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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Championship race hots up in Chantilly as Bengtsson reigns supreme

The Championship race hots up in Chantilly as Bengtsson reigns supreme

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson - “It’s nice to win here. It is a fantastic show, we have everything here

Bill Gates supports daughter Jennifer as she competes in Chantilly

The Championship race hots up in Chantilly as Bengtsson reigns supreme

Fan-favourite Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) and Casall ASK became the celebrated winners of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Chantilly Grand Prix this afternoon in front of a raucous French crowd who seemed to have adopted the pair as their own. The Silver medal went to another hugely popular Swede, Henrik von Eckermann with Cantinero, while Bronze went to Canadian star Eric Lamaze with his relatively new ride Fine Lady 5. The result saw Edwina Tops-Alexander’s (AUS) Championship lead reduced to just seven points from Bengtsson in No2 spot, in a reflection of their epic 2012 battle which saw Tops-Alexander eventually prevail.
In front of packed stands, the first round of the Grand Prix saw some masterful clears from some of the top contenders for the Championship crown. Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) jumped a confident clean round with her ever-reliable Ego van Orti, which kept her on top of the Championship race, but she had four faults in the second round to leave her 12th overall in the class. No3 in the Championship, Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) also jumped clear in the first round and but lowered a rail in round two - the result means that the top three in the Championship have moved clear of their pursuers by 24 points.
Of the 15 clears, five French riders made it through to the second round - Patrice Delaveau, Marie Hecart, Michel Hecart, Pénélope Leprevost and Timothee Anciaume - but all picked up four faults to the corwd's dismay. Athina Onassis de Miranda (GRE) and AD Camille Z were the first combination to jump clear in the tough second round - they finished on just two time faults from their first round, which landed them a 5th place overall and gave Onassis one of the best results of her career so far. A very happy Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Vindicat W also finished well, with a clear and four faults to collect 8th place.
But it was the experienced crew who showed what they were made of to advance to the third and final round against the clock. Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Henrik von Eckermann, Rolf-Goran Bentsson and Eric Lamaze came back for the last test of power and skill set by Uliano Vezzani. The first half of the course was a twisty, turning cluster of fences followed by a long gallop to the last which favoured the bigger striding horses. Beerbaum was first to go and looked to be on to a winning round when Chaman slipped on a tight turn to stop the clock at 42.69s.
Von Eckermann was second go and was understandably cautious on the turn where his mentor had slipped, which cost him time, but he took the lead in a time of 40.85s. Bengtsson was third to go with his incredible stallion, who has not looked like he would touch a pole all season, and pulled off the round his legions of fans were hoping to see to cruise into first place in 40.31s. Eric Lamaze had pole position as last to go, but he was unable to catch the time with his smaller mare and lost out on the long gallop to the last to take third in a time of 41.08s.
Next week the Championship moves to the spiritual home of the Tour - Valkenswaard - where the ranking could once again see a shake up. With just 20 points separating Tops-Alexander, Bengtsson and Mohammed it could not be closer at the top of the leaderboard. Von Eckermann and Beerbaum have also moved up well into the Top Ten putting them within striking distance of the leaders. Watch the Longines Global Champions Tour of Valkenswaard Grand Prix next Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm CEST live on GCT TV, Equidia Life, ClassHorseTV, beIN Sports, Horse&Country TV and on Eurosport from 6.30pm CEST.

Grand Prix Press Conference  
Jan Tops - President Longines Global Champions Tour
Gérard Manzinali - President International Jumping Chantilly
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) - Grand Prix winner
Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) - Grand Prix Silver medallist
Eric Lamaze (CAN) - Grand Prix Bronze medallist
Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) - Championship Leader

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson - “It’s nice to win here. It is a fantastic show, we have everything here - a great course designer, great public and good footing, everything is done well here and the horses love to jump on the footing. Everyone went for it, but today I was the lucky one who had my nose a little quicker over the line. I saw Henrik go and I had no doubt I had to go for it as much as possible, because he was fast, and we know Eric is a fast rider with a fast horse so I was nervous until the very end. It is really nice to see a horse rider combination (Lamaze and Fine Lady) do well here after such a short time together and we will surely see them at the top of many more big competitions.”

Henrik von Eckermann - “I saw Ludger go and he slipped in the turn to the second last oxer, so I was also maybe a little too cautious in the turn. But second is also good and I am happy Sweden is number one!”

Eric Lamaze - “I am thrilled with Fine Lady, this is a new horse for me to be competing at this level and it was very thrilling for me to be part of the jump-off. I still don't know her 100%, so I took the risk that I thought would be enough to win today. She is a small horse and it was a long gallop to the last so that hurt me a little bit. But to be standing here with these riders is an honour, the show has been fantastic and the public have been great.”

Edwina Tops-Alexander - “It was between Rolf and I a few years ago and I think it will be very tight again, there have been a lot of different winners and a lot of movement, which we love in the sport. Today was fantastic to see Athina (Onassis de Miranda) in 5th with two time faults. It’s getting more and more exciting and I hope I can hang in there!”

Jan Tops - “If you see how the horses jump, they love this footing and the way the courses are built. Our course builder Uliano Vezzani is fantastic every week and we see the best riders at the top every time. It is great to see the sport like this. It is getting very exciting, Rolf has put himself in a very good position, he is second and he has one less placing counting than Edwina, so it will be very close at the end. Kevin and Scott are also close. I think it will come down to the last leg like over the last few yeas in Doha.”

Gerard Manzinali - “To organise a show here is great. When the Longines Global Champions Tour comes to the show it is even easier to have a successful event. We had a super course designer who made the success easy. I had butterflies seeing the incredible competition and jump-off.”

Longines Global Champions Tour Championship Ranking

Bill Gates supports daughter Jennifer as she competes in Chantilly

The elegant landscape of Chantilly and the breath-taking Chateau delivered another spectacular stage in this season’s Longines Global Champions Tour circuit. Guests, including Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, watched the best riders in the world compete in the sweeping grass arena.
There was a lively social scene in the elegant commercial village at the showground where luxury brand Hermès was among the smart shops with equestrian accessories. After the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix, fans crowded round the winner Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and ranking leader Edwina Tops-Alexander eager for autographs and photos with their idols.
The event took place within the boundary of the famous racetrack at Chantilly and today it was all about speed in the Grand Prix jump off.

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