Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Chaplin pulled off an astonishing Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix win in Cascais, Estoril beating his London Knights teammate Ben Maher (GBR) only hours after they won the GCL together earlier in the evening.
The Swiss star earned a standing ovation from a packed house in the beautiful grass arena where every seat and every space was taken by fans not wanting to miss a moment of the high adrenaline world class 1.60m competition.
The win was a repeat performance of Madrid where London Knights won the GCL team competition and Fuchs went on to win the LGCT Grand Prix qualifying him for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague.
With Fuchs already qualified for the GC Playoffs it was second place Ben Maher who now gets his coveted ticket to the LGCT Super Grand Prix showdown.
Ecstatic after his victory Fuchs said: “I do love turf and my horse Chaplin is great in the big rings and was great again today. Luigi and my whole family are here and it is my mother’s birthday and I hope they are happy to see me win.”
Speaking about his jaw-dropping win he said: “I could see Ben go and wanted to do one less from two to three and turn to the double and Chaplin is just a very quick horse. So is Explosion but today the luck was on my side!”
Speaking about the phenomenal double success in Portugal Fuchs said: “It was great teamwork, we won the team competition and now we both have a ticket to Prague.”
Pieter Devos (BEL), who won through to the jump off but finished on four faults, clinched enough points to rocket back into the overall LGCT ranking lead, sitting 16 points ahead of Germany’s Daniel Deusser. Earlier in the night Devos said: “I am going to do everything again to be No1 in the Championship.” After the competition he said: “I am very happy to be on top again. There are a few riders who can win the Championship and I am very motivated to stay there.”
Ben Maher finished second in the LGCT Grand Prix and continued his stealthy move up the ranking into third place and only three points behind Deusser. Ireland’s Michael Duffy finished in third place in the LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais after a brilliant ride on Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars.
Stunning aerial images of the beautiful show ground in Cascais across to the spectacular Estoril coastline were beamed around the world as the action got underway for the 9th event of the 2019 LGCT series.
Frank Rothenberger’s course was one of the most technical and substantial of the 2019 season so far. The track inside the immaculate velvety grass arena took no prisoners and it was literally standing room only as the action got underway under floodlights. International guests including footballer Gonçalo Guedes, watched from the chic hospitality lounge and the President of the Republic of Portugal Rebelo Marcelo de Sousa was among fans watching the day unfold.
Antonio Malos Almeida (POR) was first on the daunting course and was greeted with a wall of applause from the local crowd. But Almeida and Volver de la Vigne ended on 13 faults in total including a time penalty after they finished outside the 80 second time allowed.
Other contenders including Abdel Said (EGY) and Venise du Reverdy, Yuri Mansur (BRA) and Casantos and Christian Kukuk (GER) and Quintino all ended up on 13 faults as the tricky Longines triple combination began to claim its victims.
But it was not long to wait for the first clear round of the night as Christian Ahlmann (GER) and the powerful grey Clintrexo Z delivered in style taking sharp early angles and five strides to the triple to clear the challenge smoothly along with the crossed poles of the unusual Swedish oxer.
Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Important de Muze swiftly followed up with an impressive display of sharp jumping for a clear round well inside the time allowed and triggering a jump off.
There was disappointment for Laura Kraut (USA) and Curious George clocking up four faults at the triple combination. But the on form Belgian Niels Bruynseels and Utamaro d’Ecaussines were the first to do eight strides to the Swedish oxer and finished off their smart round with zero faults. The crowd were hoping for a Portuguese rider to win through to the jump off but it was not to be and there was disappointment as Luciana Diniz (POR) and Vertigo du Desert were among those exiting on 13 faults.
Mark McAuley (IRL) and Utchan de Belheme were the next combination to jump clear with six strides the Longines combination. But it was not to be for Bertram Allen (IRL) and Molly Malone V as the pair had the back rail of the triple down putting them out of the running. The troublesome Longines triple also dashed the chances of Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) and Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot who took down the back rail in the final section – an outcome that was to be repeated over and again during the night.
There were still only four clear rounds after 18 combinations underlining the huge challenge laid out across the 110m x 70m arena. Even Eric van der Vleuten (NED) and the wonderful Wunschkind came unstuck in the middle of the triple followed by the talented youngster Harry Charles (GBR) and the young Dane Emil Hallundbaek who retired.
Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Virtuose Champeix jumped clear and fast. Despite a magnificent round Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and the experienced MJT Nevados S knocked an early oxer fishing their chances. In quick succession Bart Bles (NED) and Gin D took a well-earned place in the jump off followed by a clear from Pieter Devos (BEL) and Claire Z in seriously determined mood to take back the LGCT ranking lead.
Ben Maher (GBR) and the super-talented chestnut Explosion W made mincemeat of the demanding course with six strides to the Longines triple combination. The big-striding chestnut displayed the elasticity in his body and responded brilliantly to the pressure.
The natural talent of young Irishman Michael Duffy was on show with Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars demanding plenty of attention. Duffy was rewarded for his huge effort with a place in the jump off. He was followed by a superlative clear round from Marcus Ehning (GER) and Funky Fred with the German rider keeping the stallion comfortable around the track for a magical clear.
Last to go Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Chaplin looked formidable from the start racing to the first fence with a sharp turn to the combination where Chaplin reacted brilliantly and breezed into the jump off.
