Beezie Madden pulled off a stunning victory in the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Chantilly (France) on July 20 in a power-packed class that saw the very best in the world compete in one of the most stunning jump offs of the 2013 GCT series.
Madden snatched victory from the hands of Christian Ahlmann, but his second place finish propelled him to the top of the Longines Global Tour ranking—a clear 19 points ahead of his nearest rival, Luciana Diniz. U.S. rider Laura Kraut had led the rankings going into Chantilly, but 12 faults in Round 1 on Cedric kept her out of the point-earning in Chantilly, which dropped her to third in the ranking.
“The course was more difficult than it seemed with nine double clears,” said Madden, who rode Cortes ‘C’ to the title. “It was a fantastic jump-off and I had to go all out. My horse was fantastic. He makes big jumps seem little. I love a big field like this, great atmosphere with the public and top riders. I turned it on from [fence 1 to 2] and my horse was fantastic to run to the last like that. I am in a lucky spot in my career.” See full results of the class.
Ahlmann and his star bay stallion Codex One had held the lead and were heading for their second GCT victory of the season but crossed the finish more than a second slower than Madden. Ahlmann now leads the ranking and the FEI World Ranking and says is he "very happy" with both positions.
The level of competition in the Grand Prix was stratospheric, and nine of the most exceptional rider and horse combinations were able to pull off double clears, and then five of those delivered outstanding triple clears.
The hugely challenging course set by Uliano Vezzani produced several dramatic upsets in the first round, with Richard Spooner and Cristallo retiring and current ranking leader Laura Kraut clocking up 12 faults on Cedric.
Edwina Tops-Alexander managed to stay on board after Guccio put in a stop at the first part of the triple combination and Jerome Hurel had a nasty fall at the Longines combination.
But it was a story of exceptionally high quality sport with 27 out of the top 30 riders in the world on show in Chantilly delivering astonishingly high octane competition. And all taking place in one of the most enchanting locations in the world of equestrian sport.
Margie Engle made her first GCT appearance since 2007 and placed 13th with a clear first round and just 4 faults in the second round on the 9-year-old stallion Royce. The young American Olympian who made history last summer, Reed Kessler, was last to go in the first round aboard a new horse to her string, Wolf S. The 10-year-old gelding by Numero Uno is capable but the combination are still getting to know each other so perhaps a clear was a lot to ask. They finished with 13 first-round faults.
The second round could expect 11 clear rounds to come back out of the total 18 that were expected. The four-faulters that made the second round qualification were Jessica Springsteen, Kent Farrington, Brianne Goutal, Simon Delestre, Luciana Diniz, Patrice Delaveau and Harrie Smolders but only Simon Delestre and Luciana Diniz were able to earn a clear score in the second round.
Nine impressive combinations returned for the jump-off.
First in the ring were Jane Richard Philips and Pablo de Virton and they earned a clear with a time of 44.86 seconds. Strong but not overly fast, it would be unlikely that this would be good enough for first place. Hopes of a French win were diminished as Roger Yves Bost and Qoud'Coeur de la Loge had an unfortunate rail.
But it was world No. 1-ranked rider Ahlmann and Codex One who would take over the lead for Germany with a time of 43.08 seconds. After such a strong and aggressive round, this would certainly be the time to beat.
Despite their best efforts, Nick Skelton and Big Star earned an early rail on course, proving, if only for a moment, that they too are mortal.
France's Jerome Hurel had a nasty fall coming out of the Longines double combination, but luckily, it seemed that both horse and rider were alright.
Brash, after finishing second in Estoril, would have serious drive to land the lead in this grand prix but alas a time of 43.79 seconds meant second place for the Scotsman. “My horse is jumping fantastically. I am going to have to get a bit quicker though,” Brash said.
Beerbaum and Zinedine, having displayed time and time again that they could be another great combination for Germany, tried their very best to catch their fellow German, but alas 44.05 seconds would not be good enough for first or second unfortunately.
Then Madden, aboard the black gelding Cortes ‘C,’ who entered the ring. Tackling the course with her usual subtle and precise style, Madden ate away the seconds that seemed to hold back so many combinations and crossed the finish line with a truly outstanding time of 41.58 seconds. Leaving Ahlmann and Codex One in the dust, Madden and Cortes C made a very fast round look like a rather walk in the park.