Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) took his first win of the season with the ever-consistent Casall Ask, racing against the clock to come home in 34.91seconds. The calibre of riders was so high and the final round so intense, that John Whitaker (GBR) came just 8 hundredths of a second off the winning time, with his stallion Argento spurred home by the cheers of the local crowd. France's Simon Delestre rode his beautiful black stallion Qlassic Bois Margot to third around the big, technical course which featured some of the 2012 London Olympic fences including No10 Downing Street and the Post Office.
It was a quintessentially British event in a glorious country setting on the edge of London, in the beautiful Syon Park. The Grand Prix took place under blue skies with spectators and guests enjoying a stunning afternoon of world class sport in the fantastic Capability Brown landscaped grounds of Syon House.
Next to the River Thames and world famous Kew Gardens, the London stage of the Tour brought British show jumping fans close to their idols including Scott Brash, Ben Maher and John Whitaker. Around 500 guests enjoyed first class VIP hospitality with ringside seats giving great views of the high calibre competition.
Uliano Vezzani’s first round course was tough and challenging for the world's top combinations, with the fences set at the full 1,60m height. 45 starters from 19 different countries took on the course, which was designed to test the very best horse and rider combinations in the world as they rode for their share of the 400,000 euro prize. The steep Greenwich fence, which was set as the first part of a double caused many of the issues, with a difficult line causing many to clip the pole.
18 top combinations went through to round two, with twelve riders going clear and six through on four faults. Greece's Athina Onassis de Miranda, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT), Robert Whitaker (GBR), Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) were some of the top names to go through, including Mexico's Jaime Azcarraga who made his Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix debut in style with his horse Anton.
The second round caused relatively few problems, with sixteen out of the eighteen going clear, as riders took on the smooth flowing course where the time wasn't an issue. The jump-off saw some of the fences go up to a testing 1,65m, which meant the race to the finish line had to be more carefully calculated. With tricky lines and angles throughout, those who had the pace also needed the scope and agility to tackle the twisting course.
First to ride triple clear was Rolf-Göran Bengtsson who set the time to beat at 34.91seconds. The Netherlands Gerco Schröder was next to ride clear, with his grey 12 year old gelding Glock's Cognac Champblanc putting in a careful round, knowing he would be unable to beat the pace. Simon Delestre (FRA) upped the anti, but was unable to beat Rolf-Göran's excellent time, and despite galloping flat out between fences came home in 35.63seconds. Britain's John Whitaker was next to go and looked incredibly strong with his famous stallion Argento fired up and responding to the crowd who were in full support of one of their star riders. At the last he looked almost identical on time, however fell just eight hundredths of a second short to finish in second place.
The final rider, Britain's Scott Brash, looked in contention to the last, and was within the time with the crowd holding their breath as he took a tight turn with his famous gelding Hello Sanctos. However he clipped the final fence to the groan of the crowd, finishing in sixth place. Despite his obvious disappointment, he gained 31 valuable points in the championship race, pushing him ahead of former leader Luciana Diniz (POR) by 28 points.
The Championship Ranking Top 3 now sees world number one Scott Brash take the lead as we look to Round 12 in Valkenswaard, where the new Tops International Arena will host many of the best riders in the world. Luciana Diniz (POR) is now second and will be doing everything to regain her lead, and Germany's Christian Ahlmann maintains his third place. As we turn to the heart of the Longines Global Champions Tour, the battle is set to continue as the fight for the final few Grand Prix titles rockets up a gear.
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