It was at the EEM headquarters in Belgium, one day in June, that the first lines of the Longines Masters series were written. The immense ring at the Ecuries d’Ecaussines formed the backdrop to a warm and simply magnificent reception. Alongside Juan Carlos Capelli, Vice-President of Longines and Head of International Marketing, Christophe Ameeuw, founder and CEO of EEM, announced the watchmaker’s commitment to the intercontinental trilogy covering three prestigious metropoles: Los Angeles, Paris and Hong Kong. Three events combining high-level sport, art, culture, gastronomy and glamour. This was a very accurate taste of what was to come over the three legs of this fabulous season.
Christophe Ameeuw drew his inspiration from the tennis Grand Slams, where the greatest legends in this sport began. His dream to give another dimension to show jumping was to become a reality.
During the previous Hong Kong edition - the Longines Masters series starts in Los Angeles and finishes in Hong Kong after a stopover in Paris - John Whitaker had begun his race for the Grand Slam Indoor Super Bonus. The concept had just been approved by the FEI and was inaugurated during the Asian leg. John had brought the house down in Hong Kong by winning the three big classes with his amazing stallion Argento. These wins included the Longines Grand Prix, which opened the way to the Grand Slam Indoor Superbonus and the first ever chance to win €500,000 if he won a second consecutive victory. All eyes were therefore focused on the British champion as never before over these four days.
Hollywood isn’t far away and the opening gala is always a star-studded affair at the Longines Masters Los Angeles: a flamboyant red carpet attracting the best actors, major athletes and top riders to a gala evening with a dressage demonstration by the Pan-American Games gold medallist, Stephen Peters.
On the first day in the ring, Bertram Allen proved that he was the fastest rider in the world, winning the Longines Speed Challenge. In the 1.50 m class to prepare for the Longines Grand Prix, John Whitaker showed his hand by triumphing with Argento. The next day, Patrice Delaveau respected tradition: a Longines Masters leg wouldn’t be the same without at least one victory from the Norman rider. In the end, he was to walk away with two, one on Carinjo*HDC and another on Lacrimoso*HDC.
Throughout, one man and his horse were barely seen. Marco Kutscher and Van Gogh were only spotted once, winning the Longines Grand Prix. John Whitaker, due to a small fault from Argento in the first round, lost his first bet. Yet, it was still possible for him to win the €250,000 Grand Slam Indoor Superbonus in Paris. But Marco Kutscher was now dreaming of the €500,000 for the consecutive double, or even a million! Paris promised to be exceptional.
The stands of the Longines Masters of Paris hosted a very enthusiastic and expert public. The public were gripped with emotion, emerging as they were from a difficult period in the country, holding their heads higher than usual when singing their national anthem a capella.
Here too, the stars were out on the red carpet from the first evening. The phenomenal French female trio L.E.J, who launched the opening gala ball presented by MIASUKI, set the tone for the four-day show. The Longines Masters brings together stars from all disciplines.
Ringside, all eyes were on Marco Kutscher, but in France, the French riders had one major ally: their public and Patrice Delaveau rode the crest of this dynamic wave to win the first big class with Lacrimoso*HDC. Bertram Allen and Quite Easy IV gave way in the Longines Speed Challenge, which was won by Grégory Wathelet and Egano van het Slogenhof. The next day, Simon Delestre was to notch up precious points in his rise to the world number 1 spot, winning the Gucci Gold Cup with Chesall.
On Sunday, he continued his ascent, taking second place in the Longines Grand Prix with Hermès Ryan. A Grand Prix which everyone expected Whitaker or Kutscher to take, but both made mistakes. So it was goodbye to the Grand Slam Indoor Super Bonus for Whitaker and an appointment in Hong Kong for Kutscher, alongside a new challenger, Patrice Delaveau who, with Lacrimoso had won his eleventh victory in the Longines Masters and the third French victory in this class.
Always a good sport, Marco Kutscher recognised that ‘Patrice seemed to be unbeatable that day!’ The French champion replied ‘No-one is unbeatable, but I did feel that it was my day, even my weekend. I’ve watched that jump-off many times, and I saw that my horse brushed lots of the rails, but none of them fell. At this level, today, nobody is unbeatable ... but it’s true that I was going to take some beating that day!’ So who was to beat whom in Hong Kong?
Transporting the horses to Hong Kong is an epic undertaking. This year, sixty champion show- jumping horses made the journey, in addition to the eight horses from the Chantilly Polo Club, as this sport was joining the Longines Masters for the first time with the Shanghai Tang Polo Cup. This year, the passionate and enthusiastic Hong Kong public witnessed an even crazier show. They got carried away with the polo, were hooked by the Longines Speed Challenge and were passionate about the Grand Slam Indoor Super Bonus and the two riders in question.
Had there been a similar challenge for the Longines Speed Challenge, Bertram Allen would have been the first winner. Following Los Angeles, he won the class in Hong Kong, beating his own record: ‘Obviously the experience of the rounds in Los Angeles and Paris helped me towards this second victory ... but no more than that!’ The evening before, the young Irish prodigy had already caused a splash by winning the first big class, the HKJC Trophy.
But THE sensation of the weekend was to be the historical win by Marco Kutscher, who was completely focused on the Longines Grand Prix and the possibility of the €250,000 Grand Slam Indoor Super Bonus, presented by EEM: ‘I was focused, but I forced myself to relax’, said Marco. However, his concentration was visible, as Brieuc Rigaux, the French polo number one noted, during the demonstration in Hong Kong: ‘The way the German rider was concentrated, fixed on this objective, inside his bubble, was impressive. We just knew that he couldn’t lose.'
Thanks to a quick first round, Marco gave himself the opportunity of going last in the jump-off: ‘an ideal situation, you’ve got time to see what the others have done’. After my championship medals, this was the biggest success of my career, and I’m proud to have accomplished it. When I crossed the line, I saw the time and immediately knew I’d won. My horse also knew he’d done something pretty amazing ... but he didn’t realise he’d won the €250,000 Grand Slam Indoor Super Bonus, on top of the $165,000 first prize. I was also delighted to see that my colleagues were happy for me, they all came to congratulate me, that’s what I love about this sport.’ And so, a legend was born.
Next season for the Longines Masters: creativity, creativity, and creativity At the Longines Masters, creativity is not just about sport. The way in which the stage is set and everything that surrounds the competition is constantly being revised and reworked. Imagination and innovation are capital for EEM. Last season, films played a strong role in communication work around the Longines Masters. Video trailers, The Ride of My Life saga, and the introduction of the 1 Movix, new slow motion capture technology illustrated and promoted the highlights of the series.
Next season, the Longines Masters has more surprises and original features up its sleeve, most of which will be revealed next spring. But we can already reveal something which will, undoubtedly, be the stuff of dreams: the Los Angeles leg will move to the Long Beach Convention Center, on the edge of the beach, making the destination even more glamorous. It will take place from 29th September to 2nd October. The Longines Masters Series will then be in Paris from 1st to 4th December, and take off for Hong Kong from 10th to 12th February.