In 2017 the prestigious circuit totalled 15 events. A strategic expansion to new territories in recent years has seen the championship series take place in China and the Americas stretching its global footprint further.
The LGCT organisation is highly specialised at organising these world class events in thrilling but logistically challenging locations, always ensuring the horses’ welfare and comfort are top priority. Take Miami Beach as an example : 200 sport horses arrive each April to delight tourists, residents and guests in this sensational event. The European horses fly from Belgium to the USA on special cargo planes with spacious air-conditioned stalls – the equivalent of flying ‘business class’. They head straight from Miami International Airport to their stables and some early exercise next to the Ocean.
Every year the show takes to the road from April to November heading to the Americas, to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Other destinations include Mexico City, London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea, the state-of-the-art Tops International Arena in Valkenswaard, Rome’s Stadio dei Marmi and Berlin’s Sommergarten.
Around the world VIPs witness top sport in luxurious surroundings, experiencing local delicacies and gastronomical delights while enjoying breathtaking views of the action.
In its debut year, the LGCT of Miami Beach was celebrated not only for its top level sporting action, but also for the impact it had on the City. Michael Bloomberg, who attended the show, commented : “ I think this is a wonderful thing for Miami and for the economy of Miami. This could become like the Formula 1 is to Monaco and places like that not just the people who come to watch the show, the people who support it, the people who work in the hotels where we all stay, the restaurants. It is amazing the hard work that goes into this. ”
Top Italian rider Lorenzo de Luca believes the brilliance of having events in the city centres is paramount to broadening the sport, and feels the prestige of having an event in his own Capital city : “ To have an event like this, right in a city such as Rome, is really unique, and with free access to the public it is a fantastic opportunity to bring show jumping to new fans. The LGCT goes to incredible places around the world - next to the ocean in Miami Beach, to Shanghai, under the Eiffel Tower in Paris ... so it is with great pride we have an event in Italy’s capital. ”
LGCT made history with an important ruling allowing international sport horses into China for the first time ever. Even during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, the equestrian competitions were held in Hong Kong not on mainland China. But after years of patient work with the European Commission and the Chinese Government, Longines Global Champions Tour won permission for special quarantine arrangements and a new event in Shanghai’s Pudong District joined the circuit. The Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai has quickly evolved as a popular event both for sport and the social scene, with spectators and guests dressed as if for Royal Ascot. A popular Longines boutique attracts fans in the luxurious shopping village, with local spectators excitedly taking selfies, meeting the Longines Ambassadors of Elegance and trying to win the award of “ best dressed ” at the show. Indeed, the event has bred a new army of fans who are enjoying show jumping as an aspirational past-time and more and more equestrian clubs are springing up across China.
At the heart of this international show jumping circuit are horses. LGCT attracts the superstars of the sport. These uber equine athletes, worth millions of euros, deliver ever greater levels of competition each season. And, needless to say, horse welfare is at the heart of everything with the best facilities in the sport to ensure top-level care. And now the sport is booming around the world with record-breaking prize money, a growing fan following, more media attention and more countries competing on the LGCT circuit.
The Tour, established in 2006 by Dutch Olympic gold medallist Jan Tops, features individual competition at the highest level. All season the very best rider and horse combinations jump in a variety of small and large arenas on sand and on grass surfaces by day and by night. The coveted crown can only be won by true all-rounders who perform with consistency through the season.
LGCT President and Founder Jan Tops said : “ When I launched the Tour back in 2006 I had been in show jumping as a rider for many years and I knew the sport had to change and come into the modern era. I wanted to raise standards across the board so that all stakeholders benefitted. We raised the bar across all areas from better facilities for riders and horses, including very important investment in the best possible welfare at the events for the horses. We worked hard to increase TV and media coverage of the sport and improved hospitality for guests to enjoy the experience of a show jumping event. We have been pioneering and introduced a lot of change to show jumping. One of the key steps was to take our sport to city centres and to bring show jumping to more people to make it more accessible, to grow our fan base. At the heart of what we do will always be top sport, but we also deliver a superb experience for fans and guests who are new to show jumping and want to enjoy a great day out. ”
And the current top riders who star in the spotlight agree. Scott Brash, Olympic Gold Medallist and two time LGCT Champion of Champions spoke of the evolution of the sport : “ I think what LGCT has done over the years has always been at the forefront of developing our sport. ”
Fellow rider, top German hero Marcus Ehning echoed Brash’s sentiments, praising the hard work and passion put into making the Championship series so universally successful : “ It is one of the biggest improvements in the sport in the last twenty years for all of show jumping worldwide. I think over the years you could see how the sport improved, and what kind of countries we have now with all the stages. It’s amazing what Jan did. ”
There have been a variety of Champions throughout the twelve year history of the Tour. As well as double champions Brash and Edwina Tops-Alexander, past winners include Rolf-Göran Bengtsson with his much loved stallion, the now retired Casall ASK, Luciana Diniz, German hero Marcus Ehning and recent Rio Olympic Gold Medallist Nick Skelton. This year, Dutchman Harrie Smolders made history by becoming the first rider to win the Tour before the season has finished, adding his name to the illustrious list of stars to claim the prestigious title.
The new season will kick off in 2018 with the spectacular Mexico City raising the curtain to the Championship bid, and while it is anyone's guess which athlete will shine brightest of all in the thirteenth season of thrilling sporting action, one thing is for sure - 2018 promises to be a breathtaking showcase of world class talent and opportunity, but most of all, an exciting year for further pushing the boundaries of innovation and evolution within the sporting world.