Harrie Smolders celebrated a “diamond day” in Chantilly, France on Saturday, July 16, 2017 after winning the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Chantilly CSI5* and the Global Champions League CSI5* team competition with the super stallion Emerald N.O.P.
The Dutch rider has dramatically extended his lead in the LGCT Series rankings and championship race after beating a high-powered field that included serious challenges from Scott Brash of Great Britain and Philippe Rozier of France, who finished second and third on the podium, respectively. Earlier in the afternoon, Smolders and Emerald N.O.P. seized victory for the Hamburg Diamonds in the Global Champions League of Chantilly CSI5* showdown.
Smolders, who now enjoys a whopping 57 point lead over Italy’s Alberto Zorzi in the race for the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour title, described his day as “amazing”.
“When I did my round I thought I wasn’t fast enough actually,” Smolders added. “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!”
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 to applaud as Frenchman Rozier sailed into the lead in the jump off, finishing on 44.80 seconds. But Smolders’ turbo-charged round eclipsed the home rider, stopping the clock over three seconds faster at 41.63 seconds.
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, a new format change this year, the LGCT Grand Prix is now a quicker class, but it is still a supreme test of power and precision.
“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,” explained Jan Tops, Founder and President Longines Global Champions Tour. “For the riders it means they get twice the good money, but for the public they enjoy the class, with an exciting jump-off.”
Kevin Staut of France 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 of Switzerland was one of the first to fall victim at the tricky Spring Garden double vertical which caught out multiple combinations including Jack Towell of the USA and Brazil’s Yuri Mansur.
There were gasps as the veteran champion John Whitaker of Great Britain was unceremoniously unseated when his nine-year-old grey stallion Cassinis Chaplin struggled in the middle of the Longines triple combination.
That upset was followed by another as the on-form 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.
Rozier and Rahotep de Toscane were the first to go clear to the delight of the home crowd, and after 20 riders in the first round there were still only three clear rounds.
There was further French dismay when Penelope Leprevost exited on 8 faults and Simon Delestre and Chadino retired after having two down as the start of the course. French gloom deepened when Roger-Yves Bost and Patrice Delaveau also left the ring with hefty faults. Gérard Manzinali, President of Jumping Chantilly, later noted that it was the eighth year of Jumping Chantilly, but not once has there been a French victory in the grand prix for the home crowd.
2015 LGCT Grand Prix of Chantilly winner Gregory Wathelet of Belgium looked set for a clear on his grey mare Coree, but popped the final fence to shock and gasps from the crowd.
But the first round ended with a master class as Brash 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. Rozier set the pace with a seemingly impressive round, finishing in 44.80 and earning a standing ovation from the grandstand crowd.
But Smolders 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 seconds.
Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo of Colombia exited the jump off on four faults, leaving it all down to Brash and Hello Forever to upset Smolders’ lead. Although Brash was quick and clear he could not match the time and finished in 42.82 seconds.
“Hello Forever was amazing today – I was just too slow in the last class!” Brash said. “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.”
Complete results are here.