ph. Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Just when you thought the world’s top riders could not go any faster, the final big 5* class today produced an exhilarating jump off rounding off a high calibre event in Shanghai.
In front of packed grandstands, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet pulled off a breathtaking time of 42.51 on Oh d’Eole, the black mare who won the same competition last year with Kevin Staut.
The first round saw faults spread evenly across the course, although the treble combination caused a few upsets including a fall for Qatar’s Faleh Suweed Al Ajami and the grey gelding Come Soon who both left the arena unscathed.
Eleven riders went through to the jump off and they hit the accelerator in dramatic fashion for the 1.50/1.55m finale of the Chinese leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour.
It was a thrilling climax to the event delivering great sporting drama for the thousands of spectators and VIPs who made it a full house.
The biggest names in show jumping were in determined mood to make the most of Uliano Vezzani’s demanding course. Ludger Beerbaum on Zinedine made it home in 45.55 and Kevin Staut on Silvana made it across the finish line in 45.47. But even these impressive, fast times were not enough.
Scott Brash and Edwina Tops-Alexander gave it their best shots and were always a threat, but they both had four faults.
Marco Kutscher and Cornet’s Cristallo took the lead in 45.32 and again looked unbeatable. But along came Swiss speed star Pius Schwizer on Dundee v Dwerse Hagen. Pius took every tight turn possible shaving off time and leaned into the final fence at an impressive angle to cross the finish in 43.69. The crowd gasped but there was more to come.
Gregory Wathelet and Oh d’Eole had a punishing time to beat but undeterred he set off and in a knife edge atmosphere managed to gallop home at full stretch in 42.51 winning $122,595.