Scott Brash and his superstar 17-year-old mare Ursula XII won the opening LGCT Grand Prix of 2018 in phenomenal style, becoming the first athlete to qualify for the new Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix later this year.
The two-time LGCT Champion delivered a lightning fast round setting up the tantalising prospect of a historic Championship treble.
“I’m ecstatic about this win,” said Scott shortly before he topped the podium in an emotional prize giving. “Ursula is 17 and this win means a lot to us all.”
“The crowd are incredible here, they really get behind us all and they’ve really made it a special venue for us.”
Brash’s win, ahed of Daniel Deusser (GER) and Alberto Zorzi (ITA), secures his ticket to the new GC Prague Play Offs, which will be held this December in the Czech capital City. Each LGCT event Grand Prix winner will qualify for a place in the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix.
The British star said: ”I’m delighted to be in the new [Longines Global Champions] Super Grand Prix, it’s a fantastic competition for us riders to have and to aim for and I think it’s going to be really exciting in Prague, a totally new concept and the first time they go indoors. It’s really exciting this year, it’s opened up a whole new level and I’m really excited to be a part of it in Prague.” Brash revealed this could be Ursula’s last season but said she was feeling “so great” there will be more major shows to come.
After the packed crowds had enjoyed a riveting climax to the GCL, in which the Miami Celtics produced a sensational victory, the focus returned to individual honours as the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in the heart of Mexico City took top billing.
A relentless, up-to-height track curved around this vast grass arena including the return of the offset Mexico fillers. But the most influential line came down the home stretch over a hefty Longines triple combination of vertical-oxer-vertical, which required power jumping before six strides took riders to a mighty oxer and pushed them over the finish line. A generous time allowed did at least take off some of the pressure.
The challenge was set and an elite field of 33 of the world’s leading athletes qualifying from the previous class came forward to bid for glory.
The first of the clears came early with Paola Amilibia (ESP) and the 15-year-old mare Prunella d’Ariel demonstrating great style and presence as they cleared the obstacles.
Alberto Zorzi (ITA), who swapped horses from the qualifying class to the talented mare Contanga, rode a meticulous clear which was soon followed by Germany’s Daniel Deusser and the up-and-coming stallion Tobago Z.
Twice champion of the series Scott Brash (GBR) and Ursula XII breathed a sigh of relief having survived an alarmingly rattling pole at the final oxer, then Belgium’s Jerome Guery and Garfield de Tiji des Templiers made it five clears on the card as the class reached the half-way point.
No jump-off would be complete without the lightning quick Eric Lamaze (CAN) and an enthusiastic clear from his great mare Fine Lady put the pair right in the mix for the timed decider.
All the Mexican riders received a hero’s welcome and the crowd exploded in jubilation when Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) riding Ares nailed a clear and earned the seventh ticket to the jump-off. Fighting fit and clearly relishing his return to top flight competition after a spell on the sidelines through injury, Glock’s London looked back to his very best when jumping a super clear for Gerco Schroder (NED).
Ten combinations finished on just the four faults including Christian Kukuk (GER) from the Ludger Beerbaum stable riding Limonchello NT and Nicola Philippaerts (BEL), back from his London Knights fourth-place appearance with the hugely scopey stallion H&M Chilli Willi.
So a formidable jump-off field of eight returned and, with some of the fastest riders in the world going into battle, the scene was set for a nail-biting finale over the shortened course.
Paola Amilibia had the unenviable task of pathfinder and returned with four faults on Prunella d’Ariel. Alberto Zorzi and Contanga shot out of the starting gates and soared round with a deliberate clear in 40.37s to set an impressive target.
He was soon followed by Daniel Deusser with Tobago Z, who pulled off some masterful turns in a brilliantly calculated round and slipped into the lead by six tenths of a second — 40.31s was the new time to beat.
Fourth in was the ice cool Scott Brash (GBR), who powered round the expansive grass arena on Ursula XII. A big push down the final line on the big-striding mare and a flier over the last sent them rocketing into the lead in 38.65s – almost two seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Just three riders could come between Scott and victory in this opening LGCT Grand Prix of the series and first up was the ultra-dangerous Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady. The pace was immense and the Canadian Olympic gold medallist pegged Scott’s time in 37.52s but agonizingly rolled the final fence.
Mexico’s Nicolas Pizzaro made a valiant effort but four faults in 40.80s put them top five – a great result for the home rider.
Last to go, Gerco Schroder and Glock’s London opened up over the first part of the course, but the second part of the double fell and they came home in 40.83s with four penalties.
Scott said: “This ring was fantastic for Ursula as I could really play to her strength which his her stride, but it was still a very competitive jump-off and we did our best.”