Christian Kukuk Seizes Heart-Pounding Victory in Thrilling Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Madrid

Photo by Longines Global Champions Tour

Edited Press Release

It was a day for the history books as Christian Kukuk won his third Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix, this time onboard Checker 47. Beating Maikel van der Vleuten and Beauville Z N.O.P. by less than a second in an electric sold-out arena in Madrid, Kukuk secured his golden ticket to the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix in style.

Fresh from his LGCT Grand Prix win in Shanghai two weeks ago, Gilles Thomas secured yet another podium this time onboard Ermitage Kalone in the stallion’s first-ever CSI5* Grand Prix to take third place today.

As the sun began its slow descent over the beautiful Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Santiago Varela Ullastres’ course presented another clever challenge requiring three key ingredients: scopey jumping, precise riding, and absolute control. Utilising the full expanse of the pristine grass arena and built specifically for the undulating field, the flowing track was a true test for the world’s best, promising thrilling competition for the fifth leg of the Championship race.

Smiling from ear to ear Christian Kukuk said: “Honestly I am a really big fan of this show. To win in front of this incredible crowd here, the atmosphere is outstanding here. I came here with a good feeling, it is an unbelievable show with a beautiful arena, it truly is a pleasure to ride here. I knew the jump-off was going to be fast so I tried everything. I took all the risk to the last, I said to myself just go full speed and I kept galloping home.”

Singing the praises of today’s eventual winner, second place getter Maikel Van Der Vlueten explained: “I must say Christian did a great jump off, he took all the risk – his horse is very quick over the ground, so is my horse Beauville Z N.O.P, but we just couldn’t catch him today, however, I must say, I am very pleased with my second place.”

Standing on the podium for the second time in as many weeks, 26-year-old Gilles Thomas echoed the sentiments of those around the world about his 10-year-old stallion Ermitage Kalone. He said “It’s Ermitage’s first LGCT Grand Prix, it is also his first ever 1.60m 5* Grand Prix. I knew he could do a double clear, but to be on the podium is unbelievable.”

He went on to add, “To be honest he really puts some pressure on us, because really everyone is looking at him, but he is so good that when we start to jump the pressure goes away. He jumps clear after clear, two clear rounds in the GCL this weekend and now again double clear”

In the most dramatic jump-off this season, Spain’s dreams of a home win were crushed when last to go Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and 19-year-old Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot who has jumped clear in every LGCT Grand Prix this season had a refusal in the last section of the course. However, their 7th place finish means Aznar extends his LGCT Championship lead now on 127 points. Not making the jump-off today, Max Kuhner but still collecting points to bring his tally up to 104. Picking up maximum points in Madrid, Christian Kukuk jumps up to third on 96 points but Gilles Thomas is closing in with 95 points.

With eight clears in round one, the course proved just how fit and agile every combination needed to be. It was the Madrid double of 12a towards the end of the course that proved to be the bogey fence today with more than 10 riders getting caught out. Huge names like John Whitaker, Niels Bruynseels, 2022 LGCT Grand Prix of Madrid winner Sanne Thijssen, Katrin Eckermann and three time LGCT Champion Ben Maher all fell short of the jump-off by the smallest of margins.

Pathfinder in the jump-off was Germany’s Marco Kutscher riding Karajan. Kutscher rode smooth and clear opting for a risk-free strategy and aiming for the double clear to come home on 53.99 seconds.

Next up, Rodrigo Carrasco of Chile was hopeful coming into his first-ever LGCT Grand Prix jump-off aboard Crescendo. Despite a correction of course and jumping faults, the Chilean rider fought till the end but finished with 16 faults. American showjumping icon Laura Kraut had high hopes of winning yet again here in Madrid aboard Baloutinue. She made quick work of the course but a rail down over the third to last fence cost her the podium.

Entering the arena to a huge eruption from the crowd Christian Kukuk soared over the challenging course aboard Checker 47. With the tightest of turns and a flat-out gallop to the last it could have gone one of two ways but luck was on his side as Checker made light work of the Longines upright to stop the clock in 45.85 seconds and put pressure on the rest of the field to come.

With Beauville Z N.O.P. ‘s owner Marta Ortega watching on from VIP, the flying Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten set off at lightning speed from before fence one. Up on the clock at the halfway point it looked like he had done enough until he took a check to the final fence and he shook his head in disappointment as he finished fractions of a behind Kukuk.

Philipp Weishaupt and Zineday came the closest to challenging the time posted by fellow countryman Kukuk, but a rail down at the third-to-last fence meant a fifth-place finish for the duo.

Young gun Gilles Thomas was aiming for back to back LGCT Grand Prix wins on two different horses. With the huge striding stallion, Ermitage Kalone making light work of the expansive area they secured a double clear just off the pace to slide into third with one to go.

It was a sea of yellow and red as Eduardo Alvarez Aznar entered the arena. The crowd erupted in cheers as the Spanish rider was announced. Cheers faded into singing as Eduardo prepared to begin the course. As he jumped the first fence aboard the iconic 19-year-old Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot, silence fell over the crowd. Eduardo was on track for a fairytale finish as he was up on the clock at half way point but hearts broke as miscommunication in to the second to last jump dashed the Spaniard’s hopes of claiming victory on his home turf.

A bittersweet result as the Spaniard retains the Longines Global Champions Tour 2024 Championship but Christian Kukuk goes home the winner today as the tour now heads to the heart of the French Riviera, to the shores of Pampelonne Beach, St. Tropez from 30 May – 1 June with many of the standings top ten set to vie for crucial points.