Release date: 20/07/2013
Beezie Madden pulled off a stunning victory in Chantilly in a power-packed Grand Prix that saw the very best in the world in one of the most stunning jump offs of the 2013 championship race.
American Beezie snatched victory from the hands of Christian Ahlmann, but his second place finish propelled him to the top of the Longines Global Tour ranking - a clear 19 points ahead of his nearest rival. Riding her 11-year-old bay gelding Cortes C, Beezie galloped to the finish in a blistering 41.58 and admitted it was a "fantastic jump off" and promised to step up the competition at other European events on the Tour.
Christian Ahlmann and his star bay stallion Codex One had held the lead and were heading for the second Grand Prix victory of the season but crossed the finish in 43.08 in front of a thousands of show jumping fans in the grandstand and the VIP hospitality lodges. Christian now leads the ranking and the World Ranking and says is he "very happy" with both positions.
The level of competition in the Grand Prix was stratospheric and only the most exceptional rider and horse combinations were able to pull off double clears and then five riders delivered outstanding triple clears.
Britain's Scott Brash was third on Hello Sanctos in 43.79 and said competition was exceptionally high with 9 out of the Top 10 in the world Chantilly.
The hugely challenging big course set by Uliano Vezzani produced several dramatic upsets in the first round with Richard Spooner and Cristallo retiring and current ranking leader Laura Kraut clocking up 12 faults on Cedric. Edwina Tops-Alexander managed to stay on board after Guccio put in a stop at the first part of the triple combination and Jerome Hurel had a nasty fall at the Longines combination.
But it was a story of exceptionally high quality sport with 27 out of the Top 30 on show in Chantilly - 9 out of the Top 10 - delievering astonishingly high octane competition. And all taking place in one of the most enchanting locations in the world of equestrian sport.
Grand Prix Report
Well if we wondered whether there would be a Grand Prix that matched the technicality and challenges of the Grand Prix in London, then today's Grand Prix of Chantilly certainly stood up to that challenge. Walking the course, it was clear that despite the generous size of the arena, tricky related lines and difficult combinations would challenge riders.
The First Round
Uliano Vezzani, one of Italy's truly great course designers set a deceiving course, with plenty of understated challenges that would catch even the most seasoned partnerships unawares. Qatar's Faleh Suwead Al Ajami was first in the ring with his 12 year old gelding Zorro Z. Now this combination made history for Qatari equestrian sport in Estoril, Portugal only weeks ago by earning the first position in a Grand Prix jump off by any Qatari rider in Longines Global Champions Tour history. So it seemed a rather appropriate first combination to start the Grand Prix off.
However, the first clear round of the afternoon would come from a French rider in fact. Frenchman Jerome Hurel landed an excellent clear round aboard Ohm de Ponthual after the thirteen combinations before him had difficultly. Jerome was not the first jump fault free round however, with the Netherland's Harrie Smolders and Jackson Hole earning a clear round but suffering a single time fault in the process.
Switzerland earned the second clear round with Jane Richard Philips delivering an excellent round for both Longines and her country colors aboard the incredibly scopey gelding Pablo de Virton. It seems that the closer the pint-sized jockey gets this horse to the fence, the bigger it jumps. Leaving plenty of space between her and the jumps, Jane and Pablo made Uliano's course look rather elementary. Margie Goldstein-Engel showed the younger riders how it is to be done with a fabulous execution aboard her 9-year-old stallion Royce. Having tremendous success in North America, it was no surprise to see such a rider in the second round.
The legendary Ludger Beerbaum earned a clear for Germany while Roger Yves Bost acquired thundering applause from the French crowd with an excellent clear aboard Quod'Couer de la Loge. It seemed France would see not one but two riders in the second round, with possibility of a win. Scott Brash, Denis Lynch and Beezie Madden all followed suit with strong clears, reminding the applauding French crowd that a French win would not be easily obtained.
A surprising 12 faults from London winner Ben Maher and his grey mare Cella but Nick Skelton kept British hopes alive with the usual flawless round aboard Big Star. Christian Ahlmann reminded us why he is number one in the world aboard Codex One and Brazil's top ranking rider Doda Miranda ensured that the Brazilian colors would be represented in the second round.
Despite strong hopes and plenty of bets for two-time season winner Edwina Tops-Alexander to win this afternoon's Grand Prix of Chantilly, it would not be meant to be. Edwina and Guccio unfortunately had a disagreement at the first element of the Longines triple combination and the top-ranked lady rider elected to jump the first fence instead and then retire. The young American Olympian who made history last summer, Reed Kessler, was last to go in the first round aboard a new horse to her strong, Wolf S. The 10 year old gelding, by Numero Uno, is capable but the combination are still getting to know each other so perhaps a clear was a lot to ask.
The Second Round
The second round could expect eleven clear rounds to come back out of the total eighteen that were expected. The four faulters that made the second round qualification were Jessica Springsteen, Kent Farrington, Brianne Goutal, Simon Delestre, Luciana Diniz, Patrice Delaveau and Harrie Smolders but only Simon Delestre and Luciana Diniz were able to earn a clear score in the second round. But despite their best efforts in the second round, to earn a clear score, 4 faults would haunt them from the first round and would keep them from a possible Grand Prix victory.
