April 4, 2015--It has been 29 years since a rider representing Great Britain has led the coveted American Invitational victory gallop, but today, the world's number one rider, Scott Brash (GBR) clinched the victory during the 43rd $127,500 American Invitational. Aboard Hello Forever, Brash broke the beam in 33.35 seconds to outrun his fellow eight contenders in a nine-horse jump off and take back the title after nearly a 30-year drought for his homeland.
It was an occasion of firsts for Brash. For many, the American Invitational is the crown jewel of show jumping, eluding many at the top of the sport. Although it was only Brash's first time attempting the toilsome track, he left no stone unturned with his eye set firmly on the victory.
In its long history, today marks only the second time a rider from Great Britain has won the notable event. Brash followed in the footsteps of the late Tim Grubb, who rode Linky to victory at Tampa Stadium back in 1986. Grubb, a British Olympic Silver medalist was the first foreigner to take the Invitational title and counting Brash's win today marks only the fourth time a rider outside the U.S. has led the round of honor.
Italian course designer, Uliano Vezzani created the difficult track, challenging the field of 52 riders to 16 efforts in a tight time allowed of 81 seconds. He featured a tricky double combination set on the rail, a liverpool, a second double combination featuring a vertical to an oxer, as well as large square oxers and open distances. Faults racked up throughout the course, with no definite bogey and only nine horse and rider combinations would find their way into the tiebreaker.
This was the first appearance Brash made stateside all winter circuit, traveling exclusively to the Longines Global Champions Tour in Miami Beach with two of his top horses. He was only the third to return for the jump off, and with six competitors hot on his heels, he knew that he would have to push the throttle with Hello Forever to make them chase his time. He took a tight turn to the third obstacle, racing around the corner to the square Longines oxer from the tight double combination. His tight track and quick turns obliterated the previous times.
"The American Invitational is a very prestigious event. We hear about it every year, but unfortunately we're never here to jump in it," Brash said. "It's very nice to be here and to be a part of it. I'm really glad that the result worked out in the end. We always read about it, but unfortunately we are never here to jump in it. Jan [Tops] has brought the tour here, and it's great that the American Invitational is at this show. Hopefully if it can stay here, I think it's going to be an even bigger and better event every year."
Beginning in 1972, the American Invitational was designed as a reward for the riders at the end of a long circuit. Although international riders have always been welcome, this is the first time that riders representing three different countries took hold of the top three spots.
It was Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani of Quatar and Concordija, owned by First Sport Horses AG, who took the second place position less than a tenth of a second shy of Brash's time. He opted to leave out a stride in the turn to the third fence, and then raced through the turn after the double combination nearly catching Brash's pace.
Al Thani said, "For me, it was very good. With number one in the world, I was happy ending up second. It was a fast jump-off and I tried my best. I couldn't catch him, but I was happy."
Reigning Show Jumping World Cup Finals Champion, Daniel Deusser (GER) and Pironella would end the event in the third place with a speedy, but more conservative time of 34.14 seconds. He admitted that although he tried to catch Brash, he was pleased with his third place finish.
"The riders, we are very proud to be here; for us it is a super event. It cannot be much better actually. For the class, for myself, I'm very happy with the third place," Deusser said. "My horse is still very young, and not too experienced in these classes. I missed maybe a little bit to the last fence. In the end, Scott was very, very fast, and that's the reason that he is number one in the world."
Paige Johnson and Dakota captured the fourth place with a double clear in 34.63 seconds, while Schuyler Riley and Dobra de Porceyo finished fifth in 35.46 seconds. The fastest four-faulter was Georgina Bloomberg aboard Calenda, crossing the timers in 35.33 seconds to round out the top six.
Today's victory came aboard a new mount for Brash, having only been paired with Hello Forever for four months. "He is quite a new horse to me," admitted Brash. "He's quite inexperienced actually, but he's a competitive horse. I just tried to stay as smooth as I could, and as tight as I could, and tried to see what my horse could do. It worked out in the end. I did think that Sheikh Ali was going to get me at the end there. It was very, very tight."
Brash has held the title of Number One Rider in the world for 16 months, only two months shy of Marcus Ehning's record. "I think this man on my right, Daniel [Deusser], is just about to take it off me. I better clean the armband and get it ready, probably tomorrow [laughs]."
At the conclusion of the Miami Longines Global Champions Tour, Brash, as well as the others at the top of the podium will pack their bags to head out to the next endeavor. For Deusser, he plans to defend his title as the World Cup Champion, while Brash is focusing on European shows and following the Longines GCT.
President of Stadium Jumping, Michael Morrissey said, "I think the event was great. It's so unique to be out here at the beach. To team up with a world class organization in a world-class city putting on an event like this was fantastic. Gene [Mische], who has passed away, would be very proud of that this event became so terrific, especially here in Miami."
Morrissey continued, "Our goal and our plan is to return to the Longines Global Champions Tour in the future. The team that Jan put together is second to nobody. Because of the great team that he has assembled, I think the production of this is second to none in this country. It was a great event. The course designer did a great job, and it was a great class. It was a great jump-off. It was exciting and kept people waiting for the next one to try to win. I feel like it has everything."
The Longines Global Champions Tour first found its home in Wellington in 2004, when Tops and Mische worked in tandem to kick off what would become an empire in Europe for the sport of show jumping. The Miami Longines Global Champions Tour marks the series' 10-year anniversary, and the kick-off event brings the event full circle as the series returns to its pilot location-South Florida.
President of the Longines Global Champions Tour, Jan Tops concluded, "I think it's important that we connect the United States. It's a very important market, especially for good riders, and it needed to be here as well again. We were very happy that we could organize the American Invitational here, and working with Stadium Jumping was spectacular. Number one in the world won it, and he won it good, but all the riders gave him very good competition. It was very exciting to the last rider, and I think it worked out very well."
RESULTS: Miami Beach 2015 CSI5* American Invitational
RK CNR Rider/Horse EUR USD Round A Jump-Off Time
1 25 Scott Brash Hello Forever 38,140 41,910 0.00 0.00 33.35
2 43 Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al ThaniConcordija23,115 25,400 0.00 0.00 33.48
3 30 Daniel Deusser Pironella 17,336 19,050 0.00 0.00 34.14
4 136 Paige Johnson Dakota 11,557 12,700 0.00 0.00 34.63
5 154 Schuyler Riley Dobra de Porceyo 6,935 7,620 0.00 0.00 35.46
6 123 Georgina Bloomberg Caleno 3 5,201 5,715 0.00 4.00 35.33
7 40 Luciana DinizLady Lindenhof 3,467 3,810 0.00 4.00 35.65
8 116 Audrey Coulter Capital Colnardo 2,889 3,175 0.00 8.00 36.15
9 28 Michael Whitaker Valentin R 2,311 2,540 0.00 8.00 38.18
10 127 Kent Farrington Willow 2,312 2,540 4.00 74.84
11 8 Pieter DevosDream of India Greenfield 1,156 1,270 4.00 75.06
12 3 Gregory WatheletEgano van het Slogenhof 1,156 1,270 4.00 75.70
13 115 Darragh KennySans Soucis Z 182 200 4.00 76.95