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Dream closing to Casall Ask’s career as he wins the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg

Saturday, 27 May 2017
CSI5* LGCT Hamburg 2017

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

In his very last performance, in the CSI5* Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg, Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) jumped Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) to the top of the podium after three incredible clear rounds.

At the age of 18, it had been decided to retire the Holsteiner stallion on home soil in Hamburg following the Grand Prix – but who could have guessed that Casall Ask would stage such a perfect send-off for himself with a victory? As last to go in the jump-off, Rolf and Casall were in a league of their own shaving off an unbelievable 2.44 seconds on Harrie Smolders’ (NED) leading time to take home the win in one of the world’s most prestigious Grand Prix competitions.

“It could not have ended better, that is for sure,” said Rolf afterwards. “The feeling was the same as it was when he was 11-years-old: He does his job, he enjoys to go into the ring and the bigger the crowds the better – then he shows off even more!”

“On home soil, in front of his home crowd – that he can perform in this way: It is just a dream come true!”

The home crowds waved white hanker-chiefs with Casall's image as the superstar entered the vast Hamburg arena to the heart-thumping hit “Jump” by Van Halen. The huge crowd were on their feet without exception in respect for the extraordinary equine athlete and there were plenty of tears later during the poignant farewell tribute. It was a celebration of a unique horse that had matured into a rare vintage and became beloved throughout the equestrian world.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Harrie Smolders with Don VHP Z. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Harrie Smolders, who was pipped to the win by Rolf and Casall Ask riding Don VHP (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) said of the momentous day: "I think even Steven Spielberg will be very jealous.”

Blazing sunshine heralded an afternoon of high drama and emotion in Hamburg. Frank Rothenberger’s track was long, big, wide and tall. Riders were faced with oxers set at maximum dimensions and scope was required from start to finish — it was a test of straightforward, power jumping and, despite the vast expanse of this huge arena, fences came thick and fast.

The open water is always there to test both horse and rider but here in Hamburg it had a short approach and was followed quickly by a hefty oxer, with a plank set delicately as the front rail, then three strides to the Mercedes vertical. The oxer-vertical double to finish meant utmost focus was required until riders crossed the line. The high-calibre horses were springing off the Hamburg turf and five produced clears to face the battle against the clock.

But there were plenty of hard luck stories among the 23 combinations who contested Saturday’s class. Even the first fence proved a stern test and Spain’s Gonzalo Anon Suarez riding Toledo Du Phare (Kannan x Lieu de Rampan) toppled a rail, only to jump clear the rest of the way home. The same fate later befell Israel’s representative Daniel Bluman on Ladriano Z (Lawito x Baloubet du Rouet), with a huge groan from the crowd reflecting their misfortune. Oppositely, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet produced a cracker of a round from the 9-year-old Iron Man Van De Padenborre (Darco x Chin Chin), only to succumb to the final obstacle on the course.

Ales Opatrny’s mount Balguero (Balou du Rouet x Andiamo Z) took exception to the water jump and the Czech Republic rider made the sensible decision to retire. A surprise eight faults came from Scott Brash (GBR) and Ursula XII (Ahorn x Papageno), fresh from their victory under the Miami Glory banner in the Global Champions League final. His winning team-mate Denis Lynch (IRE) retired RMF Echo (Virus de Laubry x Feo) after faulting en route — having enjoyed a hugely successful week, this pair had nothing left to prove.

One of the warmest welcomes greeted the legendary John Whitaker (GBR). He produced a solid round with the exciting 9-year-old Cassinis Chaplin (Cassini I x Cascavelle) until the lightest of rubs at the concluding double meant they were one of eight to finish on four faults.

So with five pairs on zero faults lining up for the final showdown, could the fairytale finish play out for Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtssson and Casall Ask? Or could one of the two German riders triumph on home soil? However events were to unfold, there was plenty for spectators to savour.

The final course started relatively simply as before with fences one and two. A new fence, a big oxer, was introduced at the mid-way point and concluded with riders being encouraged to race to the finish after a tight right-hand turn away from the double on a long run down to the towering Longines vertical and across the line.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Christian Ahlmann with Epleaser van't Heike. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Trailblazers against the clock for the Longines Global Champions Tour of Hamburg were Germany’s Laura Klaphake on the aptly named Catch Me If You Can (Catoki x Acordplus). This pair had emerged from the pack to face the biggest challenge of their lives on the grandest stage. But this emerging talent took all the risks in spectacular style. An inside turn into the double didn’t quite pay off but she stopped the clock with four faults in 46.02s.


Germany’s second hope Christian Ahlmann rehearsed his turns on Epleaser van’t Heike (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) before powering out of the starting blocks. The pair got away with a slight slip on a turn and produced a great run down to the last without going flat to the boards. Setting the standard of 45.57s, Christian had signalled to his pursuers that there was still a window of opportunity to win the class.

Dutch rider Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z grasped the chance. Upping the pace, while treating the obstacles with the greatest respect, he was met with the sound of whistles as he set off down to the last — Harrie put his leg on in response and the pair nudged into the lead in 45.13s.

Brazil’s Yuri Mansor Guerios always makes an entrance in his distinctive yellow jacket riding the flashy chestnut Babylotte (Dollar du Murier x Concorde) but, despite setting sail to the final fence, his clear in 46.42s put him behind Harrie and Christian.

So it all came down to one final round. The reigning champion and the 18-year-old super stallion looked better than ever. Angling some great turns and opening up with his characteristic powerful surge between fences, Casall Ask undoubtedly relished his final challenge. A huge roar encouraged them home and this outstanding pair won by a mile, in 42.69s.

It was a fairy-tail ending to a fantastic career: Casall Ask and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson go into the history books as one of the true power-pairs of showjumping as title-holders of the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour as well as wins in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix competitions of Doha, Valkenswaard and Paris during the 2016-season. The also have five-star Grand Prix, World Cup and Nations Cup victories from Rome (2015), London (2015), Doha (2014), Lyon (2014 and 2011), Basel (2014), Monte Carlo (2011), Hamburg (2011), Falsterbo (2010), Rotterdam (2010), Den Bosch (2010) and Oslo (2009) to look back at in addition to a team bronze medal from the 2013 European Championships in Herning. The two also jumped to a fourth place at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, participated at the 2012 Olympic Games and have taken part in three World Cup finals.

 


Source: Press release LGCT // Picture © Jenny Abrahamsson

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