In a performance for the record books, Christian Ahlmann aboard Mandato van de Neerheide made the comeback of the year in the heart of Paris. The German maestro secured top spot in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Paris presented by Ville de Paris as his first LGCT Grand Prix back after sustaining an injury earlier in the season in Mexico.
The City of Love witnessed a display of prue excellence at the second day of the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping. The day concluded with an exhilarating jump-off leaving the spectators on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Ahlmann denied Roger Yves Bost and Cassius Clay VDV Z a home win in front of a sold-out arena as the first to go in the jump-off took second place by then less than half a second. Crowd favourite Penelope Leprevost rounded off the podium with Bingo del Tondou putting in the third fastest double clear round in 39.37s.
With Ahlmann’s last appearance at the Longines Global Champions Tour in Mexico City this April resulting in him breaking his arm, he spoke to GCTV of his feeling after the win: “It is difficult to explain, the last time I left Global Tour it was a little different, with one arm in the wrong direction… I am really, really happy to be back in the sport. -This is the first time I am back in the ‘real sport’, let’s say, and to finish it with a win here, it’s unbelievable.”
Speaking about the level of competition in today’s jump-off he added: “I think all of them were very, very dangerous - we have the best of the world here with more or less the best horses they have right now - they can do everything they ask for on the right day, and luckily today was my day.”
As the eighth rider to collect their ticket to the exclusive Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in Prague later this year, Ahlmann smiled: “This is one of the main goals of the whole season - to be part of the Super Grand Prix, it's always a big fight. Everyone wants to be in it and only the winner can qualify and I am more than happy to be part of it.”
As the sun began to sink beneath the iconic Eiffel Towers, the atmosphere grew electric with anticipation. The crowd was treated to a dazzling display of exceptional sport and hospitality as spectators and participants alike revelled in the glamorous ambiance, where fashion, elegance, and sophistication seamlessly merged.
In an interesting turn of events there was not much movement in the 2023 Championship standings at the halfway stage of the season. Maikel van der Vlueten stays on top with 175 points. Malin Bayard-Johnsson sits in second place just 15 points behind while Christian Kukuk closes the gap moving up to third on 159.2 points. Simon Delestre jumps into fourth place on 138 points while Edwina Tops-Alexander slips to 5th on 135 points.
In the first round, 36 starters faced a formidable technical course designed by Gregory Bodo and the tight time allowed added extra pressure. British rider Sam Hutton had an excruciating two time faults knocking his chances of returning to the ring, while an agonising final fence fell for Edwina Tops-Alexander and Corelli de Mies as she now chases the 2023 Championship. The final line caught out some of the biggest names in the sport as the plank fell for Daniel Deusser, Ben Maher, Christian Kukuk and many more.
The starting grid for the phenomenal jump-off was full of experienced talent as all 7 combinations gave it their all.
First in the ring for the jump-off, Roger Yves Bost and his grey Cassius Clay VDV Z tore around the course from the word go. Throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the pack the pair set the standard in 38.53 s. Fernando Martinez Sommer couldn’t quite match the pace as he delivered a flawless clear on 11 year old High Five in 39.55 sec.
In an emotional return to the tour after injury Christian Ahlmann put in a display of the highest level of show jumping and achieving what he has worked so hard for over the past few weeks to get back to fitness. Riding full gas the whole way round on Mandato van de Neerheide, Ahlmann crossed the finish line to a standing ovation as he punched the air and pointed to his horse stopping the clock in 38.09s.
The last hope for France in the jump-off, Penelope Leprevost, was looking to match her daughter's performance taking the win in a 1* class this morning. Riding Bingo del Tondou the pair were clear in 39.37s after she pulled off a super tight roll back after the double combination.
Jessica Spingsteen stole the hearts of every single person watching the magic unfold, but there were tears as a flat out gallop to the last, risking it all, didn’t pay off and it came tumbling down for Don Juan van de Donkhoeve. Show jumping legend Gregory Wathelet and Bond Jamesbond de Hay galloped around the course clearly faster than Ahlmann but the wall fell, putting them out of podium contention.
As Christian Ahlmann watched intensely from the warm up, last to go Mark McAuley entered the arena on GRS Lady Amaro to a roar from the french fans. Looking on track to be up on time, the Irishman had a nightmare at the tricky Versailles wall, putting him straight out of contention and handing the fairy tale win to Ahlmann.
The tour now heads straight to Monaco from 29 June - 1 July for the 9th leg of the 2023 season!