Chantilly, France—July 15
Harrie Smolders 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 Smolders has dramatically extended his lead in the GCT championship race after beating a high-powered field including serious challenges from Scott Brash and Philippe Rozier, who finished second and third on the podium. Earlier Smolders and Emerald seized victory for the Hamburg Diamonds in the GCL showdown.
The Hamburg Diamonds delivered a masterclass in grace under pressure on July 14, after a sensational win from 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.
“I’m very pleased with Emerald and he deserves the credit for the results this week. He felt very good at home but it’s never a guarantee that it turns out like this,” Smolders said. “Yesterday clear, and today three clears, with the win in the GCL and GCT—it’s amazing. When I did my round I thought I wasn’t fast enough actually. I was very smooth everywhere but had two steady moments, which for sure someone saw for Scott. So I left a little gap open, but finally it was enough!”
See Smolders talk about what makes Emerald so special:
Smolders now enjoys a whopping 57-point lead over Alberto Zorzi of Italy in the race for the Longines GCT title.
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 Rozier sailed into the lead in the jump-off, finishing on 44.80 seconds. But Smolders’ turbo-charged round eclipsed the home rider, stopping the clock more than 3 seconds faster at 41.63 seconds.
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 1.60-meter. With 25 starters the LGCT Grand Prix is now a quicker class, but a test of power and precision.
Kevin Staut 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 of Switzerland was one of the first to fall victim at the tricky Spring Garden double vertical which caught out multiple combinations including Christian Ahlmann of Germany, Jack Towell of the United States and Brazilian rider Yuri Mansur.
There were gasps as the veteran champion John Whitaker was unceremoniously unseated when his 9-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 4 faults at the Longines triple combination. But cheers resonated around the arena after Rozier and Rahotep De Toscane were the first to go clear to the delight of the home crowd. Jessica Springsteen 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 of Belgium and Cas de Liberte were among many who finished on 4 faults, ruling themselves out of the jump-off and a shot at the €300,000 prize pot.
Smolders 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 joined the jump-off line up going clear on his bay mare Cuplandra.
There was further French dismay when Penelope Leprevost exited on 8 faults and Simon Delestre and Chadino retired after having two down as the start of the course. French gloom deepened when Roger-Yves Bost and Patrice Delaveau also left the ring with hefty faults.
Gregory Wathelet of Belgium 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 Brash and Hello Forever jumped a beautiful clear, setting up a four-strong jump off.
The jump-off was a high caliber tale of speed and power. Rozier set the pace with a seemingly impressive round, finishing in 44.80 seconds and earning a standing ovation from the grandstand crowd.
But Smolders had other plans. He skillfully 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 seconds.
Watch Smolders’ jump-off round:
Lizarazo exited the jump-off on 4 faults, leaving it all down to Brash and Hello Forever to upset Smolders’ lead. Although Brash was quick and clear he could not match the time and finished in 42.82 seconds, admitting later that he lost time on the turns.
“Hello Forever was amazing today—I was just too slow in the last class!” Brash said. “I must say you can’t take it away from Harrie Smolders; he did an amazing jump-off round, he was very fast. I did everything I could and I’m delighted with my horse. I’ve juggled around with bits in the past with him, but the double bridle works great—perhaps the turning is not quite amazing yet, and I probably lost it back to the second last as I wasn’t tight enough there. But we’re going in the right direction and he’s jumped great this weekend.
“I still feel far away [in the championship] if you see Harrie’s result—he’s done amazing. We’ll keep trying and there’s still a lot of jumping to go.”
“[Scott and Harrie] have really made a stamp on the tour,” said Jan Tops, Founder and President of the Longines GCT. “Scott won already twice the Global Champions Tour the last few years—it’s very difficult to win. The real champion has to be an extremely good horseman and manager to win this type of circuit.”