Great Britain’s Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever wowed a sell-out crowd with a phenomenal home win in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London presented by Sapinda. Scott Brash and his London 2012 teammate Ben Maher took the top spots almost five years to the day since they won Olympic gold in the team jumping.
“It’s been a great day and I am absolutely delighted,” said Scott after the win. “It was a very fast jump-off, but thankfully Hello Forever pricked his ears and went for it. He is an incredible horse and he really did his best for me; you have to be on your toes when you’re riding him, but he’s fast and athletic. I love winning in front of a home crowd and this has been amazing venue.”
With a €300,000 prize up grabs, the track was going to be a big ask of horse and rider. The technical London-themed course – including obstacles featuring Big Ben, the London Underground and Horseguards – was built to a maximum height of 1.60m, but it proved to be a very jumpable course as a total of 11 pairs cleared the first round and went through to the jump-off.
There was disappointment for national hero John Whitaker on his 62nd Birthday. Despite starting off well on the nine-year old Cassinis Chaplin, the stallion put in a sudden refusal, unseating John over the fence. Spectators were relieved as it was announced John was speaking with the medics and was taken to hospital for medical checks. John’s team has since reported that he is “stiff and sore” but otherwise doing alright.
Determined to deliver a strong round, Scott Brash rode into the ring with the fire-cracker Hello Forever, watched by owners Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham. To the delight of the crowd, the popular pair delivered a foot-perfect clear, ensuring Great Britain would be in the jump-off. The crowd were doubly hopeful for a home win, after Ben Maher quickly followed with a text book round to take prime position in the hotly contested jump-off.
In the sudden death jump-off, there was an audible gasp as Scott and Hello Forever successfully completed a handbrake turn into fence five, and Hello Forever galloped around the remainder of the course to go into first on a heart-pounding time of 38.62s.
British flags were already flying in the packed grandstands as as Ben Maher entered the ring to a huge cheer. He went for it and there was a hair’s breadth between him and Brash as he galloped to the last on MTF Madame X. Horse and rider cleared the fence to a roar from the crowd in a time of 38.86s – a mere 0.4s slower than Brash but good enough for a British 1-2.
“I don’t know what more I could have done in the jump-off,” said Ben of his red ribbon finish. “I said to Scott that maybe if I ate a little less last night then maybe I could have been quicker! Scott is one of the fastest riders in the world, and if I was going to be beaten by anybody, then for sure a home win is always good for the sport in our country.”
The patriotic atmosphere heightened even further in the prize giving as The Chelsea Pensioners joined the line-up next to the podium and were applauded by the crowd.
There are only three stages left on the 15-event Championship race as the Tour heads to Valkenswaard in the Netherlands. Harrie Smolders remains at the top of the leaderboard on 263 points edging away from Alberto Zorzi in second on 245 points and Christian Ahlmann in third on 220 points.