Maikel van der Vleuten won the Monaco leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour in a tight finish where the top four in the elite show jumping event were separated by a little over a second.
The Dutchman and Beauville Z put in a flawless performance in the 10-way jump off and clocked in at 33.06 seconds, 0.06 seconds faster than Qatar’s Bassem Mohammed and Gunder.
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Riding Usual Suspect d’Auge, Julien Epaillard of France wasn’t far behind in third on 33.52 seconds.
Longines Global Champions Tour 2019 season in photos
“When I saw Julien on the screen, I could bet on it that he should win,” said van der Vleuten. “He went full out everywhere.
“I was just a bit faster and I gave it everything today. I had some nice forward distances and the horse really worked for me.”
His win came after he wondered whether it was too soon to utilize Beauville Z as his top horse.
“My horse is only a nine-year-old,” he said. “When I jumped in Madrid a few weeks ago that was his first Grand Prix. I spoke with my dad before we came to see if it was too early to bring him to Monaco as my first horse.”
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Judging by the result, it wasn’t. “It’s incredible. This horse really fights for me,” he added.
About four weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One race in Monaco and the arena for Saturday’s proceedings sat on the site of pit lane.
The backdrop, meanwhile, included the Port d’Hercule – and its superyachts – and the Prince’s Palace.
As one of the smallest venues on the tour, there wasn’t much room to manoever but that didn’t bother van der Vleuten, who qualified for the season-ending Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in Prague.
Belgian Pieter Devos retained the overall lead but defending overall champion Ben Maher of Britain continued to climb the standings.
He moved up to third after his second-place showing in Cascais last week and is now second behind Devos, only seven points adrift. He finished 25th on F One USA.
In the Global Champions Tour team event, Maher’s London Knights slipped to third following a second to last finish.
Shanghai Swans overtook the Knights and so did Madrid in Motion, with a mere four points separating the trio at the top.
It was the Scandinavian Vikings who collected a first-ever GCL victory – withstanding the pressure of having to ride last among the 15 teams – ahead of the Monaco Aces and Doha Falcons.
The next leg takes place in Paris next weekend.