Miami Beach, Fla.—April 9
Two mares, two flawless efforts, two vastly different styles.
It came down to two superstars in the $500,000 Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach on Saturday afternoon, and while neither put a foot wrong in the six-horse jump-off, in the end, it was the smaller, hotter Lintea Tequila who gave rider Edwina Tops-Alexander the gold medal in the Longines Global Champions Tour’s opening leg, just steps from South Florida’s east coast shoreline.
Edwina Tops-Alexander aboard Lintea Tequila. Photo by Molly Sorge
Hometown favorite McLain Ward and HH Azur finished a gallant second, while Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Epleaser van’t Heike, the only other pair to jump a faultless jump-off, were third.
“She’s a great horse, she’s a fast horse. She’s careful, she’s very sure of herself, and she gives the maximum,” Tops-Alexander said of her 13-year-old Holsteiner mare (Campbell—Orania II, Corrado II). “I’m very fortunate to have a horse like this.”
In the two-round event, Tops-Alexander had the edge. Not only did the two-time Global Champions Tour overall champion have the advantageous position of jumping last, but she also had a mare better suited to the narrow indoors-like ring that was temporarily constructed on the sandy shores of Miami Beach. Lintea Tequila made up time on a quick turnaround to the second fence, a left rollback to the Douglas Elliman vertical, and on the gallop to the final fence, the Longines vertical.
The duo had a brief scare at the Miami Beach vertical when the mare shifted in, but the jump stayed in the cups. The pair stopped the timers in 34.59 seconds to secure victory over Ward and Azur, who had jumped an impressive round of their own in 35.78 seconds.
“I just went as fast as I could,” Tops-Alexander said. “I was a little lucky at the Miami fence. She fell a lot to the left, but it actually helped me in the end.”
For Ward, a second consecutive second place finish in a $500,000 class—he and Azur, a taller, long mare with an explosive, airy jump, were runners-up in the Rolex Grand Prix in Wellington (Fla.) last week—had the competitor in him thinking of where he could have been faster, but it also had the horseman in him very pleased with his mount. Even in the press conference, commentator Steven Wilde referred to Azur as the “wonder horse.”
HH Azur over the last in the $500,000 LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach, on the way to second with McLain Ward. Photo by Molly Sorge
“Everyone can see what Azur is,” Ward said. “I try to stay out of her way, but I pulled the reins too many times today in the jump-off. It was a great winner. I’m proud of my horse and our team. On to the next.”
McLain Ward talks about his jump-off with HH Azur
Back In The Top Spot
As the wife of Jan Tops, the founder and president of the LGCT, Tops-Alexander has been a fixture on the tour throughout its 11-year existence. Although she is a two-time champion of the series, having claimed the title in 2011 and 2012, Saturday’s win marked her first in a LGCT Grand Prix since 2012, when she captured the Grand Prix of Doha (Qatar) with former top mount Cevo Itot du Chateau, who is now retired. “I’m obviously really happy,” she said. “It’s been a while since I won a Global Tour grand prix.”
It’s also the first victory for her mount since topping the Grand Prix of Shaqab (Qatar) last March. According to Tops-Alexander, a fresh mount made for a winning mount.
Edwina Alexander-Tops and Lintea Tequila in the victory gallop of the $500,000 LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach. Photo by Molly Sorge
“From the first round, I had a great feeling,” she said. “Everything went really smooth. She was very fresh the first day [in Miami] and feeling very good. I was a little worried she may have been a little too fresh, but I think it paid off leaving her off yesterday.”
A Mixed Bag From The Americans
The United States was the only nation to be represented by multiple riders in the jump-off, as Georgina Bloomberg and Lilli jumped two clear rounds before having one rail in the jump-off. Had the rail stayed up, their time would have been good enough for second.
However, the rest of the American contingent produced mixed results. Kent Farrington and Voyeur advanced to the second round of 18 but did not continue to the jump-off after accumulating an eight-fault score in Round 2. Lauren Hough and Ohlala, the second-fastest four-faulters in Round 1, just missed the cutoff into Round 2. Jack Towell and Laura Kraut also had one rail apiece on the first go-round, but Audrey Coulter had two rails with Capital Colnardo, Todd Minikus had three rails with Quality Girl, and both Richard Spooner and Margie Engle, riding less-experienced mounts Chaventyno and Abunola, respectively, retired on course.
But the opportunity to participate in the LGCT’s only United States stop was still a grand experience.
“It’s great to have these events in North America to bring up our sport to the level of Europe,” Ward said. “For the top riders in our country, it’s very exciting.”
From here, the LGCT continues in Mexico City next week.
“It’s an amazing start to the series,” Jan Tops said of the Miami venue, in its second year of existence. “The whole circumstances here—the footing, the horses feeling good in this weather—were great. The horses jumped better and better each day. We have a sport here that’s totally different from classical arenas, and it makes this show so unique.”
Check back at coth.com tomorrow for coverage from the final class of GCT Miami, the inaugural Global Champions League team competition.
Can’t make it to Miami? Take our video tour of the event and feel like you’re right in the midst of the action.
For more in-depth coverage from GCT Miami, check out the April 25 issue of the Chronicle.