A navy balloon in the shape of a horse floated high above many real horses as it left the ground behind. Rising above the École Militaire in Paris, France it became one more beacon of the Longines Global Champions Tour, which for three days welcomed the entire city to experience international show jumping in a spectacular setting.
There were three things that made the LGCT Paris remarkable, number one undoubtedly being the setting. For the second year in a row, this five-star show was held on the south end of the Champs du Parc de Mars, in front of the École Militaire with the Eiffel Tower a magnetizing, omnipresent backdrop. All weekend, horses walked back and forth in front of the famous view down the green to the tower – completing a truly unique feast for the eyes.
Second most remarkable was the way the competition unfolded – the two main feature classes produced a record-breaking finish, and also a very rare one. Just a year ago, 19-year-old Bertram Allen wasn’t ranked high enough on the FEI world-ranking list to even qualify for a GCT show. But this year, the World No. 7 rider from Ireland is making it a point to attend the tour stops, and he took his first podium finish, and first GCT Grand Prix win, in Saturday’s €200,000 Longines Grand Prix de Paris CSI5*. In doing so, he broke the record for youngest-ever LGCT Grand Prix winner by two years (Lucy Davis previously held the record with her 2013 LGCT Lausanne win at the age of 20). What’s more, Allen rode a horse that is just two years younger than he is – the incredible KWPN chestnut gelding Romanov. Read the full story on Allen’s win here.
Sunday’s feature grand prix unfolded to the sounds of hooves on rails and groans from the crowd as it seemed that no one could master the course fault free. Amid 18 eliminations or retirements on course, it took 25 tries until Edwina Tops Alexander (pictured at top) jumped the first clear round and was joined by only two other riders in the jumpoff. Those two riders –Kalam Elozghby and Ben Maher– went one after the other in a blazing jumpoff to finish clear – and on the same exact winning time. Read about what they thought about ending their weekend on an even tie here.
Lastly and certainly not least, the pains that organizers took to make the event accessible to the public was what truly made it “a crown of the GCT season,” as LGCT Founder Jan Tops said. Like any LGCT stop, the glam factor was omnipresent, with Paris society fixtures and French stars fanning themselves under two long sides of VIP tents taken during the feature events (French actress Marion Colliard and Princess of Monaco Charlotte Casiraghi attracted their fair share of attention.)
But, what the LGCT does best is welcome VIPs and the casual passersby will equal spirit. Beacons of the show, not the least of which was the horse-shaped balloon, were spread all over the city to welcome one and all to the LGCT. All week, banners for the event lined the Champs D’Elysses. A horse drawn carriage paraded from the Eiffel Tower and back, picking up passengers and bringing them to the grounds, and once you were on the Parc de Mars, anyone could walk right up to the warmup ring fence to gape at the horses, or lounge on the grass and watch every competition from an enormous jumbotron set up for that purpose. Well over a thousand bleacher seats were
What the LGCT does best is welcome VIPs and the casual passersby will equal spirit.
free to the public. Sunday’s competition was ensconced by a fair-like atmosphere, with horse-related activities for kids and a Longines-branded carousel rotating at full capacity.
Even a summertime heat wave that baked Paris during the first two days of the show couldn’t deter the crowds – the grandstand remained packed when temperatures hit 97 degrees Fahrenheit (on Sunday there was a welcome break in the weather.)
Well done, LGCT Paris, for making this weekend of show jumping glitzy and accessible, extravagant and informal, and placing a spotlight on show jumping in the city of lights.