Italy’s Alberto Zorzi played the ace in Monaco with a spectacular Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix de Prince du Monaco Presented by Sapinda win. There was a shake up in the overall LGCT rankings after the competition result led to a re-shuffle at the top, putting Christian Ahlmann (GER) in the first spot.
Speaking after tonight’s win a modest Zorzi said he was “so happy for the result” and his horse had been “a super jumper”, but he admitted he had known between fences one and two that he had it, after taking one less stride.
In the overall rankings, second place in the Grand Prix for Ahlmann meant he leapt up to the top of the list with 154 points, nudging previous leader Harrie Smolders down to second with 150. The evening win contributed to a rise up the leaderboard for Zorzi also, taking him to 145 points in total and in third position overall.
Lars Windhorst, Group CEO of Sapinda, Presenting Sponsor of the London Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Monaco, said: “It is a great pleasure to be involved. We have be working with GCT for the 5th year and Monaco is in my opinion probably the most special event due to this magic setting and great atmosphere and I really enjoy my experience here. I was quite surprised when I first came to the Global Champions Tour how many diverse and interesting people are riding and watching it and involved in the sport. From a corporate perspective this is even more effective than Formula One as it is a more direct opportunity to meet people and be close to the action, so it is good all round.”
The Grand Prix took place in the presence Princess Caroline of Hannover, alongside daughter and Honorary President Charlotte Casiraghi. The high profile event attracted global business leaders and philanthropists including Bill Gates and his wife Melinda who were at the event to support their daughter Jennifer who competed in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix Presented by Sapinda and the Global Champions League Paris Panthers’ team. Marta Ortega and her father Anuncio were among VIP guests who included Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti who watched their daughter Jessica take part in the world class competitions. Fans lined the street lining the arena to cheer on the athletes as the incredible spectacle of top-level show jumping unfolded in the arena on the edge of the world famous yacht harbour. There were stars from other sports including two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen and Australian champion jockey Michelle Payne.
Actress and Longines Ambassador of Elegance Ingeborga Dapkunaite, who has appeared in films including Mission Impossible and Seven Years in Tibet, said: “I would like to say how wonderful it is to be here, what a beautiful setting. Monaco is very special. I could not imagine where one would put horse jumping here but here it is! Longines always represents elegance and to give a prize to the winner is a great honour.”
All eyes were on another tricky technical course from Luc Musette on Saturday night, packing plenty of punch in the small sand arena, with several difficult lines for riders to focus on. A number of poles fell throughout the competition, with a particularly big and tricky combination for fence 11, and a delicate plank at number 8 both claiming faults. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly 13 – more than half of all the riders – ended up finishing with a total of four faults.
The first of those was the initial rider out of the tunnel – Jessica Springsteen (USA) with Cynar v. – whose knocked pole came much to the disappointment of a vocal crowd in Monaco. World Number One Kent Farrington (USA) on Creedance, Pieter Devos (BEL) with his gelding Apart, Jack Towell (USA) and Germany’s Daniel Deusser with SX Hidalgo v. were also victims of the taxing route, picking up four faults apiece. It was a similar story for Jane Richard Philips (SUI) whose strong round with Dieudonne de Guldenboom was marred by a pole dropping in the triple combination.
One of the event’s most consistent U25s, Jos Verlooy rode a beautiful clear, but was frustratingly left with a time fault, pushing him out of the jump-off.
Thousands of members of the general public strained at open side barriers to get a glimpse of some of the best horses in the world, and they were not disappointed. Christian Ahlmann (GER) was the first to secure a clear in 74.51s with his 9 year old horse Dolocia, but was pushed into second by Scott Brash (GBR) a few horses later on his 11 year old chestnut gelding Hello Forever. It seemed to set a trend, because just minutes afterwards, France’s Kevin Staut (FRA) moved into the top spot with a pacey clear with For Joy van’T Zorgvliet HDC at 71.68s, well within the 75s cut-off. The fourth, and final, clear came from an on-form Alberto Zorzi (ITA) on his immensely capable black gelding, Cornetto K.
