US rider Laura Kraut won the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Switzerland on Saturday night on the 14-year-old grey Cedric, beating her partner and Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton in the jump off.
Kraut said she was “over the moon” and the jump off had a nail-biting twist with Australian rider Edwina Tops-Alexander facing a tough challenge for the No.1 ranking spot from Swedish rider Rolf-Göran Bengtsson.
The GCT championship race intensified dramatically after the class, as there are now only five points between Tops-Alexander and Bengtsson in the series.
The smooth Swede cranked up the pressure dramatically by jumping clear in 45.37 on his champion horse Casall La Silla. Tops-Alexander came into the ring on Cevo Itot du Château but notched up 4 faults putting her in third place. Kraut was next in and set off at a dazzling pace on Cedric, putting in a brilliant turn to the double and chasing down Bengtsson’s time to finish in 42.53 seconds.
“I’m very happy, very excited – I was not expecting this tonight,” Kraut said. “Cedric just felt really on form tonight, like he was eight years old again. Both rounds were really big so I was nervous.
“These events are the best, the best horses and riders in the world. But I was feeling good tonight and my horse is fast. I took a shot and got lucky.”
The GCT now moves to Vienna for its debut event in Austria next week, and then to the final in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in November. Saturday’s Grand Prix result shifted the overall GCT ranking significantly. Tops-Alexander remains the leader with 196 points, with Bengtsson second with 191 points. It means the final two events in Vienna and Abu Dhabi are set to be cliffhangers as 2011 champion Tops-Alexander aims to become the first-ever rider to win two GCT seasons in a row. Herthird place in the Grand Prix has also pushed her overall GCT prize money earnings closer to the €2m mark.
The climax to GCT’s debut in Lausanne, Switzerland, was played out on the shores of Lake Geneva against a breathtaking backdrop of the Alps. Thirty of the top 35 riders took part, and the top-level action was watched by an international audience on Eurosport.