Luciana Diniz (POR) and her impressive grey stallion Winningmood had the crowd on the edge of their seats after an electric jump-off in the opening day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Chantilly. Racing to the finish a full second ahead of the rest of the field, the pair made a triumphant return to the Tour, with today’s result the perfect prelude to hot competition ahead of Saturday’s Grand Prix.

Set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Chateau de Chantilly, spectators flocked to the grandstand to watch the world’s best horses and riders take to the lush grass arena as the sun burst through the clouds for an afternoon of top sport. Uliano Vezzani put together a challenging but fair track, featuring gappy verticals and a tricky white plank set against the white backdrop of the VIP hospitality. A huge Longines oxer, before a short stride to a skinny vertical, was one of the toughest combinations, catching out many of the top riders. For the full report of the first round, please click here.

So it would be 13 rider jump-off, as the top athletes in the world returned to the arena to battle it out for the lion’s share of the 92,000 euro prize purse.

First in was Scott Brash (GBR) and the young eight year old Hello Senator. After a beautiful clear first round, the top British rider carefully guided the young gelding around the jump-off, putting in a fantastic display of horsemanship to stop the clocks clear in 42.84s. Although a good time, the Olympian had left the door slightly ajar, with some of the fastest riders on the grid yet to come.

Despite there being room for manoeuvre, the pressure to ride faster clear kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, as many tried, and failed, to better the pair’s time. Jack Towell (USA) with Emilie de Diamant A S, Ales Opatrny (CZE) with Dimaro v.d.Looise Heide, Jos Verlooy (BEL) with Igor and Kerry Mc Cahill (USA) with Vatson Sitte all pushed but were caught out with poles falling all over the field.

Paris Sellon (USA) and her expressive grey mare Cassandra put in another strong clear, but the duo couldn’t match Brash’s time, stopping the clock in 43.63s and slipping in just behind the lead. Others went for the gap, but it came undone at difficult fence on the field – the Longines double, with many taking out the front rail including John Whitaker (GBR) and Cassinis Chaplin, Carlos Lopez (COL) with Cuplandra, David Will (GER) with Cento du Rouet and the speedy Kent Farrington (USA) with Sherkan d’Amaury.

It looks as though Brash had played the percentages, until former LGCT Champion of Champions Luciana Diniz (POR) re-entered the arena with her eye-catching grey stallion Winningmood. Setting off at a gallop, the pair looked determined for the win, racing around the arena. Turning back tight to the vertical and taking a galloping flier to the last, the formidable strong combination wowed the crowds, stopping the clock a full second ahead of the rest of the field in 41.37s.

So the win would go to Luciana Diniz (POR) and Winningmood, with Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Senator in second and Paris Sellon (USA) with Cassandra in third. Today will see the GCL Chantilly final kick off at 13:45 local time, with the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Chantilly taking place at 17:15.

Harrie Smolders & Emerald NOP. Photo courtesy of Sefano Grasso/LGCT

Hamburg Diamonds Dominate

Also on Friday, Hamburg Diamonds’ formidable pairing of John Whitaker and Harrie Smolders sparkled in a split-second victory against Miami Glory in one of the closest GCL finishes to date.

Shock results from fellow teams at the sharp end of the grid means the Championship race is wide open, with the 10th leg of the 15-event series a pivotal moment in the season battle.

It all came down to fractions of a second, as the Diamonds jumped clear just tenths of a second faster than second place team Miami Glory. Scott Brash and Paris Sellon threw down the gauntlet, with the strong pair jumping clear in a combined time of 155.41s. Following a strong round from teammate Smolders and top stallion Emerald, John Whitaker of the Diamonds managed to shave fractions of a second off team Glory’s time with Cassinis Chaplin, stopping the clock in 155.30s. Third place went to the young team Cascais Charms, with David Will and Philip Houston picking up just four faults today.

Set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Chateau de Chantilly, spectators flocked to the grandstand to watch the world’s best teams take to the lush grass arena as the sun burst through the clouds for an afternoon of top sport. Uliano Vezzani put together a challenging but fair track, featuring gappy verticals and a tricky white plank set against the white backdrop of the VIP hospitality. A huge Longines oxer, before a short stride to a skinny vertical, was one of the toughest combinations, catching out the experienced duo of Ludger Beerbaum of the Cannes Stars and top stallion Chaman.

One of the early riders to impress was Scott Brash of Miami Glory with the young eight year old Hello Senator, the top British rider putting in a stunning clear for the team. Teammate Paris Sellon had all the pressure heaped onto her young shoulders, but mastered the course beautifully with Cassandra, despite the grey mare cat-leaping extravagantly over the water jump.

Overall leaders Valkenswaard United had a sticky moment with Alberto Zorzi, with the Italian star picking up an unfortunate four faults with Fair Light van T Heike. Teammate Marcus Ehning had everything to do, but was caught out at the double combination with Gin Chin van het Lindenhof, adding another four faults to the team’s total, giving them a combined score of eight overall but keeping them in the mix.

St Tropez Pirates look to be in trouble this weekend, after an unusual 12 faults from Jerome Guery and another 8 faults from Simon Delestre plummeted them to the bottom of today’s results. Mexico Amigos rider Christian Ahlmann also had an unusually challenging round with Caribis Z, the top German rider picking up 9 faults overall and dropping the Amigos to 13th. Time proved costly for Doha Fursan Qatar. Both Bassem Hassan Mohammed and Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani picked up a time penalty each. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani also rolled a pole with First Devision, putting the team on a score of six to carry through.

But clears came from several star team members. Jack Towell of the Paris Panthers put in a phenomenal round with Emilie de Diamant A S, Berlin Lions’ Ales Opatrny with Dimaro v.d.Looise Heide, Leopold van Asten of Madrid in Motion with VDL Groep Miss Untouchable, David Will of the Cascais Charms with Cento du Rouet and London Knights’ Kent Farrington.

All eyes will now be which tactics and strategies come into effect. Will teams pull riders off the bench to play them upfield? Or will horse changes take centre stage once more? One thing is for sure, the Global Champions League of Chantilly final promises to be another electric round of top sport and entertainment.

Edited GCL press release