Darragh Kenny: The GCT tour steps up every year *H&H subscribers*

Opinion

New York has been a great venue for the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) final. I expected it to be a little more difficult to get around, but it worked out to be really simple using the ferries. The views were amazing, the ring and warm-up were a really good size and there was plenty of space for the horses to walk around.

The arena surface was a little loose on the first day, but the team worked hard on it and it improved every day. This is typical of the LGCT — Jan Tops is at every show checking everything and if something isn’t right, he gets it fixed. I don’t know how he has the energy, but it means the tour steps up every year. The standard and the level of prize money is always increasing.

The final has previously been later in the year, in Doha, but the new date means horses can go to New York, then have a good break before the GC Playoffs in Prague.

With the Nations Cup final in Barcelona just a week after New York, riders had to prioritise as horses couldn’t do both. The likes of Pieter Devos and Ben Maher — who were in with a shout of the overall title — chose to bring their best horses to New York, while I am taking my top horse — Ann Thompson’s Balou Du Reventon — to Barcelona, because it’s Ireland’s final chance to earn a ticket to the Olympics.

The Irish team all know we need to get this done — we didn’t do well enough at the Europeans and we have to put everything into trying to qualify for Tokyo.

On to Prague

I haven’t done that many LGCT shows this year, but I’ve had an incredible tour, with four top-four grand prix placings, including a win in Chantilly.

It’s usually older horses who do well at Globals because they are experienced in smaller rings, but I’m particularly excited about the horse I own with Ann, Classic Dream, a nine-year-old who was incredible in London and would have been clear in the grand prix at Saint Tropez, too, had I not made a stupid mistake.

Our Global Champions League (GCL) team, the Paris Panthers, was unlucky — Yuri Mansur should have been a major part of the campaign but some of his horses suffered injuries, although we still had some decent results.

The strongest teams are those with on-form, consistent riders, on horses they know well. London Knights, for example, have been a solid team for three years, with the same riders and experienced horses.

I did a stint commentating at the LGCT in Rome, which was fun although I’d rather be in the ring! My co-commentator Steve Hadley knows so much about the sport so it was interesting to talk through the classes with him. As a rider you tend only to concentrate on a few top riders or the horses who go like yours, whereas watching in detail I could clearly see where and why faults came.

This will be my first year jumping the super grand prix in Prague. Last year it was such a fun show — the venue is class, the showjumping was intense and Balou feels in very good form, so it should be really enjoyable to do it this year.

Ref Horse & Hound; 3 October 2019