Emanuele Gaudiano & Ben Maher win on first day in Miami Beach

The Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach kicked off today on the breath-taking shoreline of Florida’s coast, with competitors, spectators and VIPs wowed by the incredible surroundings. The world’s best riders and horses flexed their muscles for the first time on the 2016 LGCT season circuit, with two CSI5* classes taking place in the opening day of top level competition. World number 3 and Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash (GBR) summed up the incredible atmosphere; ‘to be on Miami Beach, and to ride with the ocean right there, it’s unique and special. Everyone wants to come to Miami Beach!” Entry to the event is free to the public all weekend, and with larger grandstands, up close and personal opportunities to see the stars of show jumping in action, and a full three days of high adrenaline action, LGCT Miami Beach is the place to be this weekend.

Today’s action was the first showcase as to which top riders are on form ahead of Saturday’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach. It was Great Britain’s Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher (GBR) and his fiery chestnut gelding Aristo Z who stole the first win of the weekend. Ben galloped away from the rest of the field in the CSI5* 1.45m class, winning by over a second ahead of young Belgian star Jos Verlooy (BEL) and his horse Farfelu de la Pomme. Third place went to Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) and Argelith Squid, who finished just tenths away from Jos.

Speaking about his win, Ben said: “[Aristo] is definitely a specialist in this type of arena, he loves Cannes and Monaco so we saved him specially for here in Miami – he likes this ocean beach weather!” And it was a stunning example of Miami Beach’s beautiful climate. Sunbathers and spectators lined the arena, just a stones throw from the water’s edge, to watch the world’s top horses and riders battling it out for the top spots.

The LGCT Grand Prix riders took to the stunning sand arena for the first time this weekend, with home riders Kent Farrington (USA), Ali Wolff (USA), Beezie Maddon (USA), Laura Kraut (USA) and Quentin Judge (USA) all finishing high on the scoreboard over the two competitions much to the delight of the watching crowd. The unique location drew in passionate equestrians and passers by, keen to get a glimpse of the stunning horses in action. Home rider Laura Kraut (USA) spoke about the uniqueness of this event; “I think everyone agrees [last year] was one of the most phenomenal events of the year. What makes it great is you have all the equestrian enthusiasts here, and then all the beach goers – you can just walk up in your bathing suit!” As the day unfolded, speed demon Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) took the CSI5* feature class win with his beautiful grey stallion Caspar 232, finishing an impressive two full seconds ahead of 2nd place rider McLain Ward (USA).

In a showcase of speed and agility in the 1.50/1.55m class, the Italian rider took out every stride possible, galloping to the fences and shaving off time in every area. Young talent Bertram Allen (IRL) took a strong third place, with chestnut gelding Quiet Easy. The tough course set by Uliano Vezzani saw just nine riders jump clear, and with today the first opportunity to witness who is on form ahead of Saturday’s Grand Prix, it’s set to be an exhilarating weekend of action. Anticipation is mounting ahead of the debut Global Champions League competition, with the draw for the team order taking place Friday 8th April at 13:30 local time.

Main Photo Source : Steffano Grasso / GCT