It was a triumphant home win for France in tonight's seventh leg of the 2014 LGCT Championship, hosted for the very first time by the City of Lights - Paris. The inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour of Paris Grand Prix was won by a thrilled and emotional Kevin Staut and Silvana, who left the arena to resounding cheers and applause from the crowd Second went to a very happy Pius Schwizer (SUI) with Toulago, and 3rd to Marcus Ehning (GER) and Cornado NRW.
For the 49 starters, the problem fences in Uliano Vezzani's preliminary course were the last four jumps - a wide, green oxer on a short four strides to a double of Gucci uprights across the diagonal, followed by another big, orange oxer on five strides to the last fence - an airy upright. Sheikh Ali Al Thani (QAT), 6th to go, remained the sole clear for the first section of the class until Georgina Bloomberg joined him from 24th in the draw with a round that brought her happy mother to tears. The talented young American went on to complete two more clears to finish 4th overall collecting one of the biggest results of her career so far.
There were unfortunate errors for fan-favourites Luciana Diniz (POR), Gerco Schröder (NED), Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Ben Maher (GBR), who did not make the cut for the Top 18 progression with their eight fault rounds. German Champion Daniel Deusser, World No1 Scott Brash (GBR), LGCT No2 Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and LGCT Madrid Grand Prix winner Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) were among the 12 clears through to the 2nd round along with six riders on four faults.
The second round was a smooth and sweeping course that saw nine of the eighteen riders jump a double clear. The iconic fences, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Gucci, Longines and GCT jumps, stood bright and imposing in this stunning setting, but offering few of the tricky complexes seen in the previous round. The final nail-biting jump-off proved a much more difficult course, with many places for riders to take a risks or even throw caution to the wind completely.
As the nine-horse jump-off got underway, it became clear that the bogey fence was the LGCT oxer, set on a distance where riders could attempt to take a stride out if they dared. Hot favourite Rolf-Goran Bengtsson came to grief here when he tried to do just that and Casall Ask was not quite able to make the distance, paddling through the oxer and dislodging Bengtsson who was thankfully unhurt. But it was Marcus Ehning who set the pace of 43.04s from the start of the draw and he was not caught until part way through when Pius Schwizer blazed a trail to the top spot with a time of 41.07s.
But entering to cheers from the crowd, it was home hero Kevin Staut who raised the roof from last to go in the jump-off, galloping to victory with Silvana and stopping the clock at 40.74s. Clearly emotional in the press conference, Staut touchingly dedicated his win to his horse, his owners and his team. The result has intensified the competition at the top of the LGCT Leaderboard with the top five riders all within 35 points of each other. Next weekend's Round 8 in Cascais, Estoril will be packed with stars and plenty of drama as we head into the homestraight of this year's season.
Source: Press release from Longines Global Champions Tour.
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