.”
Jan Tops: “I am very happy. You never know, but you always hope things will world out like this. The first time with an event like this, with these riders and this sport, the whole scenario was perfect. It’s great for our sport, sponsors and followers all over the world, and it’s great to see the numbers growing and more people following, as that’s where our sport belongs. We have had seven events and all have been amazing, and we have seven more to go. The ranking is very close and I’m sure it will stay that way until the last event in Doha.”
Virginie Couperie-Eiffel: “It was wonderful for me, and I really wanted a French win and we got it. The sport was super and we had a wonderful jump-off with the best riders in the world with their best horses. The audience was fantastic and even the weather was good!”
Juan-Carlos Capelli: “The first time Virginie and Jan told us about this place in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower I thought it was impossible, and they did it! So congratulations to Jan and Virginie, this place is amazing and unique, and for a French rider to win is fantastic also. Everyone did a great job and congregations to all.”