Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts impressed the crowds in the jump-off of Friday’s CIS5* Longines Global Champions Tour of London on his big jumping horse 11 year old Aikido Z. There was no doubt that he was riding to win as he came out hard over the first fence and galloped into the Union Jack, keeping up the pace into the Longines upright, securing a beautiful and fast clear, finishing at 39.13s.

“Today is my third show on this horse. He doesn’t look that quick – but he’s got a good canter. I am so happy that owners gave him to me to ride. He’s getting better and better!” said Philippaerts.

As the summer evening shadows lengthened across the sand arena at the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea, the crowds were kept enthralled by some of the world’s top riders as they battled it out. Whilst fourteen riders qualified for the jump-off, Max Kühner (AUT), Harrie Smolders (NED), Bassem Mohammed (QAT) and Anna Kellnerova (CZE) opted to miss it and rest their horses ahead of Saturday’s action. However, with ten riding, it was tight at the top, with just fractions of a second separating the riders.

Photo courtesy of LGCT/Stefano Grasso

Denis Lynch (IRL) took the Big Ben inspired fence at a rapid pace which he maintained throughout the jump off, despite a little buck into the Roman columns, he finished with a lovely clear and with a fast enough time to take him into an early lead with 39.61s. He finally secured a podium finish, taking second.

Christian Kukuk (GER) came out of the starting gate with one thing on his mind and the crowd loved his smooth round. However, it was not enough to beat Lynch and he finished on 39.84.

The 325 year old Grade I and II listed building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, provided the perfect backdrop as fantastic horse and rider combinations used determination and focus to tackle the course.

Daniel Deusser (GER) was the first out of the starting gate for the evening event. He took the first fences quickly, but his smooth and relaxed ride came to an abrupt halt at the Union Jack fence as SX Hidalgo VG refused, rearing in disapproval and the poles came down, leaving him finishing on 48.71s and four faults.

Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) stayed governed throughout, finishing on 41.19s and fourth place. Meanwhile, Darragh Kenny picked up the pace with some superbly tight turns, but took the Longines final fence down at a gallop to groans of dismay from the crowds. He finished with a rapid time of 38.11, but with four penalty points.

Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels suffered the same fate, flying round the course and was looking good to the last, but finished a little flat and nudged the last fence down. Jérôme Guery (BEL) was tight into the turns with Garfield de Tiji Des Templiers, however he was unlucky to get the last fence down to finish on four penalty points too.

Tiffany Foster (CAN) started well, but was unfortunate to wobble the red phone box fence and missed out on a clear.

Finally, last to go was Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) with Vagabond de la Pomme who enjoyed a solid round and fifth position. But it was Nicola Philippaerts’ day, with the popular Belgian rider taking the first feature class win of the weekend.

Smolders & Zinius. Photo courtesy of LGCT/Stefano Grasso.

Smolders & Zinius Win Opening Class at LGCT London

It was a great start for the home talent on the first day of day of action at the Longines Global Champions Tour in London, with four British riders in the top ten of the first CIS5* of the show. However, they did not have enough to beat Harrie Smolders (NED) – the current leader of the overall LGCT Rankings. He came through the starting gate on his bay gelding Zinius with big ambitions and rapid pace, taking the top spot with a very fast clear of 26.39s.

“I have a quick horse – he’s here for this class and Sunday, which only gives us two options to win and we had a good start! This horse does really well and he wins a lot! I was fast in the beginning of the second phase – I knew I had the time!”

William Funnell (GBR) on Billy Angelo held the top spot for most of the first CSI5* class, finishing a beautiful clear round on 23.91s, putting him into second. There was not even a breath between him and fellow Brit Laura Renwick on her 14 year old chestnut stallion Van de Vivaldi, who did an impressively economical round, stopping the clock at 27.05s, finding a place on podium and taking third.

Hosted for the first time in history at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, spectators have been treated to some glorious sunshine and stunning performances from some of the best riders in the world, all set against the beautiful and iconic grounds. Amongst those watching the action from the covered grandstands have been several of the three hundred Chelsea Pensioners who live on site, resplendent in their scarlet coats.

Despite having some challenging combinations, including a large oxer heading into a triple combination taking inspiration from the London Underground tube sign, the course was one of the softer ones of the Tour. It meant a number of fast clears and there was not a lot of space between any of the top riders.

Swiss rider Martin Fuchs took the fourth spot finishing on 28.32s, with two more Brits chasing him in fifth and sixth. John Whitaker (GBR) who turns sixty-two on Saturday went clear on 15 year old stallion Argento, finishing on 28.59s, and Olympic Gold medallist Ben Maher followed behind him on his bay mare MTF Madame X with 29.58s, wowing the crowds with some nifty turns.

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