Martin Fuchs thrust his hat into the air to acknowledge the capacity crowd’s standing ovation as he landed over the final fence to claim victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Madrid, elation written across his face.
Last to go in the 11-strong jump-off, the Swiss rider knew he had to beat Maikel van der Vleuten’s leading time of 39.77 seconds. He attacked Spanish course designer Santiago Varela Ullastres’s inviting track, pushing 12-year-old Chaplin ever faster and higher. He was less than three tenths of a second quicker than Maikel to take the high-octane win under the Spanish spring sunshine.
“My horse Chaplin was great; it’s an amazing stadium and an amazing crowd,” said a delighted Martin. “I was lucky to be last to go and then I knew what I had to do and I had the support of all the Spanish fans here.
“I was actually watching Maikel’s round in the warm-up on my phone [via GC TV]. It was in my back pocket so I heard the comments about the strides between one and two and to the double. And when Maikel came I pulled the phone out to watch and see what I could do a bit quicker than him. It feels amazing to win here. It’s my first time competing here and I’m definitely coming back; it’s an amazing show.”
Speaking about qualifying for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, taking place at the GC Prague Playoffs this November, Martin said: “It’s a very special class, and a big goal for us riders to be in the LGCT Super Grand Prix. Last year I wasn’t qualified and I was watching the class and I really wanted to ride in it, so it’s great that I’m now already qualified.”
From the 34 starters in the first round, early clears were few and far between, with faults cropping up all around this varied track: at the open water, at the combination, at the first fence. The time was also influential as Swedes Malin Baryard-Johnson and Peder Fredricson both left all the fences intact but could not quite get under the 86-second time allowed and picked up a single time fault.
But the jump-off was packed with A-list names, and Israel’s Danielle Goldstein set off at a blistering pace on Lizziemary, the duo riding high on their most recent win at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Shanghai. The 13-year-old chestnut mare blazed around clear, steeplechasing some of the fences, with Danielle’s signature feathers in her hair flying. They posted a clear in 40.86 seconds, setting a high bar for the remaining 10 riders.
Marcus Ehning (GER), a previous winner here, kept pace with Danielle, but could not keep up the first part of the double up when Funky Fred, a 14-year-old Westfalian stallion by For Pleasure, clocked it with his left fore. He finished on four faults in 40.97 seconds.
Bart Bles (NED) and the grey Belgian gelding Gin D had already attracted praise for their performances here, but concreted that by pulling off a fast and harmonious clear to take the lead. The 13-year-old grey horse pinged off the ground and broke the beam in 40.11 seconds. They would eventually claim third — their first LGCT podium finish.
Jerome Guery’s (BEL) Quel Homme De Hus has incomparable scope and energy but the 13-year-old Holstein stallion by Quidam De Revel got too close to the first part of the double, lost his shape over the fence and hollowed, catching the top rail. They stopped the clock at 40 seconds exactly, but with four faults.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) — a previous winner here with Chaplin’s sire Verdi — had a clear game plan with Dana Blue to go for it. The chunky grey mare by Mr Blue swept into the lead in 39.77 seconds with a deceptively fast round despite Maikel checking her mid-way through the course. Next to go, Daniel Deusser (GER), had different tactics with the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Calisto Blue. He played it safe and produced a calm clear round in 45.92 seconds, which will have filled the horse with confidence.
Heartbreakingly Ludger Beerbaum (GER) hit the first fence riding the 16-year-old Casello, then eased off the pace. They also had the final fence down and a time fault, so did not trouble the leading pack. Evelina Tovek (SWE) and the young mare Dalila De La Pomme were next to take on the challenge. The 10-year-old Belgian mare clipped the Longines vertical hard, but it stayed up. Their luck ran out at the triple bar though, and they finished on four faults in 42.64 seconds.
With just three riders remaining, Luciana Diniz (POR) – another former winner here – set off fast on the inexperienced 10-year-old grey gelding Vertigo Du Desert. The attractive horse had his ears pricked throughout despite lowering the second fence, but the horse would undoubtably be a star of the future for Luciana. Next to go was last year’s LGCT Grand Prix of Madrid’s winner Ben Maher (GBR) on Explosion W. The 10-year-old gelding by Chacco Blue is naturally quick over fences and between them but he lowered the back rail of the oxer coming out of the double with his hind feet. When a second pole clattered to the ground, Ben and the energetic chestnut knew they were out of podium contention.
It was all down to the final rider, Martin Fuchs (SUI), Ben Maher’s teammate for their GCL win as London Knights in the earlier team competition. Riding Chaplin, he flew from the first to the second fence, making his intention to win crystal clear. They kicked on around the whole course, surviving a light rub at the Longines vertical. They put in a gigantic leap at the final fence and posted a winning time of 39.41 seconds.
After five legs of LGCT competition, Belgium’s Pieter Devos remains top the rankings, with Daniel Deusser (GER) in second and Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) now in third.
Competition at the LGCT Madrid concludes tomorrow with two five-star classes, including the King’s Cup: watch all the action live on GCTV. After Madrid, the Tour moves to Hamburg, Germany (29 May – 1 June).