After weeks of anticipation, the curtain raised on the glittering finale to the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour with a fast-paced thriller in Thursday’s 1.45m two-phase competition. Victory went to Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) with a sensational round on the 13-year-old Extra Van Essene.
“It was fantastic, I’m very happy with my horse,” said Zanotelli, who finished just 0.3 seconds ahead of 2017 overall LGCT champion Harrie Smolders (NED) on Zinius, with Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden taking third on Cantinero.
“I watched Maikel [van der Vleuten, sixth] and he went fast. My wife said there was one less stride to the last and luckily it worked for me. He’s a fantastic horse, very kind and he’s always fighting for me. It’s a fantastic facility here in Doha and all the support we have here from the crowd is very nice.”
As the sun set behind the vast Al Shaqab arena in the Qatar capital, Doha, a magnificent field of elite riders, including 17 of the world’s top 20 riders, lined up for this opening CSI5* class.
With a full three days of competition ahead of them, several riders enjoyed a quiet spin round, but a nail-biting battle ensued as a field of 45 tackled Uliano Vezzani’s welcoming course with a Middle Eastern vibe. Such was the standard that 32 combinations remained clear through the first phase and 18 remained faultless against the clock, where a series of slalom turns and some inviting opportunities for a gallop required accurate riding, while a blind turn to the final oxer required utmost trust between horse and rider.
This proved an exhilarating class from the outset, with the leading time being smashed in quick succession.
Great Britain’s Ben Maher took an early advantage with some deadly accurate turns on MTF Madame X in a time of 27.12s, but the leader board immediately reshuffled as the new European champion Peder Frericson (SWE) and H&M Zaloubet rocketed home in 26.48s before Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Quatro showed all their agility at high speed to take the lead in 25.60s.
The foundations were set for a thrilling competition and Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and the long-striding and athletic 13-year-old son of Diamant De Semilly, Extra Van Essene, showed tremendous team work to absolutely smash the time, scorching home clear in 24.35s.
After this pivotal round, there followed some spectacular attempts to beat it, but it wasn’t until 26th drawn rider, the Swedish maestro Henrik von Eckermann and Cantinero, that Zanotelli’s lead looked in real danger. But despite some brave manoeuvres, the clock stopped at 24.83s for eventual third.
Riding on the crest of the wave Harrie Smolders, who made history this season by winning the 2017 tour outright at the penultimate leg in Rome, blazed round on Zinius but even he fell 0.3s short of the target of 24.65s for the runner-up spot.
World number three Kevin Staut and the eight-year-old Vendome D’Anchat HDC produced a sublimely smooth attempt with a dramatic flier to the last to post a time of 24.91 seconds, good enough for fourth.
Doha 2017 CSI5* 1.45 m
Place / Rider / Horse / Country / R1 Faults / R2 Faults / Time
1. Marlon Módolo Zanotelli / Extra van Essene / BRA / 0 / 0 / 24.35
2. Harrie Smolders / Zinius / NED / 0 / 0 / 24.65
3. Henrik von Eckermann / Cantinero / SWE / 0 / 0 / 24.83
4. Kevin Staut / Vendome d’Anchat HDC / FRA / 0 / 0 / 24.91
5. Sergio Alvarez Moya / Iron Man / ESP / 0 / 0 / 25.19
6. Maikel van der Vleuten / VDL Groep Quatro / NED / 0 / 0 / 25.60
7. Philip Houston / Chaquilot / GER / 0 / 0 / 25.63
8. Bertram Allen / GK Casper / IRL / 0 / 0 / 25.85
9. Peder Fredricson / H&M Zaloubet / SWE / 0 / 0 / 26.48
10. Ben Maher / MTF Madame X / GBR / 0 / 0 / 27.12
11. Jos Verlooy / Igor / BEL / 0 / 0 / 28.23
12. Jane Richard Philips / Dieudonne de Guldenboom / SUI / 0 / 0 / 28.45
For full results, click here.
United Vow to “Fight to the End” in Unmissable GCL Final
The big guns came out in full force for the first round of the Global Champions League, with Mexico Amigos taking pole but high drama in the battle between Championship contenders Hamburg Diamonds and Valkenswaard United.
Setting up an unmissable finale to the GCL season, both the Diamonds and United pulled out all the stops to keep their title dreams alive. United rider Bertram Allen – who teamed up with Alberto Zorzi in tonight’s first round – said: “We’re delighted with our horses’ performance today and knew we had to go double clear to be in with a chance. The Diamonds are strong but for sure we’ll be fighting until the end.”
Tonight’s competition hinged on clear rounds and three teams produced double clears under the AL SHAQAB spotlights in Qatar’s capital city of Doha. Mexico Amigos lead the way into Saturday’s finale as the fastest of the faultless trio, with the Paris Panthers and defending champions Valkenswaard United heading the pack of 18 teams.
