This Saturday, 18 November, all eyes will be on the O2 arena in Prague for the fifth edition of the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix. With €1.25 million in the prize purse and an elite field of riders and horses, the competition is regarded as the biggest indoor Grand Prix in the world.
Open to only the best riders from the 2023 LGCT circuit, qualifying for the LGCT Super Grand Prix is a victory on it’s own as you need to win a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in order to qualify. But with 15 Grand Prix in the regular season, why are there 16 riders in the LGCT Super Grand Prix?
The penultimate LGCT Grand Prix of the season in Rome has everything to do with that. On Saturday 16 September, 11 riders jumped clear over the Uliano Vezzani course at the historic Circo Massimo, five of which were already qualified for the LGCT Super Grand Prix.
David Will aboard My Prins Van Dorperheide won in Mexico, Von Eckermann won at home in Stockholm with King Edward, Julien Epaillard wrote himself into 2 LGCT Grand Prix hall of fames, so his slot was secured. When Harrie Smolders won the LGCT Grand Prix in Riesenbeck, his golden ticket was passed down to Max Kuhner who was runner up on the German green grass.
Paris Christian Ahlmann gained himself the nickname of ‘The Comeback King’, winning the LGCT Grand Prix upon his return to the tour after an accident earlier in the season. So, the Rome golden ticket would go to one of the remaining 6.
Rome in headlines
When Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not S were the first to go clear in the jump-off he got his hand on the ticket, with 42.27 seconds as the time to beat. The Swede had competed in none other than three Super Grand Prix before, and the set-back in the middle of the season when he sustained an injury in Stockholm, had reduced his chances to qualify for a 4th time to just Rome and Riyadh as the final stage in the season.
His lead in the LGCT Grand Prix of Rome could hand him his 4th LGCT SGP appearance and it would bring him level with history makers, Daniel Deusser and Henrik von Eckermann.
When Fredricson was overtaken by David Will, his 2nd place would still take him to Prague though be it not as a LGCT Grand Prix winner. David Will won the LGCT Grand Prix in Mexico in the early stages of the season.
In comes Andreas Schou on I Know. The Dane and his Dutch gelding had never jumped a clear in a 5* Grand Prix before so it seemed they would not be a threat to the experience of Fredricson and Catch Me Not S. But the Dane hung in well, and, exposed to the clock for the first time I Know jumped and outstanding round, showing plenty of natural pace.
The duo stopped Longines clock stopped in 42.27 seconds, the same time as Fredricson, resulting in a joined 2nd place and seemingly a split Golden Ticket for the LGCT Super Grand Prix with 2 riders to go who hadn’t qualified for the ultimate showdown, yet.
Malin Baryard-Johnson and H&M Indiana’s lightning fast 40.81 seconds would have given her the lead and the enviable spot in the Prague’s LGCT Super Grand Prix, but the 2nd last fence took her out of the running. Home hero Piergiorgio Bucci was faulted on the same fence but also his pace was too slow, handing the slot to both Andreas Schou and Peder Fredricson as they eventually finished 3rd when Henrik Von Eckermann had taken the lead by chewing 0.2 seconds of Will’s time.
Joined on the podium
The Longines Global Champions Tour has seen a few joined podium places over the years. Well, 4 times to be precise, and last year, in 2022 alone, it happened twice. First Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Darragh Kenny shared the 2nd place behind Sanne Thijssen in Madrid, and later in Hamburg Andre Thieme and Michael Pender came joined second behind Christian Ahlmann.
However, it is the first time in the LGCT Super Grand Prix’ history that a golden tickets gets split between 2 riders in joined place. All eyes now look ahead to the 2023 LGCT Super Grand Prix where the best of the best are going head to head in front of a full-house of over 12,000 people.