Jane Richard Philips sponsored by Longines and representing Switzerland, were the first combination of the clear rounds and they too were the first combination to earn a double clear. Jumping in their usual effortless style, Jane made the Swiss proud with a possibility of a Grand Prix victory. Roger Yves Bost's double clear for France earned huge applause from a packed out Grand stand and plenty of passionate French men and women in the VIP came to the railing to express their support.
Unfortunately this would not be the case for Denis Lynch of Ireland but rather unsurprisingly Nick Skelton and Big Star earned a double clear round for Great Britain. Soon to come Scott Brash, would have hopes of doing the same.
Margie's best efforts would not last as she and Royce had an unlucky four faults while Jerome Hurel kept French hopes alive with another strong double clear for France. It seemed the best was left for last as Scott Brash, Ludger Beerbaum and Beezie Madden all followed with clear rounds that meant we would see quite a competitive jump off.
Brazil's top-ranking rider, Alvaro de Miranda, was last to go in the second round and he earned a much-approved clear aboard his Olympic mount AD Rahmannshof's Bogeno.
The Jump off
There would be nine impressive combinations to come in the jump off, which would mean that this Grand Prix title would certainly not be easily acquired. Nine combinations meant that this would be one of the larger jump off's we've seen this season.
First in the ring were Jane Richard Philips and Pablo de Virton and they earned a clear with a time of 44.86 seconds. Strong but not overly fast, it would be unlikely that this would be good enough for first place. Hopes of a French win were slightly crushed as Roger Yves Bost and Qoud'Coeur de la Loge had an unfortunate rail.
But it was World number one ranked rider Christian Ahlmann and Codex One who would take over the lead for Germany with a time of 43.08 seconds. After such a strong and aggressive round, this would certainly be the time to beat.
Despite their best efforts, Nick Skelton and Big Star would earned an early rail on course, proving, if only for a moment, that they too are mortal.
France's Jerome Hurel would have a nasty fall coming out of the Longines double combination and would have to walk both man and beast, each out on their own steam after a rather scary tumble. Luckily, it seemed that both horse and rider were alright.
Scott Brash, after finishing second in Estoril, would have serious drive to land the lead in this Grand Prix but alas a time of 43.79 seconds would mean second place for the moment for the Scotsman. Ludger Beerbaum and Zinedine, having displayed time and time again that they could be another great combination for Germany, tried their very best to catch their fellow German, but alas 44.05 seconds would not be good enough for first or second unfortunately.
Then it was Beezie Madden, aboard her jet-black gelding Cortes C, who entered the ring. Beezie is no stranger to success and the leading lady rider, currently ranked the leading lady rider in the world, would have every intention of landing a US victory on French soil.
Tackling the course with her usual subtle and precise style, Beezie ate away the seconds that seemed to hold back so many combinations and crossed the finish line with an incredible, truly outstanding time, of 41.58 seconds. Leaving Christian Ahlmann and Codex One in the dust, Beezie and Cortes C made a very fast round look like a rather walk in the park.
Doda Miranda was last to go and the only rider that stood between Beezie and a US victory on the Longines Global Champions Tour. Having an early rail with Bogeno meant that the many US riders, friends and family could congratulate and celebrate for the red, white and blue would be put on display tonight. Coming off of a terrific Summer series at Spruce Meadows and an amazing win in Gothenburg in the spring, Beezie certainly looks as though she will make 2013 one to remember.
Beezie Madden (USA) - Winner
The course was more difficult than it seemed with 9 double clears. It was a fantastic jump off and I had to go out. My horse was fantastic. He makes big jumps seem little. I love a big field like this, great atmosphere with the public and top riders. I turned it on from 1 - 2 and my horse was fantastic to run to the last like that. I am in a lucky spot in my career. I have some fantastic horses. It will be a goal to be No1 (on the ranking).
Beezie said she will be in Europe over the next five weeks and is determined to aim for the top of the ranking.
Christian Ahlmann (GER) - Second and New Overall Ranking Leader
It was a really good class and jump off, until Beezie came on! But I am really, really happy with my horse and 1.5 seconds is quite far away. If I could do the jump off one more time I could do one less stride from 1 - 2 but I don’t think it would be enough with Beezie’s time.
Christian gave a triumphant thumbs up to the 7,000-strong crowd in the main grandstand after his top level round on Codex One catapulted him to No1 spot.
Scott Brash (GB) - Third
My horse is jumping fantastically. I am going to have to get a bit quicker though.
Uliano (Vezzani, course designer) has done a fantastic job. It is hard to be a course designer, there is a lot of pressure. The calibre of riders and horses was fantastic here, very good competition, the top end of the sport.
Scott also admitted he had to ride an extra competition with his horse Hello Sanctos to qualify for the Grand Prix: “I retired yesterday not knowing I had to complete the course to qualify. I could not be happier with my horse today. Now he needs a good rest.
Jan Tops - President Longines Global Champions Tour
It was really close, great sport again. When you see the podium all gold, silver Olympic medallists you don’t get any higher. The show has been growing over the years and the public were sitting here today for 5 hours in this heat. Uliano knows exactly how to put the right numbers in the jump off and that is a real art.
Gerard Manzanali - President Jumping Chantilly
I am very happy. It is a dream stage here and the Global Tour brings the best riders in the world so it was a dream jump off. We had the world’s best, the Top 30, Olympic level. We had an exceptional course designer. 6,000 to 7,000 spectators.
Juan Carlos Capelli - Longines Vice President and Head of International Marketing
It is incredible organisation here. I feel nothing but happiness. It is a wonderful venue.