After finishing second in Madrid last month, it was sweet success for Nicola Philippaerts as he clinched his first win on the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) in Cascais, Portugal on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Belgian beat compatriot Gregory Wathelet, the winner in Shanghai earlier in the season, by almost one-and-a-half seconds in an eight-horse jump-off on the Portuguese Riviera. Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar finished third, 1.8 seconds back.
“My horse just jumped unbelievable,” Philippaerts said about H&M Harley vd Bisschop, his 11-year-old Belgian-bred grey gelding.
Head-to-head television pictures showed Philippaerts, the son of four-time Belgian Olympian Ludo Philippaerts, had won by the third jump of the course set by Frank Rothenberger with a tight turn. He extended his lead over Wathelet by the penultimate fence with another sharp turn in the vast grassy arena on a cool and windy evening, where temperatures in the evening dipped to as low as 18 degrees Celsius (65 Fahrenheit).
“The jump-off just worked out well…and I cannot thank him enough,” said Philippaerts, who has now secured a ticket for the inaugural Super Grand Prix in Prague in December. “He jumped very good. Gregory was very quick.”
In May, Philippaerts had finished second behind Britain’s Ben Maher after a close jump-off in Madrid.
Tops-Alexanders overall leader
With the LGCT competition at the halfway point after eight legs, the top three of the overall leaderboard remained unchanged. Two-time winner Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia leads with 172 points, followed by Britain’s Maher with 143 points and Scott Brash, also of Britain, in third place with 131 points.
Both Brash and Tops-Alexander, who was one of six riders to retire from the first round in Cascais, are trying to win the LGCT for a record third time.
The next stop of the 16-leg LGCT will be in Monaco at the end of the month.
Global Champions League
Earlier in the day, Wathelet and Ireland’s Darragh Kenny clinched the first win of the season for the Paris Panthers in the Longines Global Champions League team event.
Wathelet and Kenny had put the Panthers into the lead with a double clear in the first round on Friday, and as the final team to go on Saturday, Kenny produced another clear with Balou du Reventon to give his team mate a shot at securing the win.
Although his grey stallion Mjt Nevados S had knocked down a pole early on in the second round, Wathelet put down such a speedy ride, the Panthers ended up with a combined time that was almost three seconds faster than the Scandinavian Vikings, who finished in second place, also with four penalties. London Knights finished third with eight penalties.
In the overall classification, London Knights remain in the lead with 174 points, while Valkenswaard United are second and just seven points behind. The Scandinavian Vikings are in third place at 47 points back.
Their first victory has pushed the Panthers up five spots into 10th place with 101 points.
Only the top 16 teams will qualify for the GC Play Offs and GCL Super Cup in Prague, where record prize money is up for grabs.