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.
Jan Tops, Founder and President Longines Global Champions Tour: “[Scott and Harrie] have really made a stamp on the Tour. 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. I must say this year the changes we really like – to have the shorter Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix with 25 horses in it means it is a quicker class, with the League the qualifier for it. For the riders it means they get twice the good money, but for the public they enjoy the class, with an exciting jump-off. It’s the highest level, you saw today again Uliano [Vezzani] made a fantastic course. You have to have an all-round good horse. I really like the sport, and I like to see the sport progress. For example, every year we make sure everything is better and better – better conditions for the riders, horses and owners. We think it’s important for the sport that all stakeholders benefit, and we try to make sure that people outside of the sport can follow it as well. I’ve been a rider in the past, which means I can see from all angles what is important for the whole sport.”
Gérard Manzinali, President Jumping Chantilly: “This is the 8th year that Jumping Chantilly hosts the Longines Global Champions Tour, but still no French victory! But to have Philippe on the podium is great for the French crowd, well done to Scott and of course to the great winner Harrie Smolders.”
Harrie Smolders (NED), LGCT Grand Prix of Chantilly Winner: “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. 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 every where but had two steady moments which for sure someone saw for Scott. So I left a little gap open, but finally it was enough!”
Scott Brash (GBR), LGCT Grand Prix of Chantilly 2nd place: “Hello Forever was amazing today – I was just too slow in the last class! 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.”
Philippe Rozier (FRA), LGCT Grand Prix of Chantilly 3rd place: “My horse jumped amazing today. He jumped only today so to be ready for the Nations Cup in Aachen next week. A big thank you to Jan for his horsemanship with the courses, so my horse could improve, come back and be ready in perfect preparation for next week.”
Photos: Stefano Grasso/LGCT