Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Jessica Springsteen (USA) took the biggest win of her career today with a scintillating victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Ramatuelle/Saint-Tropez in a high calibre 14-strong jump off.
Springsteen reigned supreme riding the 12 year old bay mare RMF Zecilie beating second place rider Pieter Devos (BEL) by just over a second in a tremendous climax to the event on the shores of the Mediterranean. She is the 17th rider to qualify for the prestigious LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in November.
A delighted Springsteen said: ”[It’s 100% the biggest win of my career], I’m still in shock – [RMF Zecilie] jumped so amazing and I’m so happy. She was with me every step of the way. I’m so excited about GC Prague Playoffs, Helena [Stormans] said there are only two chances left [to qualify] and I laughed it off and said “no way” so I really can’t believe it, I’m so excited.”
Speaking about the upcoming LGCT Finals in New York, close to where Springsteen grew up with her dad Bruce and mum Patti in New Jersey, she said: “It’s my home town, my whole family are coming. I think it is going to be unbelievable – I’m so looking forward to it!”
The LGCT Finals from 27 – 29 September are set to be a truly mouth-watering showdown with a wafer-thin margin of only one point separating the season’s top two riders Pieter Devos (BEL) and Ben Maher (GBR). Devos took over the ranking lead after finishing second in today’s LGCT Grand Prix of Ramatuelle/Saint-Tropez putting him on 278 points ahead of Ben Maher (GBR) on 277. Simon Delestre (FRA) took third place today with Hermes Ryan, the Frenchman just missing out on the chance to qualify for the LGCT Super Grand Prix.
The glittering destination of Ramatuelle/Saint-Tropez and the Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show played host to the 17th round of action of the 2019 LGCT. Against the azure waters of the Mediterranean on the French Riviera, stylish guests and spectators enjoyed the beautiful shopping colonnade where global brands including Longines, McLaren, Hermès and Dolce & Gabbana were showcased.
In the rectangular sand arena, Uliano Vezzani’s course was a technical challenge, with fences coming up thick and fast. One of the biggest tests was the Longines treble, featuring an oxer in, a delicate vertical to jump and asking for plenty of power to clear the wide oxer out. The course featured a delicate Dolce & Gabbana vertical, a Cavalleria Toscana oxer, a wide Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show oxer and the troublesome white wavy plank which had already caused headaches over the weekend.
First to go was long-time LGCT ranking leader, Pieter Devos (BEL) who brought out his top mare Claire Z. Knowing he had a strong chance of regaining the overall lead with a stellar performance today due to Ben Maher (GBR) not qualifying for the LGCT Grand Prix, the Belgian rider took his time around the arena, giving the expressive bay mare as much time as possible to the fences. With the 11 year old horse responding beautifully to Devos’ requests, they maximised their opportunity by delivering the first clear of the competition and opening up a chance for him to re-take the overall ranking lead.
The middle part of the combination fell for Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Casquell, as did the final GC oxer – 8 faults today meaning the 2018 LGCT Super Grand Prix winner would not be in with a chance of qualifying today. Christian Kukuk (GER) brought out his impressive stallion Limoncello NT, the big-striding horse making short work of the tough track. They left all the fences up, the German talent beaming in delight as he praised his horse following their clear. His performance was quickly followed by U25 star, British rider Harry Charles (GBR) putting in a confident round on the 13 year old bay gelding Borsato to add their names to the jump-off.
Another foot-perfect clear from Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof’s Dante would make it four through so far, with the promise of tantalising line-up taking shape. The second part of the double of verticals, set down the VIP hospitality, caught out Evelina Tovek and her 9 year old gelding Winnetou de la Hamente Z, and there was heartache for Luciana Diniz (POR) with Vertigo du Desert after the very first fence fell. German legend Ludger Beerbaum (GER) proved the course was a true test for the world’s best, after two fences fell during his round with Cool Feeling. The multiple Olympic gold medallist eased off on their speed, picking up a time fault and finishing on 9 faults today.
