Belgium’s Pieter Devos has ridden Dream of India Greenfield to win the inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai Grand Prix in the shadow of the stunning China Art Palace.
Devos thrilled an excited Shanghai crowd who cheered and clapped on Saturday night as he stepped on to the top of the podium. Silver medal position went to Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Old Chap Tame, and Bronze to Michel Hecart (FRA) with Pasha du Gue.
The event was widely covered by Chinese TV networks and thousands of spectators enjoyed the top-level sporting entertainment and smart retail village. The large VIP hospitality lodge was packed with a fashion-conscious crowd from across China, including senior Government figures and captains of industry. Limousines chauffeured guests to the show ground and famous Asian actor and new Ambassador of Elegance for GCT Title Partner Longines Eddie Peng added some celebrity stardust to Grand Prix day. Guests of partners FedEx, Audi and RL Polo also enjoyed the first world-class show jumping competition ever to be held in mainland China from their prime VIP hospitality area.
Pieter Devos’s performance was described as ‘inspiring’ by the newly-converted show jumping fans who flocked to the event in Shanghai.
The first round was a tough and demanding course set by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani. There were no real ‘bogey’ fences, but the technical lines and tricky distances came thick and fast causing more than a few top names to pick up penalties. Of the 18 riders through to the second round, 11 carried zero penalties with seven going through on four faults.
The second round saw just five double clears. Once again tough distances and awkward lines caused many to lower a rail, but the crowd cheered loudly after every clean round. First to go in the jump-off was the face of LGCT Shanghai, Ludger Beerbaum and Zinedine, who were forced to take some chances and lowered a vertical mid-way through the round. Michel Hecart, still in fantastic form at 60, set the standard from second to go at 45.40s, but he was immediately bettered by Tops-Alexander who stopped the clock at 43.12s. Pieter Devos rode the round of his life, taking chances at every turn to produce a winning time of 42.48s.
Last to go, Abdullah al Sharbatly and big-jumping Tobalio looked like they would demolish the winning time coming to the last, but the World Championship medalist took off too far away and at such speed his horse was unable to clear the final fence, so he finished fourth.
The crowd rose to their feet to acknowledge the human and equine athletic performance as the three medal winners entered the arena. Looking ahead to Cannes just six days away, the Championship race is well and truly on for the 2014 official Longines Global Champions Tour series.
The result extends Tops-Alexanders GCT ranking lead to 23 points. Ludger Beerbaum (GER) – fifth in the Grand Prix – moved up into second place with 91 points, while Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano is now thirdwith 78 points, closely followed by Ben Maher (GBR), Marcus Ehning (GER) and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE). At LGCT Cannes next weekend, Round Five of the 2014 Championship, there will be many star riders eager to take the maximum 40 points in the Grand Prix.
GCT president Jan Tops said his team had worked for more than three years to run the event in Shanghai. “I am a very proud person. I have to congratulate all the people involved who helped make this possible. It was not easy, they did not manage it for Beijing Olympics, but here they did an incredible job. Juss Events worked very hard and the GCT staff and Peden Bloodstock and the ground staff have all worked so hard behind the scenes. We have opened the borders and we are the first here and I hope this show will be remembered, and I hope we will be here for a long time to come.”