The tension was palpable ahead of the four-horse jump off, with all those involved spotted talking tactics with trainers. As super yachts nestled in Monaco’s iconic harbour just metres away, Christian Ahlmann (GER) came through the gate into the jump-of like he meant business. He powered through the long run between fences one and two, taking on the twists and turns of the new course and pushing through to finish on 38.20s.
Scott Brash (GBR) came up with enormous acceleration, but it was not to be his night as Hello Forever wriggled his way over fence three and did not really recover, leading to two poles down and an eight fault finish in a time of 39.14s.
France’s Kevin Staut (FRA) looked quick, but controlled and surprised the crowd with an unfortunate pole down at fence two, finishing on 41.05s with four faults – enough to give him a podium finish in third regardless.
It was all to play for when Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Cornetto K came through the tunnel, he took one less stride between fences one and two and was up on the clock from the off, taking the water tray at three perfectly before bouncing through the combination and racing to a winning finish at 37.8s.
So it would be an Italian win, with Zorzi claiming his first LGCT Grand Prix victory in emphatic style. The Tour now gallops to Paris, where the iconic Eiffel Tower will play host to round eight of the electric 2017 Championship season.
Jan Tops, Longines Global Champions Tour : “This year we have the new formula, we only have 25 riders in the Grand Prix. This year everyone comes in with zero points, so it is easier to follow. Today was tough class and only two clear in the jump off.”
“Christian goes in the lead, then Harrie [in second] he wasn’t here to defend himself, Alberto moves up to third. I still think because we only have fifty percent counting that the whole series is still open – anyone in the first 20 could still win.
“It is always a pleasure to work every day with Alberto. He is a pleasure to work with, not only in the ring, but also at home. He loves his horses. He is one of those riders that has been knocking at the door – finishing twice already on the podium in previous Grand Prix. It is great to have the chance to win a Global Grand Prix once in your life.”
“Cornetto K is an amazing horse. He’s owned by Athina [Onassis] and Alberto is very lucky that he gets to ride it. It is a very talented horse and one of the best horses there is at the moment, and Alberto does very well with him.”
Kevin Staut, 3rd place: “It is always nice to compete here, because there are so many French supporters, but I wasn’t prepared for quite so many Italian ones! I am really happy with the result for sure. This is For Joy’s [van’T Zorgvliet HDC] first Grand Prix in six months, he’s been a bit out and now he is back on the top spot after just three shows. I am really happy to be back on the podium. It was a great Grand Prix, Luc Musette built a great course – really technical, and I was happy to jump a course like this. There were a lot of riders picking up four faults, but I was happy with how I went and the course.”
Christian Ahlmann, 2nd place: “Today I’m very very surprised I must say, we already had a good season but I have a very young horse here, when she did her first five-star Grand Prix I didn’t expect very much. I had her for the first time in Madrid and I could feel the quality, and that she was something special but she was not really ready to think about as a winner, or even to be in the top three. She did an amazing job today to finish second, we had an amazing day. I really didn’t expect it, so I’m very happy with my second place. Well done to Alberto, and well done to Kevin, they both did a good job. I will try my best, I will be in Paris and bringing Taloubet and Caribis, my two top ones for the moment so I hope I can keep the position. I’m really motivated and we will see what we get.”
Alberto Zorzi, winner: “I’m so excited to win my first Grand Prix – I can’t believe that before the class, but I had such a nice horse and he jumped great, Cornetto jumped very good. Before the jump off we watched Christian, and Jan said maybe one less in one to two, and I was just a little faster. To finish I’d like to say thank you to Jan and to Athina for the horses, Jan for teaching me every day. We work very hard but we have results, and we are very happy.”
Photos: Stefano Grasso/LGCT