In the perfect prelude to tomorrow's Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix it was Martin Fuchs and 11-year-old Conner Jei who stormed to the top of the podium with ease. Under the lights of the enormous Longines Arena at Al Shaqab, the dramatic 1.55m jump-off class saw thrills and spills as Uliano Vezzani tested the world's best horse and rider combinations to perfection.
Germany rounded off the podium with Christian Kukuk and his 9-year-old Nice van't Zorgvliet finishing a second behind to claim silver. Christian Ahlmann and the stunning black stallion Solid Gold Z took third place in a lightning-fast jump-off.
A delighted Martin Fuchs explained: "It was a great jump-off. Today I tried to go as fast as I could knowing that Marlon was still to go behind me and he would have beaten my time again but luckily he had a cheap rail today. I left one out into the double and he’s so careful with such an amazing ability that allows me to do something a little bit crazy like this and I’m glad to be sitting on a horse like that. Tomorrow I’m going to be riding Leone Jei my championship horse, he is also in very good shape so I’m going to try to produce 3 more clear rounds tomorrow."
The first round proved testing with poles falling all around the course keeping some of the biggest names out of the jump-off. The first two riders into the arena Shane Breen and John Whitaker both had the first fence down keeping spectators on the edge of their seats until Simon Delestre proved it was doable putting a faultless performance in with Dexter Fontenis Z.
How the 9 rider jump-off played out:
Trailblazer Simon Delestre set the pace for the start on Dexter Fontenis Z as the duo kept all the fences up in 37.38s piling pressure on the rest of the field as they now had to risk it all to inch ahead of the flying Frenchman.
Stepping Nice van't Zorgvliet up to this level, Christian Kukuk didn't hold back and laid down the gauntlet to cut a second and a half off the time to beat.
Leaving all the strides out where possible, the on form Martin Fuchs and Conner Jei set off at a flat out gallop to the first fence in the jump-off. The crowd cheered as the pair stopped the clock a second faster than Kukuk to snatch the lead.
Belgium's Jérome Guery cruised Napoli vh Nederassenthof round the expansive arena but an unlucky pole falling knocked them out of contention for the win.
Youngest in the jump-off, 20 year old Jack Whitaker lived up to his name with the bay mare Q Paravatti N giving it their best shot. The pair flew with ease over the testing track but the lightest of touches coming into the double across the middle of the arena knocked them out of the top 5 today.
Setting himself up perfectly for tomorrow's super Saturday of competitions, Christian Ahlmann and stallion Solid Gold Z put the pedal to the metal keeping all the fences up in a time of 36.75s to slide into third place. One after another Gregory Wathelet onboard Faut-Il des 7 Vallons and Irishman Denis Lynch with the stunning grey Cornets Iberio both had two down putting them to the bottom of the order.
Yesterday's winning combination Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Like A Diamond van het Schaeck looked like they were set to repeat their previous smooth and slick winning round beating Fuchs time but they knocked a tall upright and had to settle for 5th place.
Don't miss the first Super Saturday of the year, tomorrow in the spectacular Longines Arena in Doha, Qatar. Watch who will be the first team to pick up maximum points in the thrilling GCL of Doha R2, then find out who will get a head start in the LGCT Championship race and claim the first prestigious golden ticket for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in November. All classes will be streamed live on GCTV with brand new graphics, studio guests, statistics and expert insight into the biggest day of the year so far.