Hamburg Diamonds' formidable pairing of John Whitaker and Harrie Smolders sparkled in a split-second victory against Miami Glory in one of the closest Global Champions League 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.