Belgian 20-year-old Contant van Paesschen won Friday’s big class in spectacular style at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai with his relatively new ride Citizenguard Cadjanine Z.
The young rider scorched around Uliano Vezzani’s jump-off course to take the valuable win from Ireland’s Billy Twomey with Ardcolum Duke and Cassio Rivetti of Ukraine in third with Chataga. The local crowd thoroughly enjoyed their first taste of world-class international show jumping, clapping enthusiastically as the young star finished his round.
With $US370,000 in prize money on the table, the line-up of top riders in Shanghai meant business as they set out on course. Of the 28 starters, nine clears moved through to the jump-off after the ‘firm but fair’ first round. Every rider in the jump-off jumped a second clear round, so it was all down to the time and in the end only three seconds separated the top eight riders.
Billy Twomey, from third to go in the draw, set the pace at a blistering 39.16s. Grand Prix favourite Ludger Beerbaum chose to save his young mount Carinou and opted for a steady clear. From the middle of the draw Constant van Paesschen was a on a mission, “I thought, “Wow! They are all jumping clear! I will have to go fast,” he said after the class. He stopped the clock at 39.13s.
Try as they might, the rest of the competitors were not able to catch the speedy young Belgian. The winner of the morning class Jane Richard Philips (SUI) put in second great performance of the day for another double clear. While Michael Whitaker (GBR), Marc Houtzager (NED) Cassio Rivetti and Billy Twomey were all within 0.5s of the winner, none could better the fastest time.
“It is fantastic to win here, the show is great, the facilities are really great and I am so pleased. The crowd were really supportive and my horse jumped really good,” said van Paesschen after the class.
The young rider took his first LGCT Bronze medal in Antwerp at the start of this year’s Championship season and looks to be one to watch for the rest of the Tour. “I hope to do well in the Grand Prix tomorrow, it is exciting to be here and I am really enjoying the city.”
Earlier in the day Irish duo Billy Twomey and Shane Breen took part in an official autograph signing session in the public village area of the show. “It was incredible!” said Breen afterwards. “I have never seen anything like it! They had to hold the public back and the atmosphere was amazing. We were there for 25 minutes, but we could of sat there all afternoon the crowd was so big.”
Speaking at the post competition press conference at the showground, Ludger Beerbaum spoke about the growth of show jumping in China and the talented local riders aiming for CSI5* level:
“I think the Chinese riders are in a really good way, it is just a matter of time when they will be able to compete at this level. I am sure in three or four years’ time, we will have a lot of Chinese riders competing.”
Chinese rider John Han, who is competing this weekend in Shanghai, was praised by Beerbaum as one of the top Chinese riders. “I just want to perform well. You can never predict the result but I will give full effort to my performance,” Han said.
Jan Tops, President of the Tour, explained the three-year project with the Chinese authorities and the European Commission to enable international competition horses to be flown to China and compete on the mainland.
“This was not even possible for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, so the horses had to compete in Hong Kong. But we worked hard with the authorities and we had incredible support and we are proud to be here. Today we open a new chapter in the history of our sport. A truly historic milestone for equestrian sport in China.”