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.
For more information visit www.globalchampionstour.com