The GCT championship race intensified dramatically tonight with only five points between Edwina Tops-Alexander and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson after one of the most electrifying Grand Prix of the season.
American rider Laura Kraut won the first-ever Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Switzerland on her 14-year-old grey Cedric - even beating her partner and Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton in the jump off. Laura admitted she was "over the moon" and the jump off had a nailbiting twist with Australian rider Edwina facing a tough challenge for the No1 ranking spot from Swedish rider Rolf.
The smooth Swede cranked up the pressure dramatically by jumping clear in 45.37 on his champion horse Casall La Silla. Edwina came into the ring on Cevo Itot du Château but notched up 4 faults putting her in third place. Laura was next in and set off at a dazzling pace on Cedric, putting in a brilliant turn to the double and chasing down Rolf's time to finish in 42.53.
The GCT now moves to Vienna for its debut event in Austria next week and then to the final in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in November. Tonight's Grand Prix result shifted the overall GCT ranking significantly. Edwina remains leader on 196 points with Rolf in second place on 191. It means the final two events in Vienna and Abu Dhabi are set to be cliffhangers as Edwina - 2011 champion - aims to become the first-ever rider to win two GCT seasons in a row. Tonight's third place in the Grand Prix has also pushed her overall GCT prize money earnings even closer to the €2m mark.
The climax to GCT's debut in Lausanne, Switzerland, was played out on the shores of Lake Geneva against a breathtaking backdrop of the Alps. Thirty of the top 35 riders took part and the top-level action was watched by an international audience on Eurosport.
Here is what the winners had to say:
I am over the moon. I'm very happy, very excited. I was not expecting this tonight.
Cedric just felt really on form tonight, like he was 8 years old again. Both rounds were really big so I was nervous. These events are the best, the best horses and riders in the world. But I was feeling good tonight and my horse is fast. I took a shot and got lucky.
I feel very good now. Both my horses have been jumping very good in the series. I was not fast enough tonight. Laura was quicker and that's life.
I am in second place now (in the GCT championship) and everything is close and very open. Edwina is super, super strong so I can give it a try.
It is really close (the GCT Championship). I knew tonight I had to have a very good performance. There is still a long way to go, two more competitions left. The season is more exciting than last year and I'm really happy I've been in the lead since the beginning. My horse is in great shape. Laura rode an amazing round.This is the first GCT in Switzerland and it has been fantastic. Incredible facilities and I would like to thank Jaeger-LeCoultre for sponsoring here tonight.
GCT President Jan Tops
We had 30 of the best 35 riders here. It could be a World Cup or Olympic Games, you can't get much stronger than that. The way the horses jumped tonight you could enjoy every minute. It was super sport.
Stéphane Allio, President of the Lausanne International Horse Show
I would like to thank the town of Lausanne and all those who have worked on this project for over two years for your support. It has been a wonderful success and I would like to thank the public for their participation and enthusiasm.
Jérôme Lambert, CEO Jaeger-LeCoultre
I would like to thank the champions for such an exciting competition this evening. The Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture is only 50 kms from the showground and it was a natural partnership for Jaeger-LeCoultre and the sport. The GCT brings the sport to an international level. Jaeger-LeCoultre is well-known but the opportunity to cover regions like the Middle East has been amazing and opened doors to the perception of the brand.
Grand Prix 1st Round
The tough first round saw ranking challengers Michael Whitaker and Denis Lynch clock up faults that kept them out of the second round. There was also drama when Danish rider Andreas Schou completed a clear round on Uno's Safier despite his bridle breaking. Swiss flags were waved around the arena when Olympic individual gold medallist and home rider Steve Guerdat came into the compact sand arena. Although Steve did not jump clear his status as local hero was not in doubt.
Grand Prix 2nd Round
The packed grandstands cheered on the 18 riders who were really put to the test over another challenging course. Leading German rider Marco Kutscher had a dramatic fall when his horse Cornet Obolensky lost balance over a wide oxer. There were impressive clear rounds from Laura, Edwina, Rolf, Nick Skelton, Luciana Diniz on Lennox and Dutch rider Marc Houtzager who all went through to the jump off.
Source: Press release from Global Champions Tour
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