Harrie Smolders (NED) celebrated a “diamond day” in Chantilly after winning the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix and the Global Champions League team competition with his super stallion Emerald.
Dutchman Harrie has dramatically extended his lead in the Tour championship race after beating a high-powered field including serious challenges from Scott Brash (GBR) and Philippe Rozier (FRA) who finished second and third on the podium. Earlier Harrie and Emerald seized victory for the Hamburg Diamonds in the GCL showdown.
Harrie, who now enjoys a whopping 57 point lead over Alberto Zorzi (ITA) in the race for the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour title, described his day as “amazing”.
It was an afternoon of high emotion and big surprises as several top riders left the arena in frustration, falling victim to the tough track from international course designer Uliano Vezzani.
And then there was joy as the crowd rose to their feet applauding as Frenchman Philippe Rozier sailed into the lead in the jump off finishing on 44.80. But Harrie’s turbo-charged round eclipsed the home rider, stopping the clock over three seconds faster at 41.63.
There was a capacity crowd in the grandstand overlooking the vast grass arena with the fairytale Chateau de Chantilly providing another breathtaking backdrop for world class show jumping.
The formidable course included a mighty Renault oxer followed quickly by two big but delicate Spring Garden verticals at 1.60m. With 25 starters the LGCT Grand Prix is now a quicker class, but a supreme test of power and precision.
Kevin Staut (FRA) kicked off the first round and, despite fervent French hopes, he was the first of many riders to suffer an uncharacteristically high number of faults. Jane Richard Phillips (SUI) was one of the first to fall victim at the tricky Spring Garden double vertical which caught out multiple combinations including Christian Ahlmann (GER), Jack Towell (USA) and Yuri Mansur (BRA).
There were gasps as the veteran champion John Whitaker (GBR) was unceremoniously unseated when his nine-year-old grey stallion Cassinis Chaplin struggled in the middle of the Longines triple combination ending in elimination.
That upset was followed by another as the on-form Alberto Zorzi was caught out when Fair Light van T Heike took a dislike to the water jump and suddenly leapt sideways before splashing through the trough, upsetting an otherwise brilliant round. The young Italian now sits in second place in the overall ranking.
In a rollercoaster of emotions, there was disappointment for Lorenzo de Luca who had four faults at the Longines triple combination. But cheers resonated around the arena after Philippe Rozier (FRA) and Rahotep de Toscane were the first to go clear to the delight of the home crowd. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Cynar V unusually notched up 8 faults in the early part of the course, but then went on to complete a superb round.
After 20 riders in the first round of the Grand Prix there were still only three clear rounds. Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and Cas de Liberte were among many who finished on four faults ruling themselves out of the jump off and a shot at the €300,000 prize pot.
Harrie Smolders (NED) and Emerald were foot perfect with the stallion looking fresh and effortlessly taking the testing track in his stride for a masterful clear. Colombia’s Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo (COL) joined the jump-off line up going clear on his bay mare Cuplandra.
There was further French dismay when Penelope Leprevost (FRA) exited on 8 faults and Simon Delestre (FRA) and Chadino retired after having two down as the start of the course. French gloom deepened when Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) and Patrice Delaveau (FRA) also left the ring with hefty faults.
Gregory Wathelet (BEL) looked set for a clear on his grey mare Coree, but popped the final fence to shock and gasps from the crowd.
The first round ended with a master class as Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever jumped a beautiful clear setting up a four-strong jump off.
The jump off was a high calibre tale of speed and power. Philippe Rozier (FRA) set the pace with a seemingly impressive round, finishing in 44.80 and earning a standing ovation from the grandstand crowd.
But Harrie Smolders (NED) had other plans. He skilfully piloted Emerald to a stunning clear and thanks to a brilliantly-executed tight turn and a well-time gallop to the finish, he crossed the line in 41.63.
Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo (COL) exited the jump off on four faults leaving it all down to Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever to upset Harrie’s lead. Although Scott was quick and clear he could not match the time and finished in 42.82 admitting later that he lost time on the turns.
Harrie is now on 247 points with Alberto Zorzi (ITA) on 190 points and Maikel van der Vleuten five points behind on 185. Hot on his heels is Christian Ahlmann (GER) on 180 points with Scott Brash in 5th place on 166 in the overall ranking.
Hamburg Diamonds Take GCL Championship Lead
Hamburg Diamonds delivered a masterclass in grace under pressure, after a sensational win from Harrie Smolders and John Whitaker saw the team shoot to the top of the overall Global Champions League rankings.
