New Dad Ahlmann Takes A Chance And Wins Sizzling LGCT Grand Prix of Paris
Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Take A Chance On Me Z stormed to victory in front of the world famous Eiffel Tower in a blazing LGCT Grand Prix of Paris only days after the birth of his new baby girl.
The German champion displayed all his class and experience piloting his 10-year-old home bred stallion to victory and was rewarded with a respectful standing ovation as the evening sunlight bathed the arena in magical light.
Ahmann is now the latest rider to qualify for the star-studded LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague in November.
He said: “It has been an amazing week I already had my daughter Ella born on Monday. My concentration was not what it should be. Judy wasn’t happy when I went (to the show). She said I better do well this weekend. I think she is happy now!”
In his winner’s interview in the arena Ahlmann said: “I had to work hard and my horse had to work hard. He jumped fantastic in the qualifier and this is his first Grand Prix win today. I can’t be more happy and more proud of my horse. I had a really fantastic feeling, in the difficult lines he was really with me.“
Speaking about the LGCT Super Grand Prix Ahlmann added: “I watched it last year and it was one of the main goals for this year to qualify for this class and I’m really looking forward to it.”
It was a dream result in the City of Lights for Belgian rider Celine Schoonbroodt-de Azevedo who finished second in the heavyweight contest in the stunning sand arena in the French capital. French star Kevin Staut finished third delighting spectators.
After the Paris leg Pieter Devos retains the LGCT ranking lead on 224 points with Daniel Deusser and Ben Maher now in a fascinating duel in second place on 215 points.
The grandstands were packed as the 11th leg of the LGCT series saw the world’s best in action at the Champ de Mars in front of one of most famous and iconic monuments in the world. In brilliant sunshine the atmosphere was buzzing as visitors enjoyed the Exhibition Village and cooled off with ice cream and smoothies.
Paris was buzzing with visitors ahead of Bastille Day next weekend, Haute Couture Week was just coming to a close and Americans were in Paris in force for 4th July celebrations.
Among the international guests at the LGCT of Paris, a firm fixture on the capital’s busy social calendar, were keen equestrian Mary Kate Olsen, Charlotte Casiraghi fresh from her recent wedding celebrations and actress Marion Cotillard.
In the grandstands Panama hats were de rigueur as everyone settled in for the LGCT Grand Prix. French course designer Gregory Bodo set a tough but fair track giving the best combinations in the world plenty to worry about.
And it was soon clear how difficult the challenge was. It was only halfway through the field of 34 that the first clear round was on the board. Emil Hallundbaek (DEN) was unlucky with a time fault after jumping an impressive clear round on Dazermie and punched the air in delight despite the time penalty.
Ben Maher (GBR) and the nine-year-old stallion F One USA looked solid but had the back rail of the white lattice oxer down for four faults, upsetting his chance of pushing evening higher at the top of the LGCT ranking. He also had a time fault and the time allowed was increased to 72 seconds.
Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Veronese Teamjoy came unstuck at the Renault fence and the GC vertical and after the final fence fell they finished on 13 with a time penalty. Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and Delux van T & L were fast but clocked up four faults at the LPEJ oxer on the unforgiving course. Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and the black mare Ulane de Coquerie were one of several combinations who fell foul of the Longines triple combination and the double combination finishing on 12 faults.
Darragh Kenny (IRE) and Classic Dream took a risky turn into the triple combination and it paid off only to pick up 4 faults at the multi-coloured plank putting him out of contention.
French hopes were dashed as Simon Delestre and Hermes Ryan were too close to the first part of the double combination and suffered 4 faults.
Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Nayel Nassar (EGY) were among a raft of riders exiting on four faults and were followed by Jessica Springsteen (USA) riding RMF Zecilie and French star Roger-Yves Bost and Sangria du City who were victims of the troublesome double.
Clear rounds were proving elusive until Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof’s Calimero showed them how it was done and was swiftly followed by a superb round from Shane Breen (IRE) and Ipswich van de Wolfsakker setting up a jump off - the pair then joined by the Dutch youngster Kim Emmen who put in a strong clear on the 11-year-old bay Delvaux.
Pieter Devos (BEL) entered the arena as LGCT ranking leader and was riding his star horse Claire Z. But it was not to be for Pieter in Paris as the final part of the Longines triple combination fell putting him out of jump off contention.
Celine Schoonbroodt-de Azevedo (BEL) riding Cheppetta delivered one of the big surprises of the night coming home clear and into the jump off. There was disappointment for Gregory Wathelet, Maikel van der Vleuten, Daniel Deusser and Peder Fredricson all failing to get into the jump off.
But there was joy for the French crowd as Penelope Leprevost (FRA) and the nine-year-old grey stallion Gfe Excalibur de la Tour Vidal battled round the course and into the jump off. Christian Ahlmann (GER) followed in style delivering an emphatic clear on Take A Chance On Me Z and Kevin Staut (FRA) raised French hopes again going clear on Calevo 2.
Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof’s Calimero were swift over the GC vertical and put in five strides from the Massimo Dutti oxer to the coloured vertical, but picked up 4 faults despite some sharp jumping leaving him crossing the finish line in 37.99.
Ireland’s Shane Breen and the agile Ipswich van de Wolfsakker had their hopes crushed early on when the Paris Metro fence fell followed by both parts of the double combination leaving him on 12 faults but in a fast 36.70.
On the dazzling stage in Paris and under serious pressure, 24-year-old Kim Emmen (NED) kept her cool and rode some impressive angles on Delvaux alternating from speed to being collected and was rewarded with another clear round in 39.84.
She was followed by Celine Schoonbroodt - de Azevedo and Cheppetta who also found themselves in the major spotlight of an LGCT Grand Prix in one of the world great capital cities. Celine also kept her composure and was ahead at the split time by 0.63. She took a very quick turn back to the LGCT oxer at a good angle and threw down the gauntlet to the remaining challengers coming home clear in 36.82.
It was the turn of the first French rider in the jump off and Penelope Leprevost and Gfe Excalibur de la Tour Vidal had their work cut out and were slower at the split time. They drifted wide to both the LGCT fence and the Paris Metro vertical leaving them clear but trailing behind in 39.29.
It was already a week to remember for Christian Ahlmann (GER) after his wife Judy-Ann gave birth to baby Ella. The German champion and his home bred 10-year-old bay stallion Take A Chance On Me Z entered the arena looking formidable and were ahead at the split time after an efficient pace through the first part of the course. The top rail of the vertical was rubbed but their luck held and the combination turned on a sixpence into the final fence and into the lead in a speedy 35.60.
Last to go Frenchman Kevin Staut, a previous LGCT Grand Prix of Paris winner, had a mission on his hands and pushed hard to make up time with Calevo 2 but it was not to be his night on home soil and he had to settle for third.
The Tour now looks to Chantilly, just a short stop away from Paris, for the 12th round of action on the Championship race.
Jan Tops, LGCT President and Founder: "Pieter has already had a great season, he has had eight very consistent placings. Daniel is just behind him but with only 7 placings so it is difficult to say [who can win], there are still 8 legs left. All of the top six riders are very close at the moment but Pieter has a few horses he can rotate."
Virginie Coupérie-Eiffel, President LPEJ: "I am really proud to welcome LGCT in Paris, in this amazing place. The spirit of the event is to be popular, from the beginning the communication was not just focused on football but also horse riding and that proof was today. To have a big audience you need to have big stars. To have an audience you need good sport but also champions and thats what we had. We are very happy when the grandstands are full with people who are not just specialists of the sport and that can supports the success of the champions."
Pieter Devos, LGCT Ranking Leader: "I have had a consistent season and I am very privileged to have such good horses and good results. I am very happy with their performance. There are a few riders behind me who are going well. It will be right until the end but I will come forward with fresh horses at the next shows and do my best to stay in the lead."
Kevin Staut, 3rd place: "This is a new horse, I have only been riding for the last 4 months. He is very scopey and we do a good job together. I have big hopes, this is his first time on the podium in a 5* Grand Prix. This show is something special, we are very lucky in France to have many five star shows but to be in the heart of Paris it is very special. We have to make the people come to this type of event because it is amazing and the atmosphere was amazing. Equestrianism is growing and in France we should support the evolution. I am proud of my horse and to do it at home. Big congratulations to the show for bringing so much emotion."
Celine Schoonbroodt-de Azevedo, 2nd place: "This my first LGCT jump-off and it is amazing to be on podium between two amazing riders. I felt my mare jumped very nice. She was really fighting for me and I could feel that she helped me a little bit. I was so happy to jump here, Virginie Coupérie-Eiffel is the owner of my mare so it is even more amazing. The first round was good and I felt the mare was giving all her heart to me today."
Christian Ahlmann: "[Talking about the LGCT Super Grand Prix] It was an amazing class and I had to watch it from the side [last year]. It was great sport and a great atmosphere - an unbelievable day even for everyone who wasn't competing. It was my main goal to get the qualification and today we made the step so I am looking forward to that show.
"Take A Chance On Me is a family horse, he is 10 and by my former Grand Prix horse, Taloubet, and he is also a breeding stallion. Take A Chance was a late horse at growing into the sport and now he ready for it, really working for it. He is a quality horse who feels well and today I had an unbelievable feeling between the fencees, it was a lot of fun and really gave me confidence.
"I have had an amazing week already with my daughter Ella being born on Monday. My concentration wasn’t what it should be this week, Judy wasn’t happy when I went [to the show]. She said I better do well this weekend and I think she is happy now."