Mexico City proudly hosted a trio of tremendous sport this Saturday, the first super Saturday of the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League seasons. Thousands of fans packed the sidelines, the grandstands, and the multi-level VIP that surrounded all sides of the expansive Campo Marte grass field. Ready to witness Olympic level sport, they experienced an incredible afternoon that did not disappoint.
The action began at 13.00 hrs (1p.m. CST) with a competitive round against the clock, the CSI5* GNP Seguros Trophy. Thirty-six of the fifty-four entries also collected scores for their respective Global Champions League teams, determining the winners of the GCL Mexico 2017. Simultaneously, the top twenty-five scores from this class qualified to compete in the CSI5* Longines GCT Grand Prix of Mexico.
Not just any class, this first grand prix of this tremendous tour showcased twenty-five top notch show jumpers and offered both €320.000 (~$286,000) in prize money and world-ranking points. After testing the horses and riders over the last two days, course designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) set a sixteen effort 1.60m course that certainly required scope across wide oxers and over tall verticals. Returning in reverse order of how they placed in the CSI5* GNP Seguros Trophy qualifier, six riders mastered the first round without faults. Similar to yesterday’s results, two riders, Marco Kutscher (GER) and Paris Sellon (USA), missed the jump-off by scoring just a single time fault.
The twenty-one-year-old Irish talent Bertram Allen and the Belgian stallion Hector van d’Abdijhoeve were first to jump-off. With Allen’s spunky mount giving a buck wherever he had the chance, the pair had a rail midway through for four faults. Second in, third ranked rider in the world Daniel Deusser of Germany piloting the Stephex Stables’ Belgian mare Equita van T Zorgvliet also scored four faults, leaving the door open for the remaining four competitors. The crowd cheered as Italian Lorenzo de Luca galloped in on the amazing Oldenburg stallion Armitages Boy. He gave them what they were waiting for: a clean round in 43.40, albeit with a couple of bucks from his mount.
With the bar set at clean, the final three to go had to take risks. Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and his Belgian mare Gancia de Muze made daring turns and galloped to the final oxer, taking the lead in a speedy 37.58. Now the pressure was even more intense on the final two. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED), also aboard a mare, VDL Groep Arera C, stopped the clock clean in 38.37, putting him second to Bruynseels.
Last to go was twenty-four-year-old Swiss rider Martin Fuchs on the ten-year-old stallion Chaplin. A nail-biter to the end, Fuchs finished fault-free in 37.07, an incredible 0.51 seconds faster than Bruynseels. The crowd went wild and the young show jumping star returned their enthusiasm. Removing his hat, he celebrated as they cheered. Fuchs is relatively new to the 5* ring, though he and Chaplin ended 2016 with a big win at the CSI5* CHI Al Shaqab in Doha. The pressure was on to produce top results once again and the pair delivered.
“I had a good jump-off, and when I looked up and saw that it was a half second faster than Niels it was an amazing feeling,” Fuchs said. “Emotions were so high. People were screaming. It was a really, really nice atmosphere.”
The winner explained that fellow competitors Nicola Philippaerts and Max Kuhner helped him plan his jump-off. “I started off with the same amount of strides as Niels. Then I took a big risk for the oxer at number three and went fast for the combination and then for the next vertical, which was a tight turn,” Fuchs explained. “It was everything or nothing. My horse is very fast, super careful—he has a big heart and he gave it all to me today.”