For Beerbaum Stables’ Christian Kukuk (GER), Saturday at the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) of Riyadh was a full circle moment.

Back in March, during the first stage of the LGCT in Doha, Qatar, Kukuk and 13-year-old gelding Checker 47 forfeited the win by just fractions of a second. No doubt replaying the jump-off in his head, imagining a tighter turn or a little extra leg, Kukuk has been chasing LGCT Grand Prix redemption all season with his top horse.

“I had a flashback actually to Doha, first stage, was last to go in the jump off and lost it by .5 of a second and I thought, ‘okay, that’s not going to happen today again’,” said Kukuk.

On Saturday night Checker was in better form than ever, hot off a win with Team Germany in the Nations Cup Final of Barcelona and having secured the 2023 Global Champions League (GCL) title with Riesenbeck International on Friday night.

After watching Malin Baryard-Johnsson (SWE) press the gas to clock in at 37.72 seconds with 15-year-old mare H&M Indiana, Kukuk knew he had to leave it all on the line lest he risk repeating history. The German rider pulled ahead of Baryard-Johnsson after slicing the GC vertical, and keeping an open stride through to the finish.

When 37.56 seconds flashed across the board the result was clear, Kukuk was 0.16 seconds faster.

With it, Kukuk secured the final coveted place in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix as part of the upcoming Prague Playoffs. Simon Delestre (FRA) rounded out the podium on 38.31 seconds with 10-year-old gelding Dexter Fontenis Z.

“I can only smile to be honest, I am very, very emotional. I had two goals. I wanted to win the overall season with our team Riesenbeck International, which worked out outstanding yesterday. After that my second goal was the qualification for the the LGCT Super Grand Prix. So I knew I had to win the Grand Prix to bring it home. I’m so happy that I’m nearly missing some words,” said Kukuk.

Though like any show jumper, Kukuk found his words again while analyzing his course.

“I went in and I knew Malin is very fast so all the cards were on the table. I felt a little slow from one, two and three. Actually I got the strides I wanted, but I was a little bit holding strides everywhere. Then I turned very, very tight to the double, which I actually already did yesterday with him in the team class, and he managed it really well so I thought ‘why not, let’s try it again’,” said Kukuk.

“He did it again super to bring it home, and then to cross the finish line and see that we won was an amazing feeling. It was just very, very special today for me and I’m super happy.”

“Happy” just scratches the surface when it comes to the emotions brought out by a Grand Prix win, especially after knocking at the door all season. According to the statistics, it was only a matter of time and consistency. Checker has a 47% clear round and 44% top ten finish rate (Jumpr App) at the 1.60m level, and he continues to trend upwards.

“These last weeks the shape he’s in is unreal. For me, it’s hard to say why. I just sit on him everyday and think ‘wow,’ what a feeling. I said that already before we came here that when we trained at home. The last show was Barcelona where we won the Nations Cup Final. I came here, I won yesterday and I’m winning today. It’s difficult to find words for that. I’m very very proud of that horse. I’m super happy and thankful that I can ride him, that I have him in my stable,” said Kukuk.

After his string of victories there is nothing that could damper Kukuk’s moment, not even falling just outside of the podium for the overall individual championship.

The attention turned to Harrie Smolders (NED) of Evergate Stables who has been favored, or rather expected, to take the title after winning a historic three LGCT Grands Prix throughout the course of the tour. In the end, Smolders boasted 252 points, followed up by fellow Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten on 246 points and World no.1 Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) with 245.5 points.

Smolders was sure to offer credit to his team, the integral component in consistent success.

“The level of this series is definitely the highest in our sport. To then be crowned as the overall, means you have good management, good horsemanship, great horses, but also the total package. The family behind you, the support, sponsors, for me especially Team Evergate, Copernicus Stablesand Family Spronken that believe in you. All this commitment together, with all the dedication from all my team, my people, and my grooms – this is a big milestone for all of us,” said Smolders.