Estoril, Portugal—July 8
Danielle Goldstein pulled off her first ever Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix win with her “amazing” chestnut mare Lizziemary in a fast-paced jump off in Cascais.
Goldstein, who has spent much of her career riding in the United States but rides for Israel, sealed her first Longines GCT Grand Prix win by taking a stride out early on before jumping the double verticals superbly and making a great turn back to the water tray fence. Her acceleration over the big oxer with Lizziemary was followed by a determined gallop to the last. Danielle said she knew she had to go all out in the five-horse jump-off.
“It feels great. We come out and we work every day, so it’s a dream to win, it feels amazing. I’m thrilled,” said Goldstein. “We clicked right away [with Lizziemary]—even when I tried her I knew right away that she was my kind of horse, so we’ve been building. We’ve been close a couple of times, so to pull it all together was great. I took a shot at the last but she was with me today. I was happy I was able to execute my plan, and it worked out today. I think everyone wants to win a Global Champions Tour grand prix—for me it’s the top of the list at the moment, so I’m thrilled.”
Jan Tops, Founder and President of the Longines Global Champions Tour said: “You can see that persistence paid off. I’ve known Dani the last few years and how she is riding the last few shows it’s nice to see—it’s amazing and seeing her win this important grand prix is wonderful, well done.”
Dutch champion Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Arera were pushed into second place more than a full second behind Goldstein. It was to be a night when young talent shone on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, as in form Martin Fuchs of Switzerland finished in third place on Clooney with Bertram Allen of Ireland and Molly Malone in fourth and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy finished in fifth. The young guns, some of the sport’s biggest speed stars, pulled out all the stops but could not beat Goldstein. Young American Jennifer Gates finished in an impressive seventh place in the grand prix on the impressive grey Luftikus S.
Frank Rothenberger made full use of the foot-perfect grass arena, with a time allowed of 81 seconds. The 1.60-meter track on the Estoril coast was to prove seriously testing for the world class field. First to go clear was young Belgian star Jos Verlooy of Belgium with Caracas, the pair leaping expressively around the course. Verlooy was visibly delighted with his grey stallion’s performance, the course suiting the large striding horse. Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten soon created a jump-off after a perfect round from VDL Groep Arera C, with the top Dutch rider keeping himself in with a chance of the overall championship.
The Longines triple combination caught out a few of the top riders, including Roger-Yves Bost of France with top horse Qoud’coeur de la Loge who collected a tally of 12 faults over the tough track. The crowd cheered in appreciation as home hero Luciana Diniz of Portugal entered the arena with Lennox. But it was not to be the popular former LGCT Champion’s night, with 8 faults from the pair ruling them out of the running.
Young star and LGCT Mexico City Grand Prix winner Martin Fuchs of Switzerland and Clooney joined those through to the jump-off, after another phenomenal round from the pair. Earlier this weekend, the Swiss rider won a major five-star class with the same horse, with the Swiss rider on flying form. Goldstein blazed around the arena with Lizziemary, securing herself a place in the final round, quickest of the field for the majority of the class.
Agonisingly Andreas Kreuzer of Germany rolled the final fence with Cavilot, the crowd groaning as they failed to make it through to the jump-off. Shock came when overall LGCT Ranking leader and Dutch rider Harrie Smolders was caught out by the oxer in the Longines combination, before also clipping the back rail on an oxer down the VIP hospitality with Capital Colnardo. Smolders would have a nervous wait to see whether he would keep hold of the overall lead.
One of the final riders to go, Allen showcased an absolutely masterful round with top mare Molly Malone V. The pair flew around the course, taking the fences with ease, the Irishman looking dangerous for the jump-off to come.
So it would be five to return to the ring, with the packed out grandstand holding their breath in anticipation.
First to go Verlooy set off at a powerful pace with Caracas. The pair looked strong, until the grey stallion tossed his head coming to the Longines double, taking out the first element and picking up four faults. Despite this, they set the time at 48.75 seconds, with four riders yet to come.
Van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Arera C were the first to go double clear, with the mare twisting herself over the fences, and putting all her effort into going clear. The pair had a couple of lucky rubs, but raised the new time to beat with 47.03 seconds overall.
Goldstein set off at a pace with Lizziemary, making a phenomenal turn back to the oxer to shave off the seconds. The crowd roared as they stopped the clock in 45.56 seconds, almost 2 seconds faster. Danger would come in the form of Fuchs and Clooney, with the pair blazing around the arena. But the penultimate vertical caught the pair out, dropping them down the order.
Final rider to go, Allen had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Flat-out through the start, Allen powered around the fences looking set to take over the lead. But an unlucky rub meant the pair paid the price, out of contention and off the podium.
So Goldstein took the win under the spotlight in Cascais, as Smolders keeps hold of his overall ranking lead. The Dutchman now sits on 207 points overall, with van der Vleuten leaping up to second with 185 points. Christian Ahlmann drops to third place with 180 points, but with all three in action for LGCT Chantilly all eyes will be on the championship battle as round 10 kicks off in France.