It was a fairy tale ending for the Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach in Florida as last-to-go Katrin Eckermann stopped the clock a second faster than Shane Sweetnam to triumph in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach. Riding the 9-year-old Cala Mandia, the pair risked it to the last at a flat out gallop and the German rider punched the air while the whole of Miami Beach erupted in cheers.

Katrin is the second female winner of the LGCT Miami Beach Grand Prix and speaking after her victory she said, “Well, I have no words, it has been a long journey. I have had her since she was six years old and it’s her first LGCT. I’m really proud, she jumped amazing. I’m overwhelmed.”

She then explained, “She’s nine years old and it was her first five-star Grand Prix and she jumped amazing. I don’t have pressure on my horses as they are so young and I just enjoy being on the team and hopefully we will have a great season. I had a great start.”

As the sun set on the show’s final day at the magnificent Miami Beach setting, Irishman Shane Sweetnam couldn’t watch as Eckermann crossed the finish line, snatching the win and the LGCT Super Grand Prix ticket from him and Alejandro, while young talent Gilles Thomas secured his first-ever LGCT podium with Luna van het Dennehof to take third place.

The overall LGCT Ranking battle is already an intense affair, with Ludger Beerbaum leading the charge for the 2022 season on 59 points. Michael Duffy sits just behind him on 57 points while Christian Ahlmann rounds off the top three with 53 points. Katrin Eckermann sits fifth on the ranking just behind Bart Bles and is the second rider after Doha Grand Prix winner Ludger Beerbaum to qualify for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, which will take place at the GC Prague Playoffs this November.

All the riders at the show, even those who came out with more faults than they would have liked, praised Uliano Vezzani’s technical and intricate course designing. The fences were light and delicate, meaning that the smallest of mistakes influenced the outcome, but also not gigantic, intimidating fences, so even horses making mistakes did not have their confidence dented. Still, with the proximity of the sea and the crowds, the venue has the feel and intensity of an indoor show, just without a roof.

Six riders from the 34 starters pulled off first-round clears to qualify for the jump-off, with the two fences hard up along the shoreline side of the arena proving particularly influential. Fence faults meant many riders’ jump-off hopes were dashed at the last minute amid groans from the packed crowds watching.

Germany’s Tobias Meyer was first out the gate and emotions ran high as he produced a double clear in his first-ever LGCT Grand Prix with Greatest Boy – H in a time of 39.40s.

Having tasted what the LGCT Super Grand Prix was like in 2019, Shane Sweetnam was hungry for his golden ticket. He demolished Meyer’s time and literally soared over the 1.60m jumps to stop the Longines clock in 35.73 and set the new fastest time with Alejandro.

Onboard Faltic HB, Ben Maher punched out the back rail of the wide oxer from the rollback halfway round the course, crushing his chances of a win even though his time was better.

On form this week, Darragh Kenny and Volnay du Boisdeville put in a solid effort, but a late-falling pole put them out of contention as he shook his head in disappointment.

The crowd roared for young gun Gilles Thomas and Luna van het Dennehof, who nearly knocked Sweetnam off the top, stopping the clock just three-tenths of a second slower. But it was the best saved for last: making sure every rail stayed up even with the pedal to the metal, it was formidable Katrin Eckermann who took advantage of the electric crowd to fly over the final fence and claim her second LGCT Grand Prix win.

Her round on Cala Mandia shaved more than a second off the time to beat, handing her the victory and the lion’s share of the class’s €300,000 prize fund.

The only Canadian in the class, Erynn Ballard, was 12th riding Gakhir.

This class concluded action at the Miami Beach leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour. The next edition takes place in Mexico City (28 April – 1 May) and will be live-streamed via GCTV as the world’s best head to Mexico’s Tour destination.

Full Results here.