The stage was set with a spectacular world class line up of 11 top combinations in the big showdown.
Christian Ahlmann and Clintrexo Z were first in but an early sharp turn to the LGCT oxer inflicted four faults in a quick time of 37.54.
Darragh Kenny and Important de Muze were tight to the LGCT oxer and rolled back to the Longines double combination before a sweeping turn back to the lamp post vertical and a dash to the finish for a clear in 39.56.
Niels Bruynseels and the short-striding Utamaro d’Ecaussines were quick from the start but despite drifting to the side during the combination they gave it their all and crossed the finish line clear but in 40.55.
Next in was Mark McAuley and Utchan de Belheme but it was not to be their night as the back rail of the second part of the combination hit the ground leaving them on four faults in 40.36.
Frenchman Julien Epaillard had a heart-breaking four faults at the very first fence on Virtuose Champeix and was tight to the LGCT oxer which fell bringing his score to 8 in 40.06.
Bart Bles and Gin D continued to demonstrate their strong form. The pair were nail-bitingly close to the second fence but cleared it before sprinting round the rest of the track but not fast enogjuh as they finished in 41.08.
Pieter Devos was in full focus and set on taking over the ranking lead. He rode Claire Z to a seemingly beautiful angle from the second fence to the third but the back rail of the LGCT oxer tumbled. He kept up the pace coming home in 38.76.
It was a high octane night and tension mounted as 2018 LGCT Champion Ben Maher and the explosive Explosion W entered the ring. They were in top gear out of the starting blocks but still managed to be careful to the oxer and the combination before releasing the handbrake to the penultimate upright and the final fence, stopping the clock in 38.09 and into the lead.
Michael Duffy and Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars were ahead at the mid section by around half a second but despite a massive effort they finished with a creditable clear but not fast enough at 38.58 putting them in third place.
Maestro Ehning and Funky Fred set off in classic style racing to the second oxer and turning beautifully to the following LGCT oxer. They were tight to the double combination but cleared it smoothly and were up on Maher’s time. But Funky Fred clipped the rail of the penultimate vertical and they ended on four faults but in a super speedy 36.21.
It was only a few hours earlier that Maher and London Knights teammate Martin Fuchs had won the GCL team competition together and now they were locked in combat in the climax to the individual LGCT Grand Prix.
Fuchs and Chaplin raced over the turf from the word go and were soon ahead of Maher and Explosion W after a tight turn into the double combination. They were slightly wider to the penultimate upright but their dramatic dash to the final fence clinched it in 37.64 as the crowd rose to their feet to give a standing ovation.
The Championship now looks to Monaco next week, for the 10th round of action on the 2019 Championship – marking the midway point of the season.
Duarte Guedes, LGCT Cascais President: “We have lots of top events in Cascais – in Cascais we start new relationships in sports. We have revolutionised the equestrian sport and always want to try new things. We help the sport do better and we are very glad. The public loves it for sure and it’s 14 years now so it is already part of the National calendar. We are very proud to host this event, you can always count on us.”
Jan Tops, LGCT President and Founder: “[Duarte] is a sportsman, very detailed and follows the other events as well, he is really into it and when we talk about the sport he is always willing to do better and compares us against the best sports in the world to give us very good advice – that’s why we are part of it. You think it can’t get better but with these kind of horses and riders they want to win – there is so much thought and preparation behind it all, what you see in the ring is real championship. They are all hard core professionals, they have a lot of people behind each of them; owner, trainers, staff and every year gets more professional and that reflects in what you see every week.”
Pieter Devos, LGCT Ranking Leader: “I am very happy to be on the top, Daniel was in front and he wasn’t here this weekend so I knew I had to do good here. I was clear in the [LGCT] Grand Prix and I am very happy with my horses. There are still lots of event to go, I’m not there yet but being number one at the moment gives a good feeling. I think the key is to have a few horses to compete at the highest level every time in your string, that’s what makes my results keepers.”
Michael Duffy, LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais, 3rd place; “It is great to be on the podium – it is my first time on the [LGCT] podium and when you’re against guys like this… when I was a kid growing up I watched them, I just need to ride a bit faster but good to be put it up against them. [Touch The Stars] is a very talented horse and has a great heart. I have only had him for four shows so I have a good feeling about him. We will be working hard to try go two better in Chantilly. Ben was just before me I knew he was going to be quick, all you can do is do the best. Hopefully next time it will be enough.”
Ben Maher, LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais, 2nd place: “Explosion had a long rest after last year and it has just taken some time to get into form again. He’s fresh and under used so hopefully will keep going strong till the end [of the season]. I just need to get faster. I left too much space for Martin today. I watched the others go, I decided to take the risk and do the five – I think it was faster for the way my horse jumps. Martin kept going to the last, I had to swing wide but Martin at the moment is with Chaplin one of the best horse in the world. I qualified for the [LGCT] Super Grand Prix so it is a nice conciliation prize.”
Martin Fuchs, LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais winner: “It is an advantage to come in last. Marcus was quite a bit faster than Ben so that gave me lots of confidence. It’s my mum’s birthday week so [my family and friends] came here with my owners, so nice of course to win in front of them and we have a lot of Portuguese friends as we have a house not far from here. It is great to win here. Chaplin was jumping three big rounds so he won’t be on the Tour for a while I will bring Clooney my top horse to Monaco and we see how it goes.“