“We are in the best position,” said Henrik von Eckermann of the Mexico Amigos after their pole position today. “Both horses jumped really well. If we win, we are third [in the overall championship] so that is what we are trying for.” His team-mate and student, the U25 rider Evelina Tovek added: “I’m really happy to produce a clear round for the team.”
Coming in to the final leg, it was the Hamburg Diamonds who held the best cards and just need to finish in the top eight on Saturday to claim the title. However, a surprise nine-fault total puts them in 11th place with a fight on their hands if they are to soar ahead of their rivals United to be crowned GCL champions of 2017.
Consistent form throughout the season has proved vital and Hamburg Diamonds came into the final in the lead, just 17 points ahead of defending GCL Champions Valkenswaard United. But there was drama up and down the grid ahead of Saturday’s final as a coveted podium place is still to play for between several teams.
Uliano Vezzani set a deceptively simple 13-fence 1.55m track for the 18 team challengers. A wide triple bar at fence two followed by a holding six strides to a light set of planks proved the first test as related distances were peppered round this huge arena. The Italian designer offered riders the chance to take a breather round the corners on this unrelenting track, but the 84s time allowed was a conscious reminder that there could be no let up. Faults were evenly spread with the width on some of the oxers just taking their toll and it was a long way home towards a 1.55m set of planks to finish.
“The course is tough enough – some big jumps, perhaps not too technical, but it’s a long course,” said Chantilly Pegasus rider Lauren Hough.
Clear rounds proved elusive to start with and it wasn’t until 10th rider, Lillie Keenan with Fibonacci for the Paris Panthers that we saw the first clean sheet. Cian O’Connor for Miami Glory followed hot on her heels with the athletic Skyhorse and almost joined her as the second clear, but just succumbed to the time allowed.
Alberto Zorzi kept the championship hopes alive for Valkenswaard United with a masterful clear on Fair Light VanT Heike, passing the baton on to teammate Bertram Allen – the pair formidable in their consistency when paired up. His clear was soon followed by Evelina Tovek and Castello of the Mexico Amigos, who has really impressed this season on the 15-event circuit.
The big shake-up came from the final first-line rider, Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady for Hamburg Diamonds, whose nine faults could prove costly in the championship race. Watched on by teammates Smolders and Jos Verlooy, there were groans all round as the faults clocked up, making it an uphill battle for Smolders yet to come.
With only three clears on the cards, the pressure piled high on the teams’ second riders but suddenly the zero scores came thick and fast. Anna Kellnerova and Classic helped the Berlin Lions’ chances with a clear to add to Cindy Van Der Straten’s eight faults and the team now sits 10th ahead of Saturday’s concluding competition.
Bassem Hassan Mohammed for the host team Doha Fursan Qatar, who were sitting seventh in the overall championship, boosted his team’s chances with a clear on the scopey Gunder after Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani’s six-fault round on First Devision. They sit one ahead of the Lions in ninth.
Maikel van der Vleuten’s clear on VDL Groep Verdi TN pushed Madrid in Motion into fifth on a team total of four, one of a quartet to finish with a four penalty total. Another of those is the St Tropez Pirates, who have a podium finish firmly in their sights, coming into this final in third place behind the Diamonds and United. They fielded the dream team of Simon Delestre with Chadino and Jerome Guery on Garfield De Tiji Des Templiers – and it was the latter who produced a vital clean score.
London Knights also carry a four-fault total through to the final round and the red, white and blue squad showed true team spirit when Emily Moffitt, who is not riding in Doha, leant her team-mate Eduardo Menezes the ride on one of her horses Galip. The Brazilian secured a majestic clear to complete a four fault total provided by Ben Maher with Quilata, with the team finishing in 7th today.
As the second riders entered the ring, Paris Panthers were the first to complete on a zero score courtesy of the debut pairing of Lillie Keenan and Darragh Kenny who had a last minute horse change to compete with Go Easy de Muze.
All eyes turned to the Championship race, and Valkenswaard United’s hopes of a second victory in the GCL were boosted thanks to Bertram Allen and the forward-going Molly Malone. Allen managed the hot mare beautifully, putting in a careful but foot-perfect round to slot in behind the Paris Panthers’ combined time.
Rome Gladiators ensured it remained tight at the top as Laura Kraut with Deauville S shook off any pressure to produce a dazzling clear to add to her team-mate Lorenzo De Luca’s four-fault round on Limestone Grey.
