Belgian Bullet Bruynseels Takes LGCT Grand Prix Victory in Cannes
Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and his speedy mare Gancia de Muze reinforced the Belgian march on the Championship after a dazzling win in a star-studded jump off in Cannes.
Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Belgium’s Pieter Devos remain locked in an intense duel at the top of the Longines Global Champions Tour overall ranking separated by only 12 points after the 7th leg of the 2019 season.
Clearly emotional after his first-ever LGCT Grand Prix victory Bruynseels said: “I have no words! To win a GP like this means a lot to me. I have to thank my horse. One of the best horses I have had in my life.” Speaking of his qualification to the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague later this year he added: “This is something really special, to get something like this in your career is great. I saw the round of Daniel and knew he was very fast. I know I have a super fast horse and when I do the same lines as the others she is just faster.”
It was night of extraordinary displays of speed and knife edge precision as the big guns of show jumping delighted fans around the world.
The Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Cannes Presented by Volvo got underway under floodlights in the square sand arena next to the Mediterranean. The grandstand and hospital lounges were full to bursting for a night of high octane show jumping.
The world’s best riders faced 13 obstacles with verticals at the full 1.60m height and serious challenges at the Longines triple combination and a sprinkling of fragile uprights as course designer Gregory Bodo set out to test the best.
Early riders fell foul of the double and triple combinations and after Bassem Mohammed (QAT) and Gunder delivered the first clear the tight time allowed was extended from 75 to 77 seconds.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) and RMF Zecilie displayed some fantastic turns but was among many combinations clipping the delicate Air Mauritius vertical leaving the top plank on the floor and ending their chances of a place in the jump off.
Karel Cox (BEL) and Evert were wide into the triple combination and slow to the Cote d’Azur fence resulting in a painful time fault leaving him in despair. Shane Breen (IRE) and the 11-year-old Ipswich van de Wolfsakker became the second combination to go clear despite tapping the one element of the purple double combination and the problematic plank.
Light verticals dashed the hopes of Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Marlon Monolo Zanotelli (BRA) and Marcus Ehning (GER) surprised with 4 faults at the final fence on Cristy.
It was a night when the young guns shone brightly and Emil Hallundbaek (DEN) and Chalisco pulled off a great tight turn into the Volvo upright and was rewarded with a superb clear round watched by his delighted family.
Cannes favourite Edwina Tops-Alexander previously tasted success in Cannes but it was not to be her night as the first part of the purple double combination fell after being clipped by her mare California’s hind legs for 4 faults.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) booked his place in the jump off with his 17-year-old superstar stallion Verdi TN ending a hugely efficient round with a characteristic buck. He was soon joined by his father Eric after an excellent round from Wunschkind making it a family affair.
Daniel Deusser (GER), currently leading the overall LGCT ranking, and Calisto Blue produced a fast and threatening clear round and he was joined in the jump off by his closest rival on the ranking Pieter Devos (BEL) and Espoir. The pair soared over the Longines triple combination and were lucky after a rub at the Constance oxer but kept it clear.
Last year’s winner in Cannes Peder Fredricson (SWE) was unable to repeat his success as H&M Christian K’s brilliant start end with disappointment as the Air Mauritius plank felled his chances.
French hearts sank as Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Usual Suspect d’Auge exited the arena on 8 faults. But there was soon something to celebrate for home fans with a polished performance from Olivier Perreau (FRA) and the 10-year-old bay mare Venizia d’Aiguilly triggering patriotic cheers from the grandstand.
The atmosphere was supercharged as Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and the 13-year-old Gancia de Muze ramped up the pressure making the Longines triple combination look easy, making efficient turns and cementing a fast clear.
Scott Brash (GBR) gave the super talented Hello Mr President a great ride. The pair were lucky at the purple combination which held and their lightning fast clear meant the double LGCT champion would be a big threat in the jump off.
The jump off course offered plenty of scope for good gallops and sharp turns.
Bassem Mohammed was first to go on Gunder and was forced to hit the accelerator knowing the 13-year-old was slower than other contenders to follow. But the second part of double combination hit the deck and the final fence fell leaving them on a total of 8.
