Nicola Philippaerts, winner of the GCL Round 1 class at LGCT London. Ph. ©LGCT/Stefano Grasso
Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts impressed the crowds in the jump-off of Friday’s CIS5* Longines Global Champions Tour of London on his big jumping horse 11 year old Aikido Z. There was no doubt that he was riding to win as he came out hard over the first fence and galloped into the Union Jack in the Global Champions League – Round 1, 1.55m class, keeping up the pace into the Longines upright, securing a beautiful and fast clear, finishing at 39.13s.
“Today is my third show on this horse. He doesn’t look that quick – but he’s got a good canter. I am so happy that owners gave him to me to ride. He’s getting better and better!” said Philippaerts.
The Berlin Lions were the only team in the Global Champions League of London who managed to secure a double clear in the first round of this class, which puts them in pole for the first time in the competition, and in prime position to covert their score into a podium results in Saturday’s final.
As the summer evening shadows lengthened across the sand arena at the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea, the crowds were kept enthralled by some of the world’s top riders. Whilst 14 riders qualified for the jump-off, Max Kühner (AUT), Harrie Smolders (NED), Bassem Mohammed (QAT) and Anna Kellnerova (CZE) opted to miss it and rest their horses ahead of Saturday’s action. However, with ten riding, it was tight at the top, with just fractions of a second separating the riders.
Denis Lynch (IRL) took the Big Ben inspired fence at a rapid pace which he maintained throughout the jump off, despite a little buck into the Roman columns, he finished with a lovely clear and with a fast enough time to take him into an early lead with 39.61s. He finally secured a podium finish, taking second.
Christian Kukuk (GER) came out of the starting gate with one thing on his mind and the crowd loved his smooth round. However, it was not enough to beat Lynch and he finished on 39.84.
The 325 year old Grade I and II listed building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, provided the perfect backdrop as fantastic horse and rider combinations used determination and focus to tackle the course.
Daniel Deusser (GER) was the first out of the starting gate for the evening event. He took the first fences quickly, but his smooth and relaxed ride came to an abrupt halt at the Union Jack fence as SX Hidalgo VG refused, rearing in disapproval and the poles came down, leaving him finishing on 48.71s and four faults.
Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) stayed governed throughout, finishing on 41.19s and fourth place. Meanwhile, Darragh Kenny picked up the pace with some superbly tight turns, but took the Longines final fence down at a gallop to groans of dismay from the crowds. He finished with a rapid time of 38.11, but with four penalty points.
Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels suffered the same fate, flying round the course and was looking good to the last, but finished a little flat and nudged the last fence down. Jérôme Guery (BEL) was tight into the turns with Garfield de Tiji Des Templiers, however he was unlucky to get the last fence down to finish on four penalty points too.
Tiffany Foster (CAN) started well, but was unfortunate to wobble the red phone box fence and missed out on a clear.
Finally, last to go was Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme who enjoyed a solid round and fifth position. But it was Nicola Philippaerts’ day, with the popular Belgian rider taking the first feature class win of the weekend.