April 22, 2016 – Antwerp, Belgium – Simon Delestre grabbed the 5* spotlight this evening as the top three riders came within two hundredths of a second of each other in an extraordinary demonstration of high calibre sport at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Antwerp.

It was a battle of nanoseconds as the World #1 and former LGCT Antwerp Grand Prix winner took the honours in the 1.50 / 1.55m CSI5* BMW-sponsored class. The pace and performance was sensational, with many of the world’s top horses and riders in action under floodlights on the River Scheldt in Europe’s ‘Diamond City.’

With spectators holding their breath, Bertram Allen (IRL) on the experienced Romanov and Penelope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme, were joint second, crossing the line at the exact same time in 38.39s — something highly unusual in the sport. It was seen only once before last year in Paris, when Ben Maher and Karim El Zoghby took a joint win in the final class of the day._SGB9621Bertram Allen and Romanov. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

The first round course featured light poles and cups, with delicacy the word of the day. Three skinny poles played their part with many caught out in the intimate floodlit arena.

Ten riders went through to the jump-off, with some of the world’s top horse and rider combinations in the mix for this electric round of competition. Penelope Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme were the first to jump clear in a strong 38.39s. Despite Vagabond de la Pomme not being a classic speed horse, Penelope rode a smooth round, shaving all corners possible and covering the ground with a good galloping stride._SGB8411Pénélope Leprevost on Vagabond de la Pomme. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Home rider Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and his fiery hose Gancia de Muze set off at a phenomenal pace, however were unable to catch the leading French rider, much to the groan of the local watching crowd. Compatriot Pieter Devos (BEL) and Espoir were faster in time, but with one fence down were unable to claim a medal in the tight speed class._SGB8568Niels Bruynseels on Gancia de Muze. 

World number 1 Simon Delestre and his Grand Prix winning horse Qlassic Bois Margot were next to go, steaming ahead and crossing the line just two tenths faster than his fellow French rider, in an impressive 38.37s._SGB8946 (2)Simon Delestre on Qlassic Bois Margot. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Jessica Mendoza (GBR) and yesterday’s speed class winner Eric Lamaze (CAN) both caught an unlucky pole as they pushed for the fastest time. _SGB9073Jessica Mendoza on Sam de Bacon. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Uptown Boy caught a time fault with their jump-off round, and John Whitaker (GBR) with the stunning grey Echo of Light joined those on four faults launching a little too early into the combination._SGB9343

Janika Sprunger on Uptown Boy. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

_SGB9398John Whitaker on Echo Of Light. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Patrice Delaveau (FRA) was the final rider and despite putting in a valiant effort also came away with four faults, leaving his compatriot Simon with the win._SGB0016Patrice Delaveau on Leontine Ledimar Z H D C. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Earlier in the day Egypt’s Abdel Saïd won the opening two phase Artisan Frams 1.45m CSI5* class with the fiery 9 year old bay gelding Luron S Z, stopping the clock at an impressive 21.52s. Many of the world’s top horses were on show ahead of the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Antwerp, with famous faces including Casall ASK, Codex One, Chiara, Cornet d’Amour and Flora de Mariposa._SGC0665Abdel Saïd on Luron S Z. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

The flowing two phase course was a great starting point for many of the world’s top combinations, with the high calibre athletes exploring the arena for the first time. A total of 19 went into the second round, to race against the clock, and it an opportunity to witness global combinations in one place for the first time in Europe this season.

Pius Schwizer and his bay mare 11 year Ailina came a close second in 22.05 seconds._SGC1088Pius Schwizer and Ailina. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

John Whitaker and his upcoming mare Ornellaia took a strong third place, just three tenths of a second off P2 and crossing the line in 22.39s. _SGC0517John Whitaker and Ornellaia. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Ireland’s Denis Lynch put in an impressive early performance with Camilla, holding the lead for the majority of the class, however had to settle for 5th position overall. _SGC0003Denis Lynch on Camilla. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Other notable names on form were Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP), Jos Verlooy (BEL), Schuyler Riley (USA), Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Laura Kraut (USA).

Saturday night’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Antwerp will kick off at 18:45. For the full event information, please click here.