Bassem Hassan Mohammed shot to the top of the Longines Global Champions Tour ranking after a turbo charged Grand Prix won in electrifying style by French speed ace Simon Delestre.
The second leg of the Tour in Belgium fired up the championship race as the young Qatari rider scored enough points to take the lead from Scott Brash who won in Miami Beach. With his eyes on the overall championship Bassem vowed: “I’m going to fight for it.”
Bassem is on 66 points and closely followed by Hans-Dieter Dreher on 59 points after a blistering performance in Antwerp taking second place in the Grand Prix. Edwina Tops-Alexander was third on the podium on Lintea Tequila, the bay mare she described as one of her “best ever horses”.
It was a night of sporting drama on the banks of the vast River Scheldt as thousands of fans and guests watched the world’s best battle for a chance to put valuable points on the ranking board early in the championship season.
Eight out of the world’s Top 10 riders were on the warpath in Antwerp with a mission to topple the seemingly invincible Brit Scott Brash, reigning Tour champion, off the top of the early season ranking.
In the new venue of Cockerill Quay along the giant River Scheldt, with boats gliding past the arena, spectators filled every available space for the big 1.60m Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix presented by Merit Capital.
There was serious horse power in the arena, not least with the new BMW i8 super car on display, with Ludger Beerbaum’s Chaman, Rolf Goran Bengtsson’s Casall and Bassem Hassan Mohammed’s Palloubet D Halong in contention.
In the first round Luc Musette’s course produced a steady stream of clear rounds and only the fastest on 4 faults would be able to win through to the second round. The faults were spread around the course as riders including Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, Penelope Leprevost, Eric Lamaze and Daniel Deusser were all ejected from the second round with Jane Richard Phillips suffering an uncharacteristic fall.
Doda de Miranda, Constant Van Paesschen, Pius Schwizer and Henrik von Eckermann scraping into the second round with speedy round on four faults. French stars Simon Delestre and Kevin Staut led the fastest clears as tension mounted for the dramatic showdown with eyes on the €300,000 prize.
In the second round Sheikh Ali Al Thani of Qatar delivered the first double clear just inside the time allowed on Vienna Olympic. Ben Maher of Great Britain had an unexpected rail down when his chestnut mare Diva got too close to the first part of the yellow double combination.
Christian Ahlmann on Codex One also went double clear setting up a jump off and was joined by Hans Dieter Dreher who had his work cut out holding the dark bay stallion Embassy II in check to produce a brilliant double clear. Edwina Tops-Alexander added to the heavyweight jump off line-up on the talented Tequila. Egypt’s Karim El Zoghby on Amelia won a place in the jump off and the final double clear came from Simon Delestre on Ryan Des Hayettes.
The stakes were high for the second Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix jump off of 2015. After two strong rounds Sheikh Ali was not able to capitalise and finished on 10 faults. Christian Ahlmann looked like a winner but had a shock rail down on Codex One and Karim El Zoghby had four faults despite an impressive showing in Antwerp.
Edwina Tops-Alexander secured a powerful performance on Tequila making the big and daunting BMW fence look easy and putting in a tight turn to the Merit Capital vertical putting her on 40.30.
Hans-Dieter powered to second place in 38.74 on the formidable Embassy II who is on fire after a break of a few months before his outing at the LGCT Miami Beach earlier this month.
It came down to the wire with the last rider, Simon Delestre, living up to his reputation for speed clinching the winning time of 37.96 and a first prize purse of €99,000 on his 10 year old gelding Ryan Des Hayettes.
Photo: Stefano Grasso