CNN  — 

Belgian Pieter Devos returned to the winner’s circle in the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) – for the world’s top show jumpers – for the first time since 2014 with a narrow victory in Miami Beach.

Devos and his 11-year-old Belgian-bred horse Claire Z triumphed in an eight-rider jump-off, producing a clear round that was 0.04 seconds faster than former overall LGCT champion Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z.

READ: Global Champions 2019: Schedule and results

“It was great sport today, I’m so happy the way my mare jumped, she jumped everything clear this week,” said Devos, who had won his first LGCT Grand Prix in 2014 at the inaugural Shanghai event.

His win handed him a ticket to the lucrative end-of-season GC Prague Playoffs.

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Gates, Springsteen

Watched by rockstar Bruce Springsteen and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, the tight course in the compact, sandy arena of Miami Beach saw seven riders retire in the first round while only three went clear in the jump-off on a hot and humid day.

“It was tough sport, it was of the highest level sport, but it’s normal, it’s Global Champions Tour, the best riders of the world,” said Devos.

“It was difficult, it was very delicate jumping, faults everywhere. That’s why I was so happy with my mare, Claire, she jumped amazing.”

The Global Champions Tour, show jumping’s richest circuit, consists of a record 20 stops in 2019, including new venues in New York, Montreal and Stockholm.

The season will finish with the GC Prague Playoffs November 21-24.

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Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia, a two-time winner in Miami Beach, began the jump-off with a fast ride of 37.38 seconds, but her horse California touched a rail coming out of the double.

Tops-Alexander, a two-time overall winner, watched from the warmup arena as the next four riders – Olivier Philippaerts of Belgium, Daniel Deusser and Christian Ahlmann of Germany and Britain’s Scott Brash – all failed to jump clear.

Devos entered the arena as the sixth rider knowing that a clear round would guarantee him a spot on the podium. He expertly guided his mare around the course, taking a tight turn into the last jump to finish in the same time as Tops-Alexander, but taking the lead as he made no mistakes.

The seventh rider, Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson, also had a clear round with H&M Indiana, but finished 1.1 seconds slower than Devos, and ended third.

Would the last rider, the experienced Smolders of the Netherlands, spoil the party for Devos? For most of his ride, Smolders was ahead of Devos, only for Don VHP Z to finish in second place in 37.42 seconds as he took a wider turn going into the final jump.

“Considering that the poles were falling quite a lot, I didn’t take maybe all the risk but I knew Harrie was also a very fast candidate after me,” Devos said. “It was really until the end that I was a bit stressed to be second, but it worked out and I am super happy.”

READ: Spectacular Miami Beach hosts Longines Global Champions Tour

Jennifer Gates, daughter of Bill, was in action on the sand of Miami Beach.

Azure blue waters

The scenic surroundings of the Miami Beach course, built against a backdrop of the azure blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, proved to be an inspiration for Devos, who had been on the podium twice before in the Florida beach resort.

“On the beach here, it always goes well with me, so I am very happy to come back every time,” said Devos, who now leads the overall LGCT rankings with 88 points, five points clear of Deusser and 16 points ahead of Smolders.

“It gives me a super-feeling. When you enter the ring here, you see the sea, I don’t know what it is, but it gives me a lot of luck here.”