A spectacular win for Devos in the very first LGCT Shanghai Grand Prix

7 June - The winner of the inaugural Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai Grand Prix in the shadow of the stunning China Art Palace is Belgium’s Pieter Devos, a new star in China, following a fabulous performance with Dream of India Greenfield in front of an excited Shanghai crowd who cheered and clapped as he rose to the top of the podium. Silver medal position went to Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Old Chap Tame, and Bronze to Michel Hecart (FRA) with Pasha du Gue.

The result extends Edwina Tops-Alexanders (AUS) Ranking Lead to 23 points, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) - 5th in tonight’s Grand Prix - moved up into second place with 91 points, while Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano takes 3rd with 78 points, closely followed by Ben Maher (GBR), Marcus Ehning (GER) and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE). At LGCT Cannes next weekend, Round Five of the 2014 Championship, there will be many star riders eager to take the maximum 40 points in the Grand Prix.

The event was widely covered by Chinese TV networks and thousands of spectators enjoyed the top-level sporting entertainment and smart retail village. The large VIP hospitality lodge was packed with a fashion-conscious crowd from across China, including senior Government figures and captains of industry. Limousines chauffeured guests to the unique show ground and famous Asian actor and new Ambassador of Elegance for GCT Title Partner Longines Eddie Peng added some celebrity stardust to Grand Prix day. Guests of partners FedEx, Audi, RL Polo also enjoyed the first world-class show jumping competition ever to be held in mainland China from their prime VIP hospitality area.

Pieter Devos’ performance today was described as ‘inspiring’ by the newly-converted show jumping fans who have flocked to the event here in Shanghai. The first round was a tough and demanding course set by Uliano Vezzani (ITA). There were no real 'bogey' fences, but the technical lines and tricky distances came thick and fast causing more than a few top names to pick up penalties. Of the 18 riders through to the second round, eleven carried zero penalties with seven going through on four faults.

The second round saw just five double clears. Once again tough distances and awkward lines caused many to lower a rail, but the crowd cheered loudly after every clean round. First to go in the jump-off was the face of LGCT Shanghai, Ludger Beerbaum with Zinedine who was forced to take some chances and lowered a vertical mid-way through the round. Michel Hecart, still in fantastic form at 60, set the standard from second to go at 45.40s, but he was immediately bettered by Tops-Alexander who stopped the clock at 43.12s. Pieter Devos rode the round of his life, taking chances at every turn to produce a winning time of 42.48s.

Last to go, Abdullah al Sharbatly and big-jumping Tobalio looked like they would demolish the winning time coming to the last, but the World Championship medallist took off too far away and at such speed his horse was unable to clear the final fence, so he finished in 4th. The crowd rose to their feet to acknowledge the human and equine athletic performance today as the three medal winner entered the arena. Looking ahead to Cannes just six days away, the Championship race is well and truly on for the 2014 official Longines Global Champions Tour series.

 Press Conference

Pieter Devos - "I’m very happy. I think today we saw some great sport. I would like to thank all the sponsors and organisers for putting on this great event here in China. We saw a lot of spectators, which means there is a lot of interest which was great and it it nice to see so many people at a first event. I think we had three really good rounds and a fantastic jump-off. I think I have a very good horse which made me win today. I had the horse since he was 1 and I think we make a good pair - we have a good connection. I’m sure the horse knows that he won - they know when it is important and they have to do their best. I am happy that he did such a good job for me, he is treated like a king and I think that it is very important that we treat our horses as friends.”

Edwina Tops-Alexander - “I am very happy of course, but I would like to have won! I took one too many strides to number two. But I want to thank the sponsors and the organisers, the event has been unbelieveable. I would also like to thank Uliano Vezzani who did a great job as always. I couldn't happier, my horse is in super shape,  and there was great support from the public. My horse has never jumped that good before, it wouldn’t have mattered how good or bad I rode today, he didn’t want to touch a fence. He loves it here. I couldn’t be happier with him."

Jan Tops - "I am a very proud person. We have worked more than three years to have an event here and I have to congratulate all the people involved who helped make this possible. It was not easy, they did not manage it for Beijing Olympics, but here they did an incredible job. Juss Events worked very hard and the GCT staff and Peden Bloodstock and the ground staff have all worked so hard behind the scenes. We have opened the boarders and we are the first here and I hope this show will be remembered, and I hope we will be here for a long time to come."

Juan Carlos Capelli - "I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Jan and his team because it is three years since we have been talking about this event and today we are here at one of the best show jumping events in the world in Shanghai, and for that congratulations. I would also like to congratulate the riders, especially Pieter for his win today and everyone involved, as today we had incredible sport, a lot of people, great riders. See you next year!"

Eddie Peng - "Like many of the audience, I do not know a lot about horses. It is my first time to be a spectator for this sport. This event has been inspiring. I am an actor, and I have taken roles as a professional athlete and I understand from that for this sport you need a strong and smooth communication with the horses - that requires a lot of effort - so the riders are awesome. Thank you to the riders for presenting this great sport to us. I hope this show stays in Shanghai so that the people of China can get to know the sport and fall in love with it."
source: http://www.globalchampionstour.com/

Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT(Pieter Devos; Edwina Tops-Alexander)