The 2017 Global Champions League season kicked off in style at the magificent venue of Mexico City as reigning Champions Valkenswaard United stormed to pole position ahead of Saturday’s final. Kick-starting the defence of their title off to the best possible start, Alberto Zorzi and Bertram Allen produced masterful clear rounds around a tough track to leave their team in prime position, securing the only team clear of the class.

A great crowd turned out for the first day of live competition and the kick off for this season’s bigger Global Champions League. The Mexico City event is only in its second year but already has a long-established feel and plenty of atmosphere thanks to the thousands of knowledgeable fans.

With the giant national flag fluttering over the arena, it was a fitting stage for the best riders and horses in the world to perform at the opening leg of the bumper 2017 season. As the GCL got underway for Round 1 of the competition with 18 teams, it soon became clear there were some star strikers showing early form and would become key anchors for their squads.

Top names like Scott Brash of Miami Glory, Simon Delestre of the new team St Tropez Pirates, Nicola Philippaerts of Chantilly Pegasus and Eric Lamaze - making his debut in the GCL for Hamburg Diamonds - all delivered polished clear rounds on the formidable course.

Earlier Nicola said: “It’s very exciting and we have a nice team. You ride and support each other and ride with the best riders in the world.”

Jerome Guery was left ruing his one time penalty aboard Grand Cru van de Rozenburg which kept St Tropez Pirates from the top spot. Fellow team member Simon Delestre had to work hard for his clear round with Hermes Ryan but will be glad he did as the team remains in a strong position heading into Saturday’s deciding round.

Three teams are tied on eight faults with the Hamburg Pirates just ahead on time. Their first rider, Harrie Smolders and Emerald N.O.P, racked up eight faults before Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 displayed nerves of steel to produce a clear round. It was a similar story for Chantilly Pegasus after their opening rider Martin Fuchs and Chaplin knocked down two fences before Nicola Philippaerts and Chilli Willi kept them in the hunt with a faultless performance. Four faults apiece for Leopold van Asten and VDL Groep Miss Untouchable and Maikel van der Vleuten with VDL Groep Arera C leave Madrid in Motion on the same mark but down in fifth place.

There was disappointment for David Will and Monodie H, who faced the worst of the rain during their round, after they incurred elimination for two refusals, ending the Cascais Charms team hopes in Mexico. Agonisingly, their second rider, Carlos Lopez and Cuplandra, produced a beautiful round for just one time penalty.

Despite the surprising downpour of rain, the crowd were treated to top sport. It was a class to test the best with high drama and technical challenges for the riders saw poles flying all over the beautiful manicured lawn of the Campo Marte. But it was Alberto, who returns to Valkenswaard United this year, and Bertram, fresh from his earlier CSI5* class win, who looked in imperious form as they laid down a marker for the rest of the teams.

The individual jump off was won by Eric Lamaze who put in a stunning display with Fine Lady 5, proving they were the pair to beat in the CS15* 1.50/1.55m class after their lightening quick jump off round left the rest of the star-studded field trailing in their wake.

The Rio individual bronze medallist, who was third to go in the seven-strong jump off, stopped the clock on a speedy 38 seconds, laying down a tough gauntlet for the remaining riders. Scott Brash and Hello M’Lady were next into the arena and they came the closest, producing a clear round in 38.24 to occupy second place.

Yesterday’s result means that Valkenswaard United are in pole position for Saturday’s GCL final, with the pairing last to go in the order. Saturday’s GCL final takes centre stage at 13:00, just ahead of the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Mexico City which kicks off at 16:00.

LGCT Press Release