The Height of Success

10 February 2018 - EEM World

Hong Kong was blessed with its first mild day in weeks on Day 2 of the Longines Masters of Hong Kong, but the competition in the arena remained just as fierce, kicking off with a whole new competition for the Asian leg of the intercontinental series in Hong Kong, the Maserati Masters Power. Michael Whitaker of Great Britain scored an impressive victory in the six bar class from among a field of nine riders on veteran stallion Valentin R. Marc Houtzager of the Netherlands on Sterrehof's Edinus took second, while there was a tremendous result for China, with Meng Quanwei finishing third on Clintorado.

The Masters One class, with total prize money of US$20,000, was presented by Official Partner Maserati – the perfect partner for the class, as an organisation that knows more than most about horsepower. The knock-out contest, which isn’t timed, requires riders to make their way through a course of six obstacles (2 + 4) rising from 1.20m to 1.55m, the last of which, as long as no rider knocks the bar off, is continually raised. 

Featuring several horses who were new to such events – including, to some extent, the winner – it took four rounds to decide the Maserati Masters Power, with the bar eventually raised to 1.90m for the fourth. Whitaker’s was the only faultless performance; 16-year-old grey Valentin R didn’t even brush a single fence in four rounds.

“He really jumped it well today; he was really up for it,” says Whitaker. “He’s only done one competition like this before, but it felt like he left some height out there – he could have gone again.”

The veteran British rider adds that he loves coming to the Longines Masters of Hong Kong. “It’s very, very nice here – we’re always made to feel really welcome.”

Meng is part of a mainland Chinese team who are visiting the event for the first time, as showjumping’s global reach continues to grow; his fellow Chinese rider Zhang Xingjia also featured in the Maserati Masters Power, on For Passion D Ive Z.

“Equestrian sport is growing really fast in China,” says Meng. “I usually do big shows in China, but this is the first time I’ve come to Hong Kong. It’s great – it’s really different here at the Longines Masters.”

The rapid spread and development of equestrian sport in Asia, particularly China, has been a key focus of the Asia Horse Week equestrian forum, a new focal point for the international equestrian community that this year accompanies the Longines Masters of Hong Kong for the first time. As well as sessions exploring China's flourishing equestrian scene and Hong Kong's growing role as an equestrian hub, Asia Horse Week also featured speakers from European federations discussing their experiences in Asian clubs, plus representatives from emerging Asian federations.

The horse Meng rode in the Maserati Masters Power, Clintorado, comes from the renowned Ecuries d'Ecaussinnes stables in Belgium, which have played a pivotal role in the creation of the Longines Masters Series, as the cradle of EEM, the organization behind it.

Later today, in the evening session, there’s a chance for some junior stars of the equestrian world to get a taste of the big time with The Hong Kong Jockey Club Junior Challenge. Then there’s an action-packed finale to the day in the form of the Longines Speed Challenge, considered the World Speed Championship, in which riders will attempting to beat the times set over an identical course at the Longines Masters of Paris; an identical course will also be replicated at the final leg of the Longines Masters in New York.