Photos: Stefano Grasso / LGCT
It was an incredible Longines Global Champions Tour -
Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping, which had spectators on the
edge of their seats throughout the exhilarating Grand Prix.
Legends of the sport Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ASK
showcased a masterful Grand Prix to win Gold ahead of
leading French riders, World Number 2 Simon Delestre (FRA)
and World Number 4 Pénélope Leprevost (FRA). A five rider
jump-off saw the very best athletes in the sport battle it
out for the 10th round of the LGCT Championship season, with
spectators witnessing a brilliant showcase of top sport and
The LGCT Ranking battle has tightened dramatically following
the Swedish rider's win, with Rolf now just 9 points away
from current long-term leader Christian Ahlmann (GER) who
sits on 209 points overall. There is a nail-biting nine
points between the top three, with Edwina Tops-Alexander
(AUS) also impoving her overall points score to sit in third
on 197 points overall.
The beautiful VIP lodge was packed with international guests
keen to enjoy top sport in the stunning ‘City of Light’.
French society was out in force and mingling with guests
including Bruce Springsteen, Salma Hayek and her husband
luxury tycoon Francois Pinault and business leaders from
across the world. It was a glittering night with gourmet
cuisine and a luxury interior courtesy of Bentley and Fendi.
It was a first round of all weathers as the 47 world class
riders took to the sand arena for the Longines Global
Champions Tour Grand Prix of Paris. Kicking off in brilliant
sunshine, the early riders took their chance to earn a place
in round two, with Uliano Vezzani’s course a true test for
the top combinations in the world. Many of the fences were
set at the maximum 1 meter 60 testing the horses’ power and
First to go clear was third starter Georgina Bloomberg (USA)
with her stunning mare Lilli, with the pair showcasing a
masterful round throughout the tricky course. Hot on her
heels was compatriot Jessica Springsteen (USA), Mathieu
Billot (FRA) and Bassem Hassan Mohammad (QAT) followed
before the test became that much harder. It was young German
talent Philip Houston (GER) who was the initial pace setter,
fourteenth to go, and jumping clear in an impressive 75.96s
with his grey 13 year old gelding Loewenherz - throwing down
the gauntlet to the rest of the field, many of whom have
multiple Olympic medals under their belts.
As Lauren Hough (USA) entered the ring with Oh la la the
heavens opened, with heavy rain persisting for the next few
riders. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with VDL Groep Arera C,
Pius Schwizer (SUI) with PSG Future, Ludger Beerbaum (GER)
with Chaman, Laura Renwick (GBR) with Bingtang II and home
rider Kevin Staut (FRA) with For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC
were all caught out, clipping poles and eliminating
themselves from the second round. Dedicated fans braved a
heavy downpour to stay in the grandstands for the sporting
action following their French heroes and heroines in the
show jumping arena.
14 riders in total jumped clear, with the top 18 going
through to round two. Philip Houston (GER) and Loewenherz
81, Harold Boisset (FRA) with Quolita Z, Edwina
Tops-Alexander (AUS) with Caretina de Joter, Jane Richard
Philips (SUI) with Dieudonne de Guldenboom, Jessica
Springsteen (USA) with Cynar V, Scott Brash (GBR) with
Ursula XII, Cedric Angot (FRA) with Saxo de la Cour,
Georgina Bloomberg (USA) with Lilli, Abdelkebir Ouaddar
(MAR) with Quickly de Kreisker, Simon Delestre (FRA) with
Hermes Ryan, Mathieu Billot (FRA) with Shiva d’Amaury,
Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme, Bassem
Hassan Mohammed (QAT) with Dejavu and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson
(SWE) with Casall ASK all went through to round two clear.
Joining them would be Daniel Bluman (COL) Apardi, Harrie
Smolders (NED) with Don Vhp Z, Kevin Staut (FRA) with For
Joy van't Zorgvliet HDC and Leopold van Asten with VDL Groep
Zidane N.O.P. all through on four faults.
The second round was a big course, but very jumpable, with
the all-weather surface holding up beautifully as the sun
continued to shine. The French riders had been on form all
weekend, winning every class so far, and they maintained
their streak of success in-front of family and friends, as
three French riders again made the 2nd round course look
easy to post double clears and set up a jump off along with
Scott Brash (GBR), Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) & Bassem
Hassan Mohammad (QAT).
The crowds in the stands were in for a thrilling conclusion
whilst VIPs watched on as the 5 horse jump-off got underway.
First to go Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) jumped clear again,
setting the benchmark at 41.33s. However next to go Pénélope
Leprevost (FRA) soon smashed his time with Vagabond de la
Pomme, spurred on by the crowd and crossing the line in a
spectacular 39.12s. Next up was leading home rider Simon
Delestre (FRA) who entered the ring to the cheers of the
crowd and set off at a blistering pace with Hermes Ryan, the
smaller dark chestnut gelding racing to the fences with an
unbelievably quick gallop to the last. They pipped Pénélope
to the post, stopping the clocks in 39.02s as the crowd
roared in approval in support of their leading home rider.
Last to enter were Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and the formidable
17 year old stallion Casall ASK. Simon’s time looked
impossible to beat, but Rolf carefully managed Casall’s
enthusiasm, opening up the stallion to allow his bigger
strides to eat up the ground, riding at unbelievable angles
to shave of valuable time and crossing the line in 38.50s,
half a second quicker than the flying Frenchman.
Casall ASK is surely the most consistent Grand Prix horse
there’s ever been - this his 3rd podium finish this year and
remarkably his 7th career Grand Prix win on the Tour where
he’s amassed over 1.5million euros in prize money so far.
The win moved the Swedish Olympian one place up the
leaderboard on the overall LGCT Rankings and into 2nd,
crucially cutting the lead held by Germany’s Christian
Ahlmann (GER) to sit just 9 points behind. Edwina Tops
Alexander (AUS) has moved to third in the Rankings but the
top three are now separated by just twelve points. The Tour
now heads south and to Estoril in Portugal, and with just
five legs remaining on this year’s spectacular calendar,
every point counts as the Championship moves into the final
third of the 2016 season.
Jan Tops, Founder and President Longines Global Champions
Tour: "It is amazing - [the Championship Ranking] is
only a few points apart. Rolf has one less score than
Christian but we still have five legs, so anything can
happen. This kind of series is very special. Only the really
good ones can be consistent to stay on top. Who wins this
series is like the world champion in our sport."
Virginie Coupérie-Eiffel, President Longines Paris Eiffel
Jumping: "The weather was very complicated. Uliano again
did his magic and created magnificent rounds and a fabulous
jump off. Congratulations to Rolf he is a great champion. Of
course I would like to have heard the Marseillaise!"
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris winner:
"It is a fantastic series and it is something special to get
on the podium in Doha in the final. I won the show there in
Doha but was second two times (in the championship). Casall
is 17 years old now, so could be his last season - every
show I can go with him and win a class like a GCT class is
very special. It was a fantastic crowd and they stayed in
Simon Delestre, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris Silver
Medallist: "Ryan is very fast and from the very
beginning I set out to jump fast. In the end Rolf beat me on
the really tight turn he did on the vertcal but I was very
pleased with tonight and it’s just before Rio so it's a good
Pénélope Leprevost, LGCT Grand Prix of Paris Bronze
Medallist: "I was second to go I did my best. I was just
behind Simon and I am happy tonight."
Christian Ahlmann, LGCT Ranking Leader: "I tried my
best. Caribis Z is a very young horse. I hope next week to
go a step further. It is getting closer and closer. It is
getting really tight now. I need to get the reins a bit
shorter and get some more points."