The Italian star has collected a tally of 100 points overall, knocking Martin Fuchs (SUI) from the lead and revving up the Championship fight. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) has shot up to second, with another podium contributing to his score of 89 points. Scott Brash’s (GBR) solid consistency throughout the first three legs of the season was rewarded with a jump up to third place, where he sits on 75 points.
Dynamic Shanghai was again a spectacular stage for show jumping for the fourth year running, growing in popularity with the Chinese audience and developing into a glamorous highlight on the city social calendar.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani put together a true test for the world’s best with 25 riders qualified and ready to take on the formidable Grand Prix. The time allowed was tight, with many riders coming in too deep to fences as they picked up a galloping pace, resulting in poles falling all over the field. Favourites such as Bertram Allen (IRL), Marcus Ehning (GER), Ludger Beerbaum (GER), and John Whitaker (GBR) all had fences down, and it looked to be a strong challenge for the whole field.
First to go clear was Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) with the mighty Ensor de Litrange LXII who kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as they flew around the arena in a precision perfect round. Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and grey 11 year old mare Coree joined him after a stunning clear, meaning there would be a jump-off, with spectators keen to see who would join them.
Jack Hardin Towell and Lucifer V looked strong to go through, until getting caught out in the middle of the Longines combination and rattling a rail along the way. Marcus Ehning (GER) took a turn back too tight fairly early on, conscious of the limiting time factor, rolling a pole with Funky Fred to pick up four faults. Another fence down as they pushed to be the fastest of the four faulters put the popular pair on a score of eight, dropping them right down the order and eliminating them from progressing to the jump-off.
In-form Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Charly Chaplin S look to be on a phenomenal roll, jumping the class neatly and in careful style. Spectators around the world held their breath as the pair galloped to the final fence, where they just clipped a pole on the Longines oxer; the crowd groaning in disappointment. While they were strong on time, the careful horse just unfolded too quickly, taking the back pole as they went and knocking the Irish rider out of the running.
Ben Maher (GBR) also had a shock exit after Don Vito took another look at the liverpool oxer, with the pair crashing through the fence and electing to retire after popping the vertical. GCL teammate Kent Farrington and Creedance came in a little too deep to the red and white oxer, taking out the front pole as the fiery chestnut flew around. Kent also retired, saving Creedance for the final competition on Sunday.
Italian hopes were doubled as Alberto Zorzi (ITA) put in a foot-perfect round with Fair Light van’t Heike, and Dutch star Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) also joined the jump-off after top stallion VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P. breezed through to the final part of the competition.
Previous class winner Bosty had a rail down coming into the Longines combination, and a rail out. The poles then began to fall, until the French rider retired, with Qoud’Coeur de la Loge calling it a day, and leaving just four in the jump-off.
First to go Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) had everything to do as the sun began its descent over the iconic red China Art Palace. Setting off at a gallop the pair rode a beautiful clear, stopping the clock at 39.36s and throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the riders to come. Italian star Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Ensor de Litrange LXII were next to go, with Lorenzo setting off at a pace with the big striding horse eating up the ground and the Italian talent allowing his horse to open up between the distances. Shaving corners and cutting back beautifully to the fences, the pair rocketed to the lead with a time of 38.05s.
Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Coree came a little too deep to the Longines double, with the grey hanging in the air on the way out of the oxer and dropping a front leg to finish on four faults. But it was last to go, Alberto Zorzi (ITA) who had all the pressure, and the crowd watched to see who would be crowned the victor. The pair set off like a machine, but had the first part of the Longines double down, putting them in third position and meaning compatriot Lorenzo de Luca would take his debut Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix win.
The Tour now looks to round four, and Madrid, where the first of the European legs gets underway.
Jan Tops, President Longines Global Champions Tour: “I think Lorenzo is doing very well, every time he has been in front, very consistent. Also Maikel has had three placings. I think it is going to be very close the whole year. Now you see the riders with the teams are picking their shows and have to qualify for a good position for the Grand Prix. So with the new strategy good rides will come more in the second round of the Grand Prix.
“This week we have 8 of the Top 10 in the world and there are not many events with that participation and all the good horses. Uliano (course designer) knows exactly what to do and I think that the last few shows we have absolutely top sport.
“We value Shanghai very highly in our circuit. We have a great partner Juss Event. If you see this year compared to four years ago there are more public, more engagement and I have a lot of hope for the future and the sport in the next years will grow very rapidly here in China and especially Shanghai.”
Lorenzo de Luca, (winner): “It is my first year on the Global and I have a super group of horses at the moment. They are doing very good. I am really happy to do the Global Champions Tour and Global Champions League, they are fantastic shows. My horse is 13 years old and is fantastic, so [scopey] and so careful and really wants to win when he goes in the ring.”
Maikel van der Vleuten (2nd place): “I have already been a long time together with Verdi for almost 11 years and we have a good time. There are so many good riders it is a strong field here and if you can be second it is great. Congratulations to Alberto and to Lorenzo, he deserved to win.”
Alberto Zorzi (3rd place): “I am happy to be on the podium this time and to just have one down in the jump off.”
Edited press release courtesy of: Global Champions Tour