It was a fairytale ending to a stunning weekend of top sport in Germany, as four-time Olympic gold medalist Ludger Beerbaum took a sensational win with Casello (Casall x Carolus I) in front of a sell-out crowd at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg. Fresh from the podium, a delighted Ludger said: "It was a little bit like Leicester winning the Premier League!"
"It is very very special to win [in Germany], and if I could have a wish from the 15 legs it would be to win here. Everyone has experienced today the atmosphere - it’s really something very special, and believe me, I’m more than happy and really enjoying this moment.”
It was standing room only for the big €300,000 Grand Prix class with a worldwide TV and online audience watching Ludger beat off heavyweight competition from a stellar international field. With the sport enjoying a boom globally Ludger commented: "If I see the sport from [when I started] to today, it’s unbelievable for myself to have the opportunity to experience this development in the last ten years. I really also have to say thanks to the Global Champions Tour which was a milestone in the development of our sport. I wish I was 10 years younger!"
It was full house at the great derby arena as tens of thousands of fans watched as the first round unfolded, with the passionate crowd cheering and gasping as world class action got underway with a 50 strong field. The young Belgian star Nicola Philippaerts led the way with an impressive performance in the early stage of the 1.60m Grand Prix. Riding his beautiful grey Zilverstar T (Berlin x Cavalier), Nicola delivered a quick and careful round across the expansive grass arena. USA’s Georgina Bloomberg and Lilli (Lefevre x Diamir) delivered a polished round to progress to round two, and Brazil’s Marlon Módolo Zanotelli with the mighty Cash del Mar Z (Conan Z x Prins Drum van Bellet) also jumped beautifully to secure their spot in the next round of the Grand Prix.
The last couple of fences caused a lot of damage, with the double of verticals posing a challenge to the top riders such as Pius Schwizer, who missed out on the second round after rolling the poles. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) had an unlucky foot on the tape of the water jump despite stunning form throughout the course. Other big names to drop out of the running were Kevin Staut, Marco Kutscher and home favourite Janne-Friederike Meyer.
Germany’s Christian Alhmann delivered an immaculate round with stallion Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz), much to the delight of the crowd who cheered passionately for the home rider. He was joined by compatriots Ludger Beerbaum who delivered a masterful round with Casello, Marcus Ehning with Pret a Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy), Daniel Deusser with First Class van Eeckelghem (Balou du Rouet x Feinschnitt I Vd Richter) and young star Andreas Kreuzer with Calvilot (Calvaro Z x Quilot) who showed serious talent in the expansive grass arena. Also through were world number 1 Simon Delestre, Bertram Allen, Lauren Hough, Daniel Bluman, Harrie Smolders and Laura Kraut.
The second course was carefully planned, pushing the riders to think about striding and their plan of attack. First to go clear was Denis Lynch with All Star 5 (Argentinus x Alme), however their earlier time fault meant they would not progress to the jump-off. Kreuzer rode a stunning double clear with the eye-catching Calvilot, however was just pipped to the post by the time allowed, and the crowds groaned as he was handed a time fault, putting him out off the final round. Harrie Smolders was the first to jump double clear on Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire), consistent as always and showcasing a masterful round. The crowds erupted in patriotic cheers as he was joined by Ludger Beerbaum, Daniel Deusser, Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning all earning their places in what promised to be a mouth-watering jump-off to delight local fans.
Eight went through to the jump-off, with the crowd on the edge of their seats as the first rider Harrie Smolders with Don VHP Z entered the ring. The course was designed to encourage a flat out gallop, with intimidating full height oxers and utilising the full length of the arena. Setting off at a gallop, Harrie crossed the line with 35.25s throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the field. Next was the Columbian Daniel Bluman with Sancha LS (Chin Chin x Polydor) who was unable to beat his time but came close with a 35.29s. Daniel Deusser had an unusual two down, and a slip for Simon Delestre’s Qlassic Bois Margot (l''Arc de Triomphe x Galoubet A) cost them a fence putting them in 6th overall.
Marcus Ehning with Pret a Tout were incredibly fast with a time of 34.72s, but a tight turn to a vertical cost them a fence – but earning them 4th place overall. Ranking leader Ahlmann had one down with Codex One, putting them in 5th – but it was compatriot Ludger Beerbaum who stole the show, turning tightly and galloping across the course to meet the line in an impressive 34.81s.
“You would have had a good call betting for me today! It’s amazing that it can happen. Overall, the first round was ok, the horse jumped good – the fact that the time was short made a difference, and I think it was the most harmonious round. The second round; the time was short but I felt for the first time really confident from start to finish. In the jump-off there was no special plan – my colleagues here know their horses much better and I still have to find out which is his favourite turns and strides. But I just went for it and thanks to the quality of the horse, it was possible to win today,” said Ludger after about the win.
Runner-up Harrie Smolders commented: “With eight in the jump-off I think we had a very strong field today of horses and riders. I’ve not the fastest horse but I tried to put as much pressure on as I could. After my round I was satisfied anyway, as my horse jumped good - he was light, and after his break this is the first time I have really felt his power and lightness back. I think the favourites in the jump-off were Christian [Ahlmann], Simon [Delestre] and Marcus [Ehning]. But as you can see, that’s the beauty of our sport, that sometimes the leaderboard changes!"
Source: Press release from LGCT // Pictures
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