The fourth edition of the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix delivered a thrilling display of world-class competition, as promised. With an elite group of riders and horses, the 13-combination strong line-up was a treat for any spectator, watching in Prague’s sold-out O2 arena or watching live on GCTV.
Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani produced two electrifying rounds of jumping with not just 2 different tracks, but also 2 different approaches.
Round 1 presented as the more technical element, whereas Round 2 would be one to favour the bold and brave with maximum height 1.65m verticals and options for those battling for time.
In a new episode of the LGCT Grand Prix Analysis on GCTV, Frederik De Backer zooms in on key moments and lines.
6/6, 6/5, 5/6, 6/7, 5/7, … and 4.
In Round 1 the Italian had posted a tall Super Grand Prix course with a very intense sequence of fences from number 5 up to number 8. Fence 5 was the triple combination of Longines, set as vertical oxer, with 2 strides in the first part, a single stride in the second. A 90° right turn led to the replica of the Astronomical Clock, taking the athletes into Prague where the clock, built in 1410, decorates the southern side of the Old Town Hall Tower.
On an even sharper angle fence 7, Charles Bridge reminded spectators once more of the beauty of Prague before 19m further, the double combination stood with oxer and vertical.
During the course walk, riders discussed a number of approaches on how to tackle the technical challenge. The straight line from Charles Bridge to the double was a 4-stride approach but how those 4 would ride would completely depend on the ride up to the bridge, which would depend on the ride to the clock.
It seemed that 6 strides out of the triple to the clock and again 6 to the bridge would be the norm but first out of the gate Michael Pender made it a 6 and 5 on his big striding HH Calais. The gelding jumped the clock from outside to inside, landing his rider on this inside line, ready for the easy 5.
With a long point of take-off and a big stride it looked like Pender anticipated on running too deep on the 4 strides to the double. He held and waited but halfway down the line he found himself too far off and pushed to close the distance and got the flat jump over the first oxer, taking the front rail with him.
Former Super Grand Prix Winner, Henrik von Eckermann, switched his approach around. With the big stride of King Edward, the duo made light work of the triple on 5 and went for 6 to Charles Bridge making the next 4 strides even more supported than Pender’s.
McLain Ward rode 5 after the triple but opted for an unexpected 7 after the clock when HH Azur landed more to the outside than probably expected. Pieter Devos rode the standard 6 after the combination but the freakishly small jump he got over the clock with MoM’s Toupie de la Roque forced him to also ride 7 before the delicate plank. Would he have pushed for the 6, he might have had the plank down, but it most certainly would have launched him with too much pace into the line to the double so the big mare would run to deep.
Overall, the line did not cause that many faults. It was mainly the front rail of the oxer at 8A that got most of the beating. And Pender? Well maybe if he had gone later, he would have opted for an extra stride to the bridge, allowing him a steadier approach to the double.
Entering the arena as the only person to have qualified for all four LGCT Super Grand Prix’s since it’s inception, Daniel Deusser went into the ring for the 2nd round in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, producing an outstanding display of sport aboard his Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z to secure the 2022 Super Grand Prix title.
When he went into the ring, he left Pieter Devos back in the warm-up as last man to go. The Belgian had posted the fastest clear in the first round. But it was Katrin Eckermann who led the Super Grand Prix at that point. With her 9-year-old Cala Mandia, she had put 66.47sec on the board as the first on double clear. Harrie Smolders and Christian Ahlmann had each knocked a fence down in Round 2 dropping them behind Eckermann and the unfortunate McLain Ward who sat in 2nd at that point on a time fault from Round 1.
In the first line from 1 to 2, Deusser had to follow the same 7 strides of Eckermann. But, in the next turn to 3 Deusser did what Deusser does best. Turning tight without effort and without losing balance. With his outside leg he guided Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z to the inside while his perfectly balanced upper body guided the outside of the turn. With that action he achieved a much quicker turn than Eckermann, who in fairness, was the first to go of those on 0 penalties from Round 1.
Remarkably halfway through the turn Eckermann and Deusser followed the same trajectory but Deusser, took the lead already. In the next line of 5 strides Eckermann needs to slow Cala Mandia down where Deusser dares to push his stallion. The chestnut runs very deep to the upright but clears it and because of the pace in that line Deusser extends his lead on the Miami winner.
Over the next 8 fences the Belgian-based German keeps the same margin on Eckermann and crosses the finish line 1.25 seconds faster, claiming a lead that would be enough for his first LGCT Super Grand Prix win. Devos would finish a sizzling 1.07 seconds fast than Deusser but the Belgian got faults at the banded plank at 4, where Deusser challenged his stallion to go deep.
The decisive turn made us think back to the 7th Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of the season where Spencer Smith led most of the jump-off until Deusser pulled the same move after the second-last fence. That time on Bingo Ste Hermelle, he again balanced his own weight to the outside of the horse, pushing his mount to the inside.
Vintage Deusser …
For more insight on the 4th Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, watch the full episode here on GCTV.