However another young talent quickly blasted his way into the jump-off, after Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Igor put in a masterful round to finish clear. The U25 rider gave it maximum effort, showcasing the adjustability and ability of his formidable chestnut gelding and Verlooy punched the air in delight after their flawless performance. French hopes soared after Simon Delestre (FRA) and Hermes Ryan added their names to the jump-off line-up, before they were quickly followed by Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) with Best Boy 2, Kevin Staut (FRA) with For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC, Carlos Lopez (COL) with Ulhane de Conde, Eric van der Vleuten (NED) with Wunschkind 19, Jessica Springsteen (USA) with RMF Zecilie and Maurice Tebbel (GER) with Don Diarado.
There was disappointment for Peder Fredricson (SWE) and his 14 year old Zacramento after they punched out the first fence, meaning they had a long way to go to finish the course – an otherwise perfect round for the formidable combination. Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) and Vancouver de Lanlore were caught out by the light double of verticals, 4 faults ruling them out of a chance of a home win today. Laura Kraut (USA) and Curious George were also caught out by the troublesome first fence, and Daniel Deusser (GER) picked up an unusual 8 faults with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. Faults came too for big names such as Marcus Ehning (GER) with Funky Fred, Scott Brash (GBR) with Hello M’Lady, Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) with Beauville Z and Christian Ahlmann (GER) with Take A Chance On Me Z.
Marco Kutscher (GER) produced a flowing round with his 10 year old gelding Casallvano to add their names to the jump-off list, where they would also be joined by Kent Farrington (USA) with Austria 2 to make it a 14-rider jump-off.
Pieter Devos (BEL) was the first to return to the ring, the Belgian with the double incentive of a win and a strong bid to reclaim the LGCT championship lead. With his bay mare Claire Z fresh and keen to the fences they flew around the course, powering to the finish in 36.40s and throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the field.
Christian Kukuk (GER) knew he had to take some chances, but a turn too tight to the LGCT oxer saw the duo clip the wing and bring down the fence, the pair out of a chance of the win today.
Young talent Harry Charles (GBR) and Borsato proved to be a naturally quick pair, but the first part of the Longines double came down, as did the final Longines oxer – the pair finishing with 8 faults today.
Marc Houtzager (NED) and Sterrehof’s Dante put in a strong round, but were slower on the clock, the duo having to settle for 37.30s. Another threat to the lead was Jos Verlooy (BEL) with Igor who were up on the split time, however they couldn’t better their compatriot’s time down the final line, finishing in 37.36s.
French hearts were in mouths as Simon Delestre (FRA) and the small but agile Hermes Ryan powered around the arena, the quick horse shaving milliseconds off the time on the corners. But just by a fraction they couldn’t match Devos’ time, finishing in 36.88s.
Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and Best Boy 2 put in a valiant attempt but they too couldn’t beat the Belgian’s time, crossing the line in a slower 37.92s. The final French chance Kevin Staut (FRA) and For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC had the water tray vertical down, with local fans hopes of a home win today crushed. Carlos Lopez (COL) finished second in Saint Tropez last year, and looked determined to do one better with Ulhane de Conde today. They gave it everything with a flying stride to the last, but they too fell short of Devos’ time after a wider turn to the penultimate fence, stopping the clock in 37.02s.
A lucky rub at the first for Eric van der Vleuten (NED) and Wunschkind 19 put them slightly off balance, and a sticky moment at the Longines double saw them finish clear but slower on the time-sheets, stopping the clock in 37.62s.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) and RMF Zecilie flew around the first part of the course, the bay mare naturally speedy and making up time across the ground. Springsteen found every stride perfectly, the bay mare responding beautifully to her requests and they crossed the finish line a full second faster in a spectacular 35.38s.
Maurice Tebbel (GER) had the Longines double down meaning they would not pick up a podium today. Compatriot Marco Kutscher (GER) and Casallvano would also have an unlucky pole, leaving one rider left with a chance of the win. Final rider Kent Farrington (USA) gave it a valiant try with Austria 2 – taking out a stride to the last as the crowd gasped. But it was a try too far, the Longines oxer falling and ruling them out of a podium today as Farrington groaned in disappointment.
So it would be a first-ever LGCT Grand Prix win for Jessica Springsteen (USA) who adds her name to the formidable line-up of riders competing in Prague for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
The Championship now looks to New York from the 27th – 29th September, where the Finals of the 2019 season will play out and the watching world will see which GCL team and which individual rider will be crowned the overall Champion.