Henrik von Eckermann triumphs in the Prague Super Grand Prix!
Prague... Every year, the Czech city hosts the Playoffs of the Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT) - League (GCL). The Super Grand Prix, with its 1.25 million Euro prize pool, was held last night and was won by Henrik von Eckermann and the fleet-footed King Edward (Edward 28); the pair continues to affirm their great form!
The circuit has been back for the last few months, after the season was canceled last year, but with a few changes to the calendar. Fifteen stages were nevertheless held before the end of the year in the Czech Republic, in the usual facilities at the O2 Arena in Prague where sport and a spectacular show are never missing!
The 15 winners of the LGCT Grand Prix were present in this 1.65m final, designed by Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani. The event was run over two rounds, but one rider didn’t appear in the second round: the only female representative, Malin Baryard-Johnsson. After a last-minute change of mounts, the Swedish rider rode her 9-year-old El Barone 111 Z (Emerald) and not her lead mare H&M Indiana; a misunderstanding in the triple resulted in their elimination. Although most of the riders were riding their lead horses, the course led to some of them having faults in the first round, such as the young Bryan Balsiger (Ak's Courage) and Daniel Deusser (Killer Queen VDM). Five combinations achieved a clear round: Henrik von Eckermann (King Edward), Ben Maher (Explosion W), Olivier Robert (Vangog du Mas Garnier), Sergio Alvarez Moya (Alamo) and Darragh Kenny (VDL Cartello).
Sergio Alvarez Moya and Alamo. © Stefano Grasso
It was necessary to maintain this blank score in the second round to reach the podium! The victory could have been Ben Maher’s on his faithful chestnut. The Olympic Champions had already won this event in 2019, but a fallen rail didn’t allow them to repeat the feat. In the end, only two riders remained clear! The first double clear was achieved by Sergio Alvarez Moya. Not fast enough, he couldn’t add one of the missing titles to Alamo’s (Ukato) record. He’s already the winner of the Top 10 Final in 2018 and the World Cup Final in Gothenburg a year later with Steve Guerdat. They still secured themselves second place, but the rider wanted to dedicate this evening to his entourage: "I would like to take advantage of this special moment to say that this year was difficult for me, I lost my father and a few months later my teammate Anna (Kellnerová) also lost hers, it's a pity I didn't win because I wanted to offer them this victory."
Prague’s podium, it’s always spectacular. © Global Champions Tour
Last to start, Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward had no leeway to make a mistake. Without taking all the risks they could in the arena, the Swede was still the fastest and took the victory in the Super Grand Prix, closing out the 2021 season of the circuit! "To be back in this atmosphere for me is amazing, it was a special moment for me with this crowd. I had a goal the whole time to qualify for here because I knew I would have a good chance. It is a fantastic feeling when it fits like it did today," concluded the winner.
Featured photo: Katerina Navojoa