(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)
By Global Champions Tour
This evening’s feature class of the Longines Global Champions Tour Paris Eiffel Jumping presented by Gucci, the Prix du Qatar, was won by Ben Maher (GBR) and Aristo Z from the most difficult position in the draw, first to go in the jump-off. Second went to a very happy Abdelkebir Ouaddar (MAR) and Quickly de Kreisker, and third to Harrie Smolders (NED) and Don VHP Z.
Uliano Vezzani’s first round design was a technical course which required careful and precise riding. The light poles in their shallow cups fell at the slightest touch and the time allowed was tight. Four experienced riders collected a frustrating single time fault in otherwise clean rounds – Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Edwina Alexander (AUS), Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) – excluding them from the jump-off.
The green and red Gucci fence, a tall square oxer and the penultimate fence on the course, proved to be the most problematic. Riders who approached too quick caught the front rail and those that came too slow caught the back rail. Scott Brash (GBR), Constant van Paesschen (BEL), Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) and Luciana Diniz (POR) all collected faults at this tricky fence.
One of the most extraordinary clear rounds of the jump-off came from Gregory Wathelet (BEL), who’s mount Conrad de Hus managed to dislodge his bridle part way round. As the pair jumped the third to last fence, the bridle fell off mid-air, momentarily obscuring the horses view and leaving Gregory to hold up the bit in his horses mouth for the final difficult line to maintain control, which he did, to the delight of the crowd who cheered his incredible show of horsemanship.
Of the 47 starters, 15 went through to the jump-off, including Jessica Springsteen (USA), Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED), Kevin Staut (FRA), Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Denis Lynch (IRE). World No2 Ben Maher (GBR) set the pace at 33.22s with Aristo Z and though they tried their best, no other rider was able to catch his time and leave all the fences standing.
Abdelkebir Ouaddar came close with a time of 34.26s, making some high risk turns, but his horse Quickly de Kreisker put in regular bucks costing them time. Five combinations jumped a double clear including Georgina Bloomberg (USA) and Pius Schwizer (SUI), winner of the afternoon’s Mairie de Paris Six-Bar class. Harrie Smolders was the fastest of the rider who opted for a more careful clear round approach, taking 3rd in a time of 35.37s.
Ben Maher, who has his top horse Cella here, has made himself hot favourite for tomorrow’s LGCT Paris Grand Prix. Other names touted as possible winners of the 7th leg of the 2014 Tour include in-form Rolf-Göran Bentsson, ever-competitive Ludger Beerbaum, and the consistent lady riders Luciana Diniz and Edwina Tops-Alexander. With the LGCT Ranking so close, this round could prove pivotal as the Championship race turns into the home straight.
Watch the LGCT Paris Grand Prix tomorrow from 5.30pm on GCT TV, Equidia Life and ClassHorseTV, and from 8pm of Horse&CountryTV, 8.15pm on beIN Sports 4 and 8.30pm on Eurosport.