Christian Ahlmann’s gamble pays off big time in Longines Grand Prix triumph

German turns the formbook upside down as he wins the US$400,000 event, riding 10-year-old stallion Caribis Z as favourites fail to make the final field

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 11:02pm

World number four Christian Ahlmann admitted to taking a gamble with a horse he labelled “inexperienced” heading into the US$400,000 Longines Grand Prix.

It paid off big time on Sunday as the German rode the 10-year-old stallion Caribis Z to victory as the three-day Longines Masters of Hong Kong came to a close.

“I tried very hard,” said Ahlmann. “My horse was amazing. He tried from first [jump] to last. He is a fast horse. There were a few places on the course where I could really let him go.”

The field for the main event was packed with the superstars of the sport but the formbook was thrown out of the window after the first of two rounds of jumping.

World number one Daniel Deusser of Germany, and the riders who went one-two in front of him in the Grand Prix at the last event in Paris, Gregory Wathelet of Belgium and Ireland’s Bertram Allen, failed to make the final field of 12.

The 42-year-old Ahlmann then stole the show, his final round of 37.94 seconds enough to see off Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum (Casello) and Max Kuhner (Cornet Kalua) of Austria.

Beerbaum had for some time looking on and told the course-side commentator he was happy with his time – but convinced someone else would come out and be faster. They proved wise words.

“What happened here today I really didn’t expect – not one per cent of that,” said Ahlmann. “But he s a really nice horse with a lot of quality. He has not had so many rounds at this level and it was a tough course today. After the first round, I saw my colleagues riding fast and it was clear that I had to take risks. At then at the end we won it and I am surprised but I am totally happy.”

Ahlmann’s win brought the curtain down on three days of action at AsianWorld-Expo both on-course – and off, in the “Prestige Village” outside the main course. Champagne flows there and DJs kick in to the wee hours after the equestrian events end as promotion of the sport continues to take root in the city.

Fans were this year given a glimpse into its future, too, with the introduction of events featuring the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Junior Equestrian Training Squad, and the presence of Jacqueline Lai up against the superstars in the main events gave the locals someone to cheer on, too.

Ahlmann for one has been impressed with what he has seen develop here over the past five editions of the event.

“It really is a great event and I am very happy to have won here,” said Ahlmann, before turning attention to his support crew – responsible for wild cheers when the final rider of the weekend failed to better their man’s time.

“I’m only the rider. It’s only a small part of it,” said Ahlmann. “I have a huge team supporting me. Hopefully we can add more days like this today.”