Britain and Ireland took centre stage at the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Spain seizing the top two podium places after a thrilling jump off. Ben Maher clinched victory on Tripple X III jumping a fast clear in 41.35 with Michael Whitaker in second place on Viking in 42.17 and Irish rider Denis Lynch came in third in a fast time of 40.91 despite clocking up four faults in the jump off.
With the GCT Grand Prix counting towards Olympic qualifying the pressure was on a big field of top international riders to perform in the €285,000 CSI 5* 1.60m class, which was full of some of the most talented speed riders.
Speaking at the press conference after the prize giving Ben Maher said of his victory on the 10-year-old stallion Tripple X: “He jumped amazingly today. He had the whole of February off ready for the long season ahead. I was in Florida with him recently but we did not have many good results so we rested him and it worked. This result helps towards selection as we have the Olympics coming. I can’t fault him, it was a lot of jumps on the Grand Prix course here and a big course.”
Experienced UK Michael Whitaker said of second place on the podium: “I am very happy, it was very good. Viking is getting better and better. He is not the easiest one but at least he gets it done. That is the main thing.”
Third place rider Denis Lynch said of his round on Abbervail van het Dingeshof: “I am very happy. It was unlucky in the jump off and although I was quicker Ben was the best man on the day.”
Brazil’s Alvaro de Miranda and French rider Penelope LePrevost took fourth and fifth places. Only Ben Maher and Michael Whitaker jumped three clear rounds on the big, challenging courses designed by Frank Rothenberger.
The results of the second leg of the GCT 2012 series mean Edwina Tops-Alexander is still leading the GCT ranking followed by Denis Lynch and Marco Kutscher. Edwina had a fence down in the second round of the Grand Prix on her star horse Cevo Itôt du Chateau, but due to her win at the opening show in Doha, Qatar, last month she is still the rider to beat this season.
Australian-born Edwina, who is the overall 2011 GCT champion, said the changes at the top of the ranking table add a dramatic edge to the championship: “This is top sport and this is what makes it exciting. Denis had a fantastic day today. There is a long way to go, this is only the beginning of season. A lot can change and the best one will win.”
GCT President Jan Tops said: “This location is naturally very beautiful and it is also very horse-friendly with nice big arenas, permanent stables and great facilities. The timekeeping with Longines and the organisation all gets better and better. It was nice to see some different names on the podium and on the ranking which makes it exciting going forward and I am sure everything will come down to the last moment this year.”
Alvaro Arrieta, CEO of local organiser Oxer said: “We were very proud to host the Spanish leg of the GCT in our country. It is our fourth edition and we are very pleased to host the GCT in these new facilities in Oliva Nova. Thanks to our sponsors Banco Sabadell and Longines and I think everyone enjoyed the sport.” Alvaro said the new venue is a big change from the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia city but added: “I am really happy with the result, it has been a success.”
With another 11 events to go in this year’s Global Champions Tour series, there is everything to play for with the next show taking place in Hamburg, Germany, starting on May 16.
Source: press release GCT