05 May 2024

“You can only dream of this!” Gilles Thomas Wins Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai

“You can only dream of this!” Gilles Thomas Wins Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai

For the third time this season, the Belgium National anthem rang out in the Longines Global Champions Tour arena as first-to-go Gilles Thomas and Luna van het Dennehof raised the roof in the sold-out Shanghai Juss International Equestrian Centre. Taking victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai, Gilles stated he could only dream of winning an LGCT Grand Prix, and now he has written his name into the history books. 

An emotional Gilles Thomas, who won the lion's share of add symbol 600,000 euros, said: “The Longines Global Champions Tour was always something that when you are a child you were watching on TV, I only have dreamed of this moment and now twice on the podium – one second and now my first LGCT Grand Prix win, twice on Luna – she is just such a fantastic mare.”

In an electric jump-off, first to go Thomas and Luna van het Dennehof rocketed home as the fastest of seven top-class combinations who had qualified from 32 starters in the fourth event of the Championship season. Eddie Peng, Longines ambassador of Elegance and Jack Xie, Brand Manager of Longines China, gifted Thomas his Longines watch on the podium as a lasting memory of today. 

Thomas has also bagged a debut Golden Ticket to this year’s LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Riyadh, this November: “It is great to qualify so early in the year so I can plan my season around it. It is a class everyone wants to be in so I couldn’t be more happy.”

Singing the praises of her fellow GCL teammate, Edwina complimented the young rider on his win and his presence in the industry, she said "I think the world of Gilles, I honestly think he is the best young rider and up and coming rider in the world today. He has so much talent, he is super cool in the head, he is such a team player and I think he has a massive future and this has just boosted it even more.”

When questioned just how special it is to return here to Shanghai, she said, “It has just been an unbelievable week, the public has been unbelievably supportive, they’re really into it, and there is so much emotion going on. To be here for the first time in this incredible venue, I think everyone is excited to come back next year. Not only is it fantastic for the sport over here in China, it’s amazing to be around so many kids in riding clothes and I hope that as professional riders we can inspire them and try to build up awareness here and let’s hope that some of them can be riding on this level one day soon!”

Passionate Chinese fans packed the stands, with many ladies bedecked in their finest outfits for what has become a big social occasion, and they cheered every global superstar who entered the arena. It was Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield, who were the only other double clear of the day, secured second place, while LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach winner Michael Duffy took to the podium in third place with Cantano 32, as the fastest time – however the last fence fell with a gasp echoing around the arena.  

Sunday’s LGCT Grand Prix marked 10 years since the tour first launched in Shanghai and a decade that the Tour has brought top-level international show jumping to China and in the process, the popularity of equestrianism has soared. Spectators have been treated to a feast of world-class action and entertainment across the three-day show.

After the fourth stage of the season, Eduardo Alvarez Aznar will lead the LGCT Championship going into his home event of Madrid in two weeks time on 97 points. Max Kuhner stays in second place on 92 points, while the fastest in four faults in today’s first round meant Julien Anquetin climbs to third on 81 points. Michael Duffy sits in fourth with 77.14 points and Andreas Schou keeps in the race with 68 points.

There were plenty of new faces among the 35-strong field of riders tackling Uliano Vezzani’s imposing course, and even many of the professionals were left scratching their heads as they assessed the obstacles beforehand. Today saw Daniel Deusser with a shock elimination and winner of the first-ever LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai in 2014, Pieter Devos ultimately retiring.  

First to go in round 1, Gilles Thomas aboard Luna van het Dennehof, had the sold-out stadium riding every stride with him. A classy clear over the Uliano Vezzani-built LGCT Grand Prix proved the track challenging yet jumpable at the state-of-the-art Shanghai Juss International Equestrian Centre. Spencer Smith with HHS Seattle added to the clear round tally as the fifth combination to go, with a hotly contested jump-off to come officially declared.

The hearts were broken of those watching from the stands and at home, with a late and delicate fault for 18-year-old H&M Legend of Love with Olivier Phillippaerts who returned to Shanghai together, 9 years after their debut LGCT Grand Prix as a combination.

So, it would be a seven-combination line up for the jump-off…

First out of the blocks and proving just how cool he can keep his head, Gilles Thomas and Luna van het Dennehof were poised once again to give it their all. The pair soared over first fence, curled round to the Longines double, propelled forward across the arena, then negotiated a smooth roll back with a twist over the penultimate fence and for a fast double clear in 42.56s to set the pace. 

Second to go was American rider Spencer Smith and HHS Seattle. The pair accelerated through the start, manoeuvred a neat turn back fence three for a pole fell and they were on the back foot and finished with 4 faults in 47.38s. 

All eyes turned to Inflame Go and Kim Emmen, but it wasn’t to be today as a rail mid-course put them on the back foot, but was good enough for a top 5 finish in today’s LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai. 

Continuing his epic form, Michael Duffy and Cantano 32 were looking for their second LGCT Grand Prix win of the season. Risking it all the the last the pair just got a little flat and knocked it down to pick up a gut-wrenching 4 faults in time of 42.32s. 

It was a nervous wait for young gun Gilles Thomas as world number one Henrik von Eckermann and Calizi took to the arena. Know as the fastest man in the world in a saddle he was over a second up on the clock but the last line proved too much as both fences fell to a total of 8 faults. 

Next to take centre stage was Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli with Kalinka van de Nachtegaele. Taking all the risks they went flat out, it was almost good enough until just like Duffy the final fence came tumbling down and they had to settle for just off the podium. 

With the advantage of final draw and a legendary racing name it was all to play for as Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield entered the arena. Playing a risky game she opted for a slightly steadier pace to finish. Keeping all the fences up and the only other double clear of the day she repeated history from 10 years ago in the very first LGCT Grand Prix of Shanghai, where she was also second but crucially handing the win to young gun Gilles Thomas. 

The LGCT Championship now heads to the European stages kicking off in Madrid for the fifth leg of the Championship race in just two weeks time.


WATCH NOW: Gilles & Luna's Winning Round!

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