After 11 legs the Longines Global Champions Tour is heading for one of the most knife edge finals in the history of the championship series. The magnificent Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre in Doha will be a fittingly dramatic stage for the climax of the 2013 season. And the race for the championship crown is still wide open.
All season the world’s leading international rider and horse combinations have fought for supremacy from Madrid to Monaco and London to Lausanne. They have jumped by day and by night, beside the sea and in capital city centres. In small sand arenas and vast grass show grounds.
The ultimate winner of the 2013 season will have proved that he or she is a true all-rounder and deserving of the championship title and the biggest slice of the final €1 million prize purse.
Today in Vienna some of the fastest rider's came together to fight it out for the last big title of this exciting weekend in Vienna, Austria. The true speed demons of the Longines Global Champions Tour were out in force this sunny afternoon.
Harrie Smolders, Gerco Schroder, Ben Maher, Richard Spooner, Hans-Dieter Dreher, Lauren Hough, Luca Maria Moneta and Daniel Deusser were amongst those keen to cinch the Vienna Masters titie. Ben was certainly eager for a win aboard Jane Clark's lovely gelding Urico. Fresh from a long-break from competition following a small injury this winter in Florida, Urico has been awaiting his chance to shine next to Cella and Tripple X III and today he earned that chance.
"It was a great class today. All the best riders in the world, Marcus Ehning, Michael Whitaker, put up a great fight today. Urico was feeling fresh today because he hasn't jumped all weekend. I am really happy to finally win a class again on him" said Vienna Masters winner, Ben Maher.
It was a strong class and heavily built, with height set at a solid 1.50/1.55. Eleven riders jumped a clear first round, ensuring a chance at the Vienna Masters title. Edwina Tops-Alexander and Erenice Horta were the first combination to jump clear but it was Michael Whitaker and his lovely new mare Elie van de Kolmen who quickly took over the lead for Great Britain. Stopping the clock at 45.06 seconds, Michael set a strong time to beat.
Germany's true technician Marcus Ehning delivered a textbook round aboard his younger grey stallion Cornado NRW, who at only 10 years old is looking undaunted at the prospect of filling the shoes of the legendary Plot Blue. Finishing with a time of 44.12 seconds.
But alas, Ben Maher and Urico were last to go and the British combination took full advantage of the ideal position to take every available risk on course. Despite not actually looking faster then Marcus Ehning or Michael Whitaker, Ben shaved off almost a whole two seconds from Marcus' time, landing after the final fence with 42.45 seconds.
It was a fantastic win for the new combination, who came together this past winter in Florida, as Ben took over the ride from the USA's Mario Deslauriers. Having won some strong classes in Florida, the combination have not been able to walk back into the ring until now, but it was sure worth the wait.
A wonderful conclusion to a entertaining weekend in Vienna, we now look to Doha, Qatar as riders prepare for the ultimate showdown, the tour of tours, the 2013 Longines Global Champions Tour Championship title.