Smolders revealed the intensity of the Diamonds’ drive to win the team title this season, saying “we’re also very focused on the team – we try to put our good horses [forward], we don’t ride for the class ourselves but we try to ride for the team first.”
The rock solid duo had the packed grandstand on the edge of their seats as it all came down to the wire, with Whitaker the final rider to go in the class, and the decider of the competition. Converting their pole into a win meant that the Diamonds have made a break away from the rest of the field, with 196 points overall, 13 points ahead of long-term leaders Valkenswaard United who sit on 183 points. Mexico Amigos have shot up to third overall, a further 11 points away on 172 overall.
As the sun blazed down, the top teams took centre stage in the lush grass arena, watched over by the iconic Chateau de Chantilly and set against the beautiful grand stables. Uliano Vezzani delivered an artful course design, with a clever layout using the full width and breadth of the galloping grass arena. A true test for the world’s best riders, the course required delicacy, with short distances constantly keeping the horses and riders on the back foot. The layout featured a holding seven strides to the treble combination, tough for a speed class course, as well as a wide white Longines plank situated alongside the packed grandstand, before a formidable Global Champions League oxer to finish.
The very first fence took out a few, including experienced duo Ludger Beerbaum of the Cannes Stars and top stallion Chaman. Miami Glory’s Paris Sellon had a rub of the first, but picked up four faults at the final part of the treble combination, putting the pressure back on the shoulders of teammate Scott Brash to jump clear and keep the team in the mix for a podium.
Although the course was challenging, clears came from across the field, with Jessica Springsteen (Shanghai Swans) and Cynar, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (Doha Fursan Qatar) with First Devision, Christian Ahlmann (Mexico Amigos) of Codex One, home team rider Sergio Alvarez Moya (Chantilly Pegasus) with Charmeur, Gregory Wathelet (Vienna Eagles) with Coree and Simon Delestre (St Tropez Pirates) with Chadino all putting their teammates in the spotlight to try shake up the final result.
Home team rider Lauren Hough of the Chantilly Pegasus couldn’t match teammate Moya’s clear, with the leading American rider picking up an unusual 12 faults from all around the field. Overall ranking drama kicked off, as leaders Valkenswaard United were ruled out of the podium position after anchor Marcus Ehning picked up eight faults with the speedy Comme il Faut. St Tropez Pirates Jérôme Guery with Alicante also collected faults, keeping the team out of the running, and missing out on valuable ranking points.
The crowd cheered as home hero Roger-Yves Bost of the Shanghai Swans leapt clear on Sangria du Coty, with teammate Springsteen anxiously watching on following her spectacular clear earlier in the class. But it wasn’t enough to put the team on the podium, with the pair finishing in 4th overall. World Number 1 Kent Farrington of the London Knights set off at a blistering pace with grey gelding Dublin, but it proved costly, with the duo collecting eight faults and dropping the red, white and blue team down the order.
Leading team Hamburg Diamonds stuck with their rock steady combination, bringing out star striker Smolders, with the impressive Emerald N.O.P. raring to go in the expansive grass arena. The pressure was on for the leading Dutchman to help convert the team pole into a podium position, and Smolders kept his cool in the soaring temperatures to deliver a foot-perfect round, jumping clear and keeping the team in with a shot of the win.
He would have a nervous wait as the rest of the field played out their rounds, before the legendary John Whitaker would return to the ring with his nine year old dapple grey stallion Cassinis Chaplin – the final rider to go in what’s become a nail-biter of a competition.
Nearest rivals Miami Glory pulled out all the stops with Scott Brash, with the star rider putting in a phenomenal round with the fiery Hello Forever. Quickest of the whole field, the British Olympic gold medalist wowed the crowd, managing the hot gelding beautifully, and keeping the team on four faults to hold onto a podium position.
All eyes turned to John Whitaker, with the experienced rider knowing he had to go clear, or with one fence down and faster than Miami Glory’s combined time to stay in the lead. Silence fell as the packed grandstands watched on, the popular rider commanding the arena with his striking grey stallion. Setting off at a steady pace, it was clear that clean and slow was the strategy for the team. As Smolders watched on nervously from the kiss n’ cry, Whitaker delivered a masterclass in grace under pressure, riding Cassinis Chaplin beautifully to finish on just one time fault.
So the lead would go to the Diamonds, who shot to the top of the overall rankings. Miami Glory settled for a strong second, and Doha Fursan Qatar took home the final podium place. The League now looks to Berlin, a new destination on the calendar, as the battle for the overall championship continues.
Edited LGCT Press Release