At 25, Gilles Thomas is about to age out of the U25 division. But he’s already a proven championship rider—and winner.

Case in point: Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) Shanghai, China.

On Sunday, Thomas captured his first LGCT victory on Luna van het Dennehof.

First to test Uliano Vezzani’s short track, the pair stopped the clock in 42.56 seconds. It was ultimately enough to top the seven-horse jump off in the fourth leg of the 2024 LGCT season. Only Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield managed to match their double clear in a steady 47.39.

“The Longines Global Champions Tour was always something that when you are a child you were watching on TV, I only have dreamed of this moment and now twice on the podium—one second and now my first LGCT Grand Prix win, twice on Luna—she is just such a fantastic mare.”

Here’s what to know about Belgium’s rising star.

He’s been a winner from go

Thomas jumped his first international class in 2011 at age 13 and was part of the gold medal winning children’s team at the European championships the following year.

Between 2011 and 2019, he won six medals in the Children’s, Junior and Young Riders divisions at the European Championships, highlighted by double gold in 2016 on Indiana v/h Kapelhof. He made his 1.60m debut that same year.


Stal Nieuwenhof is a family affair

Thomas works alongside his uncle, Marc van Dijck, at Stal Nieuwenhof and credits him as the “most inspiring” person in his career.

“He is also my trainer and has competed at the top level of the sport as well as representing the Belgium team. Around 10 or 15 years ago he was competing at CSIO Spruce Meadows and CHIO Aachen, and he was actually third in Aachen. He gives me the best advice, but I am also super motivated to make sure that I beat his results!” Thomas told Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.


He’s not a newcomer to LGCT

While Sunday marked Thomas’s first LGCT Grand Prix win, it’s by no means a surprise finish. He’s been riding on the tour since 2021 and has jumped to 14 podium finishes, twice winning in 2022 at the 1.45m and 1.50m heights.


He rides “for second”

It sounds counterintuitive, but when you’re driven to win taking a beat is often a more successful strategy. Thomas told the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping that the best advice he was ever given was to ride for second:

“I am a very competitive person, so I think the best piece of advice I was given was that it is better to ride for second place and not for first place, and you will eventually win more. I really think this is true because you ride a bit slower, and it allows the time to build up their confidence and ability.”

He’s earned 369 podium finishes to date

Apparently that advice is working for him. Since 2011, Thomas has jumped to 369 podium finishes on 61 different horses, according to Jumpr Stats.

Of those, 151 are wins, 121 are second place finishes and 97, third. Which is to say, when he podiums, he tends to win, particularly at the 1.40m–1.45m heights where he’s amassed 93 victories to date.


He won his first 5* Grand Prix at age 23

Twenty-twenty-two was a breakout year for Thomas. The Belgian wunderkind captured his first 1.60m victory in the 5* Nations Cup at Falsterbo aboard Luna Van Het Dennehof, riding alongside countrymen Wilm Vermeir, Pieter Clemens, and Koen Vereecke.

Two weeks later at Hickstead, GBR, he won his first 5* Grand Prix on Aretino 13. In October that same year, he was part of the winning Nation Cup Final in Barcelona on Calleryama, helping Belgium qualify for the Paris 2024 Games.

That’s three 1.60m wins on three different horses in the space of a year (Jumpr).


He’s won nearly €3 million

Thomas’s career earnings are €2,821,263 to date (Jumpr). His highest grossing year was 2022 when he won €976,188. In the past fortnight, he’s earned a cool €229,680.


He’s currently ranked no. 84 in the world

Thomas broke into the world top 100 in 2021. His highest ranking—so far—was no. 27 achieved in November 2022.

2024 could be his best year yet

With experience comes consistency. Judging by his clear round stats, 2024 is poised to be Thomas’s best yet.

In 12 rounds at 1.60m this year, he’s jumping clear at a 58% clip and averaging 3.3 faults (Jumpr). By comparison, he was clear in 30% of 30 rounds at 1.60m and averaged 3.4 faults in 2023. In 2022, his best year on record, it was 42% of 45 rounds with an average of 3.6 faults.


He’s a veteran’s favorite

You know you’re heading in the right direction when your heroes are pulling for you.

After his third place finish in Miami in 2022, Jérôme Guery and Gregory Wathelet messaged Thomas to say “they hoped that they we would compete on the same team this year.” And they did.

After his win in Shanghai, GCL teammate Edwina Tops-Alexander said, “I think the world of Gilles, I honestly think he is the best young rider and up and coming rider in the world today. He has so much talent, he is super cool in the head, he is such a team player and I think he has a massive future and this has just boosted it even more.”

Gilles Thomas is one to watch.