(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)
By Global Champions Tour
The Longines Global Champions Tour of Cascais, Estoril was won by the virtually unbeatable World No1 Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Sanctos – the pair won last night’s big class and have now claimed their second LGCT Grand Prix win of the 2014 season. With a cool and confident round, the 2012 Olympic Gold medal winning combination cruised into the top spot in tonight’s class and moved to within 30 points of the Championship lead lying in 6th place overall. The Grand Prix Silver medal went to Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and Status who jumped the only other treble clear, and Bronze to Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star who were the fastest four faults.
The LGCT Leadership changed once more in Cascais, Estoril as Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) retook her place as No1 with another great performance to finish 7th, giving her a total of 176 points so far. Monaco Grand Prix winner Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) finished 4th in tonight’s Grand Prix moving him up to 2nd place on the Leaderboard with 158 points while, Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano is just one point behind in 3rd.
The beautiful lush, green arena of Hipódromo Manuel Possolo was once again a stunning backdrop to what proved to be another thrilling round in this year’s 2014 Championship. The buzzing and enthusiastic crowd rode every fence with the riders, cheering and whistling encouragement to every competitor regardless of nationality. The stands were packed for the star class of the show and the atmosphere was charged with the anticipation of a world-class display of show jumping excellence.
The first round saw a range of new and established stars put in strong performances to go through to the second round on zero, every one of them hunting the 40 LGCT points awarded to tonight’s Gold medallist as well as the majority share of €300,000. The first round course was open and sweeping, taking advantage of the stunning, expansive arena. The riders did not consider the course ‘overly big’ but there was no one area where errors were collected as the entire route required care and precision throughout.
Of the 40 starters, twelve made it through with a zero score and six progressed with four faults including Championship leader Edwina Tops-Alexander and last year’s victor Henrik von Eckermann (SWE). The second round course was a test of scope and stamina, with wide oxers and demanding distances between the combination fences. Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA), who was in with a shot of taking the Championship lead, lowered a rail in the second round placing him in 11th place in the final results of the class but boosting him up the Tour Ranking.
First to go in the jump-off, Bassem Hassan Mohammed rode a great round until he gambled to the last fence, aware of the big names to follow him, and Victoria was unable to make the back rail. Rodrigo Pessoa showed all his experience, riding a classy round in a slick time of 46.24s to set the standard for the three star riders to follow him with a horse he has had for just six months. Nick Skelton rode a lightening round to produce the fastest time of 43.32s, but lowered the last fence in his race to the finish line. Second-last to go, Brash executed a foot-perfect round – his horse looking like he would never touch a pole – to stop the clock at 45.43s.
Brash is on a winning streak with the home straight of the Championship in sight. Can he maintain his form and catch Tops-Alexander? Chantilly hosts the 9th round of the Tour from 25-27 July and all ten of the LGCT Top Ten ranked riders are confirmed to compete. The Top Six are all within a Grand Prix win of the lead and the rest are not far behind. The 2014 Championship could not be closer and we look forward to more incredible sport over the next six rounds.
Jan Tops – President Longines Global Champions Tour
Duarte Nobre Guedes – President of CSI Cascais, Estoril
Scott Brash (GBR) – LGCT Grand Prix winner
Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) – Grand Prix Silver medallist
Nick Skelton (GBR) – Grand Prix Bronze medallist
Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) – LGCT Ranking Leader
Scott Brash: “Sanctos is unbelievable – he is just a winner and he wants to win. I am sure he is one of the greats. I had an odd first round, I jumped one and two which felt good, three felt a bit strange and I had to work very hard, harder than normal. I came down the last line and I softened my hands a little as he was uncomfortable in the mouth, and I realised to he had his tongue over his bit. I don’t know how long it had been like that, but it shows what a good horse he is to try like that still. There were fantastic riders and horses in the jump-off and it’s a big advantage coming near the end, so I was able to see Rodrigo and Nick. It was a well-built course, Frank Rothenberger did a great job as he always does. It was a long course and the calibre of jumping has been unbelievable again. Everything went to plan with my horse.”
Rodrigo Pessoa: “Status is a horse I started riding in January and I am really pleased with his progression. The big thing for me will be WEG this year, but I am very pleased to come to this show and pick up a little something. The horse will have a few weeks off and do Chantilly and Valkenswaard. I knew today I had to mind my own business and concentrate on my own round and wait because the riders after me were experienced and able to go fast, as my horse is not really fast. I am really happy with his performance. They take a really good care of us here so we love to come here. The conditions are great and the crowd are very supportive.”
Nick Skelton: “I am very pleased with him, because he has been off for nine months. It’s the first time he is back in the swing of things. I am very pleased with him, he jumped great. I will see where we go from here.”
Edwina Tops-Alexander: “It’s really close, and there is so much that can happen now. I really didn’t think I would be back at the top after the result from today – my horse had a really unlucky fault, but jumped fantastic. He jumped very good in the second round and I did the best I could. There is a long way still to go. I wasn’t calculating points, but I was sure Scott was in the lead, he has been very consistent and has great placings, but we will wait and see. I was surprised there were not more clears in the first round, it didn’t look as difficult as it was, it rode very delicate. It is such a great show – everyone loves it. It is one of the best shows we have on the Tour. The ground is amazing and it is a little bit relaxing for the riders.”
Duarte Nobre Guedes: “I am very proud, it is an honour to host these champions. I am delighted. This whole team worked the whole year round and I am very happy. Ten years ago we renewed this place and it is worth it, show jumping is a sport that is all over the world now and I am very proud to have done it.”
Jan Tops: “It’s very exciting. Edwina got the lead back, but Scott has only four placings and all are very high, so he is in a great position. It will be exciting until the end like last year. Scott put himself in a great spot with two wins and a second and a third – he is the one to watch this year – but only at the end you get the prizes. We are very diverse, we have beautiful sand arenas and grass arenas like this one, and we jump in the day and night. To win you need a horse and rider who are very complete, and if you win this series you are a real champion. We will be back here next year.”