London GCT: Can the Tour mend fences with the British public?
It’s almost bittersweet to watch big-time show jumping in Britain, a place where the Golden Age of the sport was born … and then strangely, sadly, slowly, diminished at the hands of itself. Organizers overexposed and over-commercialized the sport—but that isn’t the melancholy aspect.
It is more the fact is that the organizers and sponsors and riders all knew it, were warned extensively, and sold it out anyway. Instead of dwelling, let’s realize that society at large is doing the same, that well-supported leadership has sold humanity out throughout civilization without much fuss being made–not counting the screams–so let’s move on to the event and focus on the innocent.
Show Jumping: the British Comeback Tour
The Longines Global Champions Tour is a new initiative that offers spectators an inside seat at the event, as in the old days of public success, with good announcers and a crowd-pleasing focus. Olympic victory on home soil in 2012 proved the British are still in the hunt, so to speak … maybe interest is there for the right spark.
The big event on Saturday had the stands mostly full, and the energy was good. It was an older crowd than some European events, and they seemed informed and engaged. Unfortunately the long team competition does wear out spectators, but this has become equestrian tradition too–and there was a good crowd all through, even as the shadows lengthened.
Saturday’s Grandprix proved deceptively tough. Only 7 clears went through from a world-class field, with no bogey fence or special trouble—though there was a mean plank in the last line that dared horses to breathe wrong. Many did.
Show Jumping Showdown
The jump-off opened with a blazing round from Scott Brash and the 9-yr old Hello Mr. President. They left only one door open, an early stutter that added a quarter second or so.
Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum followed up with his usual precision, but his mount Casello is the sturdier kind of warmblood: the pair jumped slower, and clean. The next British rider was Michael Whitaker on El Wee Widge who took 3 rails, but Sweden’s Peder Fredrickson and his young wonderhorse Hansson went clear and a second slower than Brash to notch into second.
The young Harry Charles, son of Olympic gold medalist Peter Charles, gave the ride of his career on ABC Quantum Cruise but knocked a rail off an imposing vertical on the final turn. Ireland’s Dennis Lynch took RMF Echo around in a scorcher less than a half second off Scott’s pace to end in 5th … leaving only hometown hero Ben Mayer on his wonderful horse Explosion.
The same two riders—fellow Gold-Medal team Olympians Brash and Maher—had the same showdown in last year’s Tour Grandprix. Last into the ring, Ben was the only threat to Scott’s win, and he guided Explosion around to pip out Brash’s time—but they had the fateful vertical on the last turn and missed the podium.
It’s great to see a repeat of the fun rivalry between these two young Brits, who are no longer the future of British team, but actual mainstays of the nation’s jumping flag overseas. It’s nice to see the crowd supporting them too! May they be welcomed and served.