IN front of a sold-out crowd, Germany's Marco Kutscher and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Van Gogh (Numero Uno x Bernstein) delivered the fastest clear round in the Grand Prix jump-off to clin the $450,000 Longines Masters of Los Angeles.
Kutscher’s time of 37.04 seconds shaved off .89 seconds from British world number one Scott Brash’s clear time of 37.93 seconds. The German ace took the winner's prize of $148,500 while Brash took home $90,000 for his runner-up slot.
Wexford's Bertram Allen finished in 17th place on the 17-year-old Romanov while Tipperary's Kevin Babington and Shorapur finished in 21st position. The great Irish-bred Flexible (by Cruising out of Flex), bred by the Doyles in Kildare, slotted into 18th with regular rider America's Rich Fellers.
A technical first round looked deceivingly easy when the first rider in the order of go, Belgium's Rik Hemeryck rode a double clear round over the 1.60-meter track with 13 obstacles, including a triple combination and two double combinations. But rails quickly began to fall, and only seven riders, out of a starting field of 36, qualified for the final round that decided the champion.
Time also played a role in the course designed by Belgium's Luc Musette. Two riders, Italy's Piergiorgio Bucci and America's McLain Ward, left all the rails up but just a single time fault each kept them from riding a second time.
America's Kent Farrington, Switzerland's Steve Guerdat, Qatar's Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani and France's Patrice Delaveau joined Kutscher, Brash, and Hemeryck to vie for top honors over a looping jump off that required competitors to ride tight, inside turns to have a chance of winning.
Brash set a fast, clear pace, but he didn’t think that his lead would hold. Farrington nearly did overtake Brash’s time, but it wasn’t until the last to go in the final round that dethroned the number one ranked rider in the world from winning the show’s headlining Grand Prix.
“My advantage was that I was last to go in the jump off, and I saw Scott and Kent,” Kutscher said. “I knew there was a little door open. I almost thought to the last fence I added one, and there was one too many, and I could have done one less and it was not quick enough, but I was lucky when I watched the screen and it was still fast.
“I had a very good start to the jump-off, the second part was maybe a little bit slower but anyway I’m super pleased with my horse because for the rest of the weekend nobody realized that I was here. So I took my chance and I’m very pleased.
“It was the beginning of the jump-off, where I made the time in the end to the last where there was one less, I didn’t take that opportunity, but anyway I was quick enough and I’m super pleased and happy.
“It’s the second time now (that I’ve competed at this show). Last year I was here, and I think this year, the crowd, the spectators, were even more than last year; the atmosphere is great and it’s fun to ride here. I would like to come back next year to see all you guys.”
The Longines Masters series continues from Los Angeles to Paris in December before finishing the season in Hong Kong in February 2016.
LA MASTERS GRAND PRIX - THE TOP FIVE
1. Van Gogh Marco Kutscher (GER) 37.04
2. Hello M'Lady Scott Brash (UK) 37.93
3. Voyeur Kent Farrington (USA) 38.08
4. Kavalier Steve Guerdat (SUI) 39.05
5. First Devision Sheikh Ali Bin Al Thani 40.13