Irishman Shane Breen was fast from the start with Ipswich eating up the ground, chasing down the fences to finish clear in 38.10 despite clipping the final Longines vertical which luckily stayed in place. Emil Hallundbaek looked sharp and was slightly ahead at the split time but his chance collapsed with 4 faults at the Constance oxer which also caught out Maikel van der Vleuten and Verdi.
The air sizzled as Daniel Deusser and Calisto Blue jumped the first fence landing at a clever angle and were soon quicker. The intelligent ride quickly put him in front in 35.97 over two seconds faster than Breen as the German looked to consolidate his overall LGCT ranking lead and add to his win at the last leg in Hamburg.
Eric van der Vleuten and Wunschkind were too deep into the Volvo upright and clocked up another fault at the following Cote d’Azur vertical leaving them on a deflating total of 8 faults.
With the Belgian riders in fantastic form this season, Pieter Devos was quick from the off and was slightly ahead at the split time. But the big striding Espoir was slower and stopped the clock in 37.39.
The local crowd held their breath as Olivier Perreau and Venizia d’Aiguilly looked on course to make it on to the podium but they hit the first part of the Longines double combination for 4 faults still earning appreciative applause from the French crowd.
The temperature rose as Niels Bruynseels and Gancia de Muze blasted into the arena and immediately took the first LGCT fence at an angle gaining early advantage and putting them half a second faster at the split time. Watched on by Prague Lions teammate Anna Kellnerova they delivered a superb round before executing a razor sharp turn before the gallop to the last to finish in a stunning 34.69.
The steely Scott Brash was the last to go and Hello Mr President delivered on accuracy and speed but it was not enough as they crossed the finish line in 35.66 handing victory to Bruynseels.
The Tour now looks to the first of three new stops for 2019, Stockholm, Sweden, for the 8th leg on the Championship race.
Francois Bourey, LGCT Cannes Event Director: “Eleven years ago was the first LGCT Cannes and it is a great pleasure to have it here and for the city of Cannes. We had a fabulous Grand Prix it was really made special with a new course builder who did a great job and we are improving every year. Scott was my favourite at the start. The crowd were very enthusiastic and thank you to the gentlemen sat next to me for the brilliant success."
Jan Tops, Longines Global Champions Tour Founder and President: "Daniel in the last three weeks has had incredible shows and already been placed 6 times so collected a strong number of points. There are still 11 more events to go but only 10 [results] are counting, so Pieter and Neils are still very much in contention. The Grand Prix was very exciting, a lot of energy here and made special with the lights and beautiful setting. The audience like to give the maximum. The course builder did a brilliant job, it is not easy to get it right and there are not so many really good course builders at this level. It is fantastic for Niels - nearly all the Belgium team have qualified now for the GC Prague Playoffs!"
Daniel Deusser, LGCT Cannes 3rd place: "Calisto Blue is a very consistent horse - I choose him bcause he can jump in big or small arenas, grass or sand; he is very flexible. I was very happy afterwards. It is a very nice feeling to be on top of the ranking, but there are still lots more events to go so we shall see."
Scott Brash, LGCT Cannes 2nd place: "Neils was too fast I couldn’t catch him. I was delighted with how Mr President jumped, he saved his best till last I should have been able to get the 8 strides to the last but even if I did I still don’t think I would have won. I can’t complain I just need to try ride faster! [joking] It was a bit inconvenient of Niels not to have already qualified for the [LGCT Super Grand Prix] but if he keeps jumping like that he should [pass on another place to the LGCT Super Grand Prix]."
Niels Bruynseels, LGCT Cannes 1st place: "It is a great feeling for me to be around the best in the world, I was not sure if I had won it - you never are sure. I know I have a fast horse and if I can ride the same lines as the others I can win. I did the 8 strides to the double, my jump off was what I planned. It gives me a lot of confidence, if I can win between the best riders in the world. The LGCT Super Grand Prix is another step up and another great show, there will for sure be more good riders to beat so we shall see."