Image credit LGCT / Stefano Grasso

By Alice Collins

Edwina Tops-Alexander landed her second win in the Longines Global Champions Tour grand prix of Miami Beach on Saturday afternoon, repeating her feat from two years earlier. She won the class in 2016, took a break to have a baby in 2017, then returned triumphant this year, this time on the much-admired mare California.

She scooped not only the generous winner’s check for €100,000, but also secured her place in the LGCT super grand prix at the new GC Prague play-offs in December, as the winner from every LGCT grand prix qualifies directly. She is the second qualifier of the 2018 tour, with season opener winner Scott Brash being the first to bag a golden ticket in Mexico City. Both these talented riders have already won the league’s biggest prize twice.

Edwina, an Olympian for her native Australia, was joined on the podium in Miami Beach by Qatari rider Bassem Mohammed (riding Gunder) and Ireland’s Darragh Kenny, who rode Cassini Z. Only five riders made it through to the jump-off over Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani’s track.

“I watched some of Bassem’s round on the screen [in the warm-up] and I knew he could have gone faster,” said Edwina, who has partnered California since taking over the ride from Egypt’s Abdel Said in 2016. “Still, I didn’t think I’d won or that I was going that fast and I kept having to look at the screen to check.”

How the jump-off played out 

The first four riders in the jump-off, Darragh Kenny, Pieter Devos (BEL), Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) and Gregory Wathelet (BEL) all finished with a single fence down. Next in, Bassem, rode a well-judged clear on Gunder to shoot him to the top of the leaderboard with one left to jump.

Edwina knew that if she injected some pace into her round while managing to keep all the fences intact, the huge winner’s check would be hers. She managed to shave more than three seconds off the Qatari’s time to take the win on California, a nippy Dutch 11-year-old mare by L’Esprit.

“I didn’t even know until 11am that I was going to ride her today,” said Edwina. “My groom even asked me if she should pack the trunk this morning. California didn’t feel 100%, so I really want to thank my team. We all work hard and sometimes it pays off. You have to believe in yourself. Now she can pack the trunk.”

Of the unusual beach-side location, she added: “It’s an amazing venue with a great atmosphere and I feel a bit like I’m on vacation. There are kites and parachutes and waves and people in bikinis everywhere — there’s lots happening. It’s fresh and different; unique and original. We’ve never had show like this in the world before, and every year it gets better and better.”

The next Longines Global Champions Tour leg takes place in Shanghai April 28-30. Catch up with all the action on H&C US.