Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann’s first round in the Longines Grand Prix in Hong Kong revealed a determinedness so strong that already before the jump-off it seemed clear that he would be the one to win. And so he did. With one of only two double clears in the 29 rider Grand Prix, Henrik and Gotha FRH (Goldfever x Prestige Pilot) beat Katharina Offel and Charlie (Cornet Obolensky x Potsdam) with almost four seconds. Third was no other than Henrik’s boss Ludger Beerbaum, who on Chaman (Baloubet du Rouet x I Love You) notched up one time penalty in the first round but was clear in the second.
It was an exciting class in Hong Kong, with all ingredients needed to make top sport. The world’s best riders and horses were present, it was a full house, super atmosphere and a great track build by Luc Musette. After the first round seven riders were clear, and were joined by the best five riders on faults from the first round to make round two consisting of a total of twelve riders.
After a challenging and big first round track, the course in the second round was no smaller – and this time around it opened up for some serious galloping. It was opened and closed with two long stretches – and also the second line from the Massimo Dutti oxer to the combination gave the riders the choice to go on either a forward six or a supporting seven strides, but if choosing a forward distance maybe so on the risk of one of the two verticals in the combination falling.
Four riders with one pole down went on to round two against the clock; and the first one in was Marco Kutscher on Cornet’s Cristallo (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot). A pole on the Massimo Dutti oxer fell though, and Marco had to settle for a total of eight faults. Christian Ahlmann on the other hand rode a super clear on Aragon Z (Askari x Kolibri) to finish on four penalties overall. Kevin Staut quickly took over the lead though, but it was not to last as his compatriot Penelope Leprevost shaved off more time on Nice Stephanie (Cardento x Ralme Z) – eventually ending fifth.
Ludger Beerbaum was next in, and with one time penalty from the first round he opted for a steady clear round at 50.81 seconds on his fifteen year old stallion to put plenty of pressure on the rest. Gerco Schröder was next in on New Orleans (Colbert x Carthago) as the first rider with a clean sheet from round one, but lowered the penultimate vertical leaving the door open for the remaining six clear riders.
Katharina Offel grabbed the chance that was given her, and a tactic that consisted of producing the first double clear of the day without taking too much risk paid off and she took the lead on Charlie on a time of 45.52 seconds. The question was if it was good enough, with plenty of fast riders to come. When both Maikel van der Vleuten on VDL Groep Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) and Harrie Smolders on Regina Z (Rex Z x Savoy Hanover) both had faults – four and eight respectively – the door was left open for the next rider in the ring.
And Henrik von Eckermann wasted no time on Gotha FRH. The Swedish rider raced around the shortened track, full of confidence after his brilliant first clear and cheered on to the last fence he gave his all to cross the finish line as the new leader. The time was good; 41.64 seconds – and looked very hard to beat indeed! And the remaining two riders – last year’s winner Patrice Delaveau on Carinjo HDC (Cascavelle x Landgraf I) and Simon Delestre on Valentino Velvet (Indoctro x Burggraaf) could do nothing about the Swedish rider. Patrice had one down with the fastest time of the day, and had to settle for fourth while three poles fell for Simon – and a Swedish victory was secured in Hong Kong as well as a very good day at the office for the entire team Beerbaum.
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