The competition concluded, fittingly with the 2017 LGCT overall champion, Harrie Smolders riding his brilliant campaigner Don VHP Z and as always they produced the goods with a perfectly executed clear. A top eight finish is required if they are to take the title, and with nine faults on the cards, they face an intense challenge, but discount the Diamonds at your peril.
For full results, click here.
Maikel Magnificent as Stars Shine at LGCT Doha
The stars of show jumping came out at AL SHAQAB in a night of high drama, with Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Verdi Tn taking the win in the 1.50/1.55m CSI5* class. In a high-powered race to the finish, the Dutch star beat valiant attempts from Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Forlap and Eduardo Menezes (BRA) with Poden Farms’ Galip.
A delighted van der Vleuten said: “The first round [Verdi] jumped nice, we had a smooth round and it was quick enough to win the class today. At the moment [Verdi] feels very good, and very happy. I can use his big stride in a big arena like this so it suits him. We put our focus on Saturday for the Grand Prix.”
Uliano Vezzani set a deceptively lenient 13-fence 1.55m track for the 18 teams. A wide triple bar at fence two followed by a holding six strides to a light set of planks proved the first test as related distances were peppered round this huge arena. He offered the chance for riders to take a breather round the corners, but the 84s time allowed was a conscious reminder that there could be no let up for the riders. Faults were evenly spread with the width on some of the oxers just taking their toll and it was a long way home towards a 1.55m set of planks to finish. For the full first round report, please click here. It would be a seven rider jump off, with many opting to save their horses for Saturday’s competition.
Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fibonacci were the first to enter the ring, the beautiful grey trotting elegantly into the ring. The pair blasted the long distance to the last, stopping the clock at 39.94s – throwing down the gauntlet to the field to come.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) picked up the revs to find the right tune with VDL Groep Verdi Tn. The Dutch rider took out strides, but put in a phenomenal hairpin turn back to the Longines vertical wowed the crowd and catapulted him right to the top of the timesheets, crossing the finish line in 37.73s. The pressure was on for the rest of the field, with Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (ESP) and Goriana van Klapscheut rolling the last, and Jerome Guery (BEL) who threw caution to the win at the last with Garfield de Tiji des Templiers.
The pressure rose again as Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Forlap quickly found top gear. But a slip on the turn back to the vertical – despite a quick recovery – would mean they would be a fraction behind, finishing on 37.85 and Wathelet ruing his hard luck.
Poden Farms’ Galip was under Brazilian rider and London Knights teammate Eduardo Menezes (BRA) with the new combination putting in a brilliant first round. Despite their new partnership, the duo put in another strong round, jumping clear but not quite quick enough to stop the clock on 38.99s.
Laura Kraut (USA) dared the dark bay Deauville S to the Longines vertical, but their hopes were dashed as it came tumbling down. There would be two riders left to go, with Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Bacardi VDL the penultimate combination. Sprunger kept the elastic-looking Bacardi beautifully together around the arena, but it cost them time, finishing clear in 40.48s. The final rider to go was Geir Gulliksen (NOR) and Edesa S Banjan, with the Norwegian rider giving his all, knowing he had to find something special to beat van der Vleuten’s time. But the pressure was too much, with the duo picking up faults and leaving the Dutch rider victorious.
Doha CSI5* 1.50/1.55m
Place / Rider / Horse / Country / R1 Faults / JO Faults / Time
1. Maikel van der Vleuten / VDL Groep Verdi Tn / NED / 0 / 0 / 37.73
2. Gregory Wathelet / Forlap / BEL / 0 / 0 / 37.85
3. Eduardo Menezes / Galip / BRA / 0 / 0 / 38.99
4. Lillie Keenan / Fibonacci / USA / 0 / 0 / 39.94
5. Janika Sprunger / Bacardi VDL / SUI / 0 / 0 / 40.48
6. Jérôme Guery / Garfield de Tiji des Templiers / BEL / 0 / 4 / 38.25
7. Laura Kraut / Deauville S / USA / 0 / 4 / 39.50
8. Pilar Lucrecia Cordon / Goriana van Klapscheut / ESP / 0 / 4 / 42.45
9. Geir Gulliksen / Edesa S Banjan / NOR / 0 / 12 / 42.90
10. Alberto Zorzi / Fair Light van T Heike / ITA / 0 / DNS
10. Evelina Tovek / Castello / SWE / 0 / DNS
10. Anna Kellnerova / Classic / CZE / 0 / DNS
10. Bassem Hassan Mohammed / Gunder / QAT / 0 / DNS
10. Darragh Kenny / Go Easy de Muze / IRL / 0 / DNS
10. Bertram Allen / Molly Malone V / IRL / 0 / DNS
10. Henrik von Eckermann / Chacanno / SWE / 0 / DNS
10. Harrie Smolders / Don VHP Z / NED / 0 / DNS
For full results, click here.