It was another dream come true at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach as Jérôme Guery (BEL) and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg galloped to a gallant victory on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in a high drama Grand Prix. Set against the backdrop of the breath-taking turquoise ocean, the world’s best wowed the crowds in a stunning display of top sport and entertainment, with the grandstand at full capacity to witness the Belgian rider achieve his dream of winning an LGCT Grand Prix. Speaking about the significance of today’s result Jerome said: “The Global is the biggest show in the world, the best riders in the world, the best riders are here and to have a victory here – every rider wants to win one time in his life a victory like today.”
From the glistening grass of Mexico City to the shimmering sands of Miami Beach, the LGCT Grand Prix action never ceases to challenge the best riders and horses in the world. Having qualified from the Global Champions League earlier in the day, twenty-five top riders attempted the tough track set by Italy’s skilled course designer Uliano Vezzani. As fans packed the grandstand and lined the edge of the arena, the likes of Lauren Hough (USA), Ben Maher (GBR), Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and 2015 LGCT Miami Beach winner Scott Brash (GBR) took centre stage for what turned out to be a high-octane and high-drama Grand Prix.
Over the weekend thousands of fans streamed into the unique oceanfront showground on Miami Beach’s white sands. Easter holidaymakers, new to the sport, were delighted to see show jumping for the first time on such a spectacular stage with the world’s top equine athletes delivering thrilling competition. Hundreds of guests enjoyed world class hospitality in the beautiful VIP Lounge which stretches the length of the arena and offered breathtaking views across to the Atlantic Ocean. Global business heavyweights joined leading socialites for a stunning afternoon of top-level sport in a unique destination.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose daughter Georgina was competing, joined other VIP guests over the weekend including Martina Navratilova, US Senator Marco Rubio and Anthony Shriver, nephew of John F Kennedy and former Boeing chairman Jim McNerney. Speaking about the show, US Senator Marco Rubio said: “It is a truly wonderful event.”
The tough first round saw top riders fail to make it through, with poles rolling and the expectant crowd gasping as riders picked up faults all over the course. The local fans’ hopes were dashed when home hero Kent Farrington (USA) – who had looked so strong in the previous class with a win – retired Creedance, after the combination picked up an unusual 12 faults. Belgian star Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) was first to go clear after a flawless round with his young nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion Chilli Willi, with the popular rider clearly delighted with their performance.
Other riders tried, and failed to join the young star, but could not keep the poles up until fellow young star, Italian Alberto Zorzi rode a masterful clear with his dark bay or Cornetto K. Lauren Hough (USA), Jack Hardin Towell (USA), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Eric Lamaze (CAN) all had shock exits, and LGCT Ranking leader Martin Fuchs (SUI) and recent success story Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) both left the arena with faults. With less than a sixth of the class returning for the jump-off, the fastest four fault rides earned the fifth through tenth spots in the final classification.
Representing three countries, four riders planned their strategies to finish on the top of the podium. First to go, Nicola Phillippaerts (BEL) and Chilli Willi set the scene riding a smooth and stylish jump-off track clear in 39.50s. Alberto Zorzi (ITA) took over the lead and topped it, galloping Cornetto K to the final Longines oxer fault-free in 37.96s. Notably the eleven-year-old gelding by Cornet Obolensky didn’t touch a rail in two rounds and a jump-off today. Harrie Smolders (NED) was on the hunt when his lovely stallion Emerald lost his footing around the corner and couldn’t regain balance quickly enough for the turn back to the double. Harrie circled the stallion and calmly resumed their round, with the glistening chestnut bucking exuberantly at the finish.
Last to go proved best, as Jérôme Guery and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg knew exactly what they had to do to take the win. Picking up a strong pace from start, the pair didn’t slow for a second around the fast-paced twisting track. Keeping the fans on the edge of their seats until their last stride through the timers, they stopped the clock in 37.39s, an amazing half a second faster than Alberto, and to the roar of the crowd who leapt to their feet in appreciation.
In response to the cheers that ensued, Guery removed his helmet and celebrated a well-earned win, punching the air with delight. Winning the lion’s share of the €300,000 ($318,400) in prize money as well as world-ranking and LGCT ranking points, the exuberant winner received high-fives all the way around as he exited the ring, preparing to lead the victory gallop. It was a strong weekend for Jérôme, as the Belgian rider also took home significant prize money from the Global Champions League class, after he and teammate Simon Delestre (FRA) took a strong second for the St Tropez Pirates.
After the stops in Mexico City and Miami Beach, youth reigns in the Longines Global Champions Tour 2017. Twenty-four-year-old Swiss rider Martin Fuchs tops the leaderboard with 66 points, earning 40 in Mexico City and 26 here in Miami Beach. Second to Fuchs is Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca who at just six points behind has a total of 60 points overall. And just six point shy of Lorenzo sits Colombian rider Carlos Lopez with 54 points, to name the top three. As the Tour prepares to leave this continent and head to the sparkling city of Shanghai, the scene is certainly set for some superior show jumping in the thirteen remaining stops that take the world’s best show jumpers around the world.
Jan Tops, Longines Global Champions Tour President and Founder: “For us to be in America is very important, we believe that America is a great horse nation. Today we saw great atmosphere and we are very happy that Miami Beach is part of our circuit. The Mayor is very supportive of the Tour and it is with thanks to him and the City that we are able to have an event like this here. From the VIP guest, to politicians, it’s the place to be.
“Martin Fuchs is leading Lorenzo [de Luca] in the Rankings. This year they started off very well but obviously we have only completed two legs of fiftenn, so many things are possible.”
Jérôme Guery, Winner: “The Global is the biggest show in the world, the best riders in the world, the best riders are here and to have a victory here – every rider wants to win one time in his life a victory like today.
“My horse today was amazing, he jumped the qualification clear and the Grand Prix was clear in the first round. I have a little bit of an advantage in the jump off as I was the last to go. I saw the other riders had three clear, and they were fast but not crazy fast. I tried to go a little bit faster – my horse listened to me perfectly and it was an amazing day for me today. Fast is fast!”
Alberto Zorzi, 2nd place: “[Cornetto] is an amazing horse. I want to say thank you to Jan for giving me this super opportunity and thank you to all of my staff – they work a lot for me. My horse jumps three rounds very good, I’m so happy.”
Nicola Philippaerts, 3rd place: “I have a very good horse – he is only 9 and has been jumping very good last week. This week he jumped very good again as he’s stil quite young. He was double clear in the Grand Prix and that made me very happy – I had to go first in to the jump off so I thought it was very important for me to keep it clear and then hope that the other ones were making a fault. I’m very fortunate to be able to be in a [GCL] team here and to do these fantastic shows. I think as a rider its one of the top Leagues here and I am very happy I’m in here.”
Photos: LGCT/Stefano Grasso