World No.1 showjumper Scott Brash has defended his title to be crowned 2014 Longines Global Champions Tour Champion after a thrilling finale in Doha, Qatar, at the weekend.
The 2012 Olympic Gold medallist took fourth place in Saturday night’s Doha Grand Prix after picking up an excruciating time fault on Hello Sanctos in the first round, which put him out of the final jump-off and denied him the chance to try for a fourth LGCT Grand Prix Gold medal this season.
Brash finished on equal points with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE), who was the class winner at Doha with Casall ASK, but as Brash had more wins to his credit this season, he takes the title. Bengtsson was in the same position in 2012, when Edwina Tops-Alexander. In third overall, just a single point in arrears, is four-time Olympic medallist Ludger Beerbaum (GER)
Beerbaum also failed to make the final after picking up 16 faults in the first round with his stallion Zinedine, his substitute ride when his top horse Chiara was not 100% fit to compete. Ludger led the Championship by just 12 points, but collected no more points in the Longines Global Champions Tour of Doha Grand Prix.
Earlier, Beerbaum and Brash named Bengtsson’s Casall ASK as the best horse in this three-way race and their predictions rang true. Putting in one of only two treble clears, the other being Luciana Diniz (POR) with Fit For Fun (2nd) and Yann Candele (CAN) with Showgirl (3rd, 4 faults), the Swede always looked like the one to beat.
Remarkably, few of the world-class field managed to jump clean around the first round built by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani – just five progressed to the second round with a zero score such was the technicality and size of the track. It was clear the course designer was out to sort the best from the rest in this final test of the season. Riders with less experience at this, the very highest level of the sport, or with younger horses not yet seasoned at top level, struggled with the demands of the course.
The jump-off course was a mix of daring turns and brave gallops which was open to attack from a courageous rider. Luciana Diniz set the pace in the three-horse jump off with her lovely little chestnut and really put the pressure on the two to follow her with a time of 43.85s. Yann Candele pushed his horse as much as he could but lowered an upright on a turn to finish 3rd in 43.20s. Bengtsson and Casall ASK set off like they meant business and the stallion looked like he would never touch a pole. There was some gasps from the spectators at some of the Swede’s bold lines and turns, but Casall rose to the occasion with great style to take the final victory of the season in a time of 40.46s.
Afterwards, Brash said Hello Sanctos had been incredible all year. “I nearly slapped myself today after getting a time fault in the first round. I just have to pinch myself and enjoy it while I have him, those sort of horses don’t come along too often so you have to make the most of it and enjoy it while I have him. He is a winner. Whenever he comes out he wins – his strike rate is phenomenal. He’s an incredible horse and I am lucky to be riding him.”