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Gregory Wathelet and Coree unbeatable in LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai

Saturday, 21 April 2018
CSI5* LGCT Shanghai 2018

Photo (c) LGCT / Mario Grassia Gregory Wathelet and Coree en route to victory in Shanghai. Photo (c) LGCT / Mario Grassia.

Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and the 12-year-old mare Coree (Cornet Obolensky x Liberty Life) set a jaw-dropping pace early on in a twelve rider jump-off, seizing victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai. The pair nailed the feature class with a Formula-1-fast round that simply couldn’t be beaten, finishing 1.69 seconds ahead of their closest rival in the field.

Course designer Uliano Vezzani turned up the heat considerably for the LGCT Grand Prix, as expected for a class of the highest level. The Longines vertical-vertical-oxer combination came early on the track, slightly offset from the natural line, causing a few upsets. The track snaked round this generously spacious arena and, with many of the verticals reaching a maximum height of 1.60m and a monster Liverpool oxer stretching 1.55m high and 1.70m wide to finish, this was to be a stamina test, too. However, the time was generous enough to allow these world class athletes to perform at their own pace.

Shooting out of the starting gate in the jump-off, came Scott Brash (GBR) on the exciting nine-year-old Hello Shelby (Stolzenberg x For Pleasure) and there was no hanging about as he pivoted round the bends, producing a smashing clear in 39.60s.

Gregory Wathelet and the lovely Corree followed in hot pursuit and taking out a daring stride to go full stretch over the final vertical, the pair slashed nearly two seconds off Brash’s time, flashing over the finish line in 37.91s.

Two of Wathelet’s fellow countrymen then followed. Jos Verloy and Igor (Emerald van't Ruytershof x Nabab De Reve) lost their chance for a podium place when the first fell fence before Niels Bruynseels and Cas De Liberte (Cracky Z x Chellano Z) took just one chance too many and it was elimination when the mare ducked out for the second time.

Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) finished second here last year and posted a respectable enough time of 41.38s on Idi Utopia (Quasimodo Z x Udarco) to finish eventual seventh.

Harrie Smolders (NED), the 2017 LGCT-champion and previous winner of the LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai in 2015, partnered the consistent stallion Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) this time around and looked bang on form once again, finishing just off the pace, clear in 40.52s. However, the race for a second championship is on in earnest for the Dutchman.

Next up, Sheikh Ali Al Thani of Qatar riding Carolina (Colman x Ramirado) made a game challenge over these mammoth fences in 39.46s, which placed him eventual fourth.

Frenchman Simon Delestre is never to be underestimated but lost his chance for a medal when hitting the second fence with Gain Line (Stolzenberg x Raphael). 

It was time for the final four. Ben Maher (GBR) and Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet), who were fresh from sealing victory for the London Knights in the GCL earlier in the afternoon drew gasps as an early fence rattled. But they put that nerve-jangling moment behind them and rocketed round the final bend to dash home just a fraction behind Wathelet in 38.55s.

The British rider was followed by Danielle Goldstein of Israel. She nailed some daring turns before a couple of rails fell for Caspar (Cornet Obolensky x Acord II). 

Wathelet was now guaranteed a podium place but faced an anxious wait for the final two combinations, both huge threats to the top of the leader board. Last year’s winner Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) came in with full focus but ultimately paid the price when Halifax van het Kluizebos (Heartbreaker x Fetiche Du Pas) hit the penultimate fence.

Last to go, Daniel Deusser (GER), no stranger to the podium already this season and winner of the Grand Prix qualifying class, teamed up with the powerful Tobago Z (Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve x Mr Blue), who relished the challenge. They took a gamble to every fence to rocket over the final fence in 39.11s, just fractions behind for third.

Thus sealed a classic jump-off on a brilliant day’s jumping and the celebrations could begin for Gregory Wathelet and Coree. “I knew I had to take all the risks and she jumped amazing,” said Wathelet, before receiving a rapturous welcome as he stepped up on to the podium alongside runner-up Ben Maher and Daniel Deusser.

“I did one more stride to the double but took them out everywhere else. I had a really good turn to fence three but it was later on that I think I got the [winning margin] of one second,” added Wathelet, who was also quickest on the draw when it came to opening the champagne bottles for the traditional spray of bubbles.

“Even if I could try a couple of times more I’m not sure if I would beat Gregory,” said Deusser afterwards.

This victory in China handed Wathelet the third golden ticket to the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix at the new GC Prague Play Offs in December, where he will line up against Miami Beach winner Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and hero of the curtain raiser in Mexico City, Scott Brash (GBR).

Wathelet also soars up the overall rankings to fourth where the 2018 LGCT race is still headed by Brash, fifth here in Shanghai and bidding for his third overall title on the Tour. “I’m absolutely delighted with my horse Hello Shelby today; he’s a young horse, so I wasn’t expecting too much today, so to finish double clear and fifth in Shanghai, I’m delighted,” said Brash. “It’s still early days though [in the LGCT-championship battle], so I’m not getting too ahead of myself.”

He sits just in front of another two-time LGCT title-victor Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), who just missed out on a place in the jump-off when Inca Boy van't Vianahof (Diamant de Semilly x Cash) toppled a rail in round onwe. Daniel Deusser now sits third, with Ben Maher fifth and all are no doubt hungry to grab more points as the Tour heads to Europe and the Spanish capital of Madrid in a fortnight.

 


Source: Press release from LGCT // Picture © LGCT / Mario Grassia

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