From left to right: Evelina Tovek, Harrie Smolders, & Marcus Ehning. ph: Stefano Grasso/LGCT
In the €300,000 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome CSI5*, Sweden’s Evelina Tovek and the nine-year-old Westphalian gelding Castello 194 (Cristallo x Lifestyle) took home the lump sum of the winners purse with a 1st place finish on Saturday, September 23, 2017.
The qualifier for the grand prix took place immediately prior in the second round of the Global Champions League competition. Twenty four riders qualified, with Tovek claiming the eventual 1st place prize with a leading jump-off time of 50.71s.
“It’s the biggest win of my career,” said Tovek. “It’s amazing. I know my horse is not so fast but he has big strides, so I asked a lot from the canter and in the end it worked. [Henrik von Eckermann, my trainer] said “just have fun” before I went in. For me, Castello is the perfect horse, no fence is a problem, and I’m really happy to have him.”
In the opening GCL round, the journey to qualifying for the feature event was anything but smooth sailing. With tension running high and the overall LGCT Championship Title dangling on the table, both Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Alberto Zorzi (ITA) failed to qualify. That opened the door for Harrie Smolders (NED) — who came into the competition leading in the overall rankings — to secure the title if he had a podium finish and if close contender, Lorenzo de Luca (ITA), finished lower than 6th place.
As others took their turn, it became clear that Uliano Vezzani’s (ITA) 13-obstacle- challenge was a real test, with top combinations failing to jump clear.
Anticipation mounted as Smolders entered the arena with his top stallion Don VHP Z. The pair had previously won the LGCT Grand Prix of Rome in 2016, and all eyes were set on the former winner to see if he could do it again. A clear round landed them in the jump off, and with four faults accumulated for de Luca, the Dutch rider made history in claiming the championship title before the Doha, Qatar series finale.
“My horse loves this venue, which is why I brought him out here again. It worked out fantastic today – I was not expecting to win [the Championship] today,” said Smolders. “It’s been an incredible season for me with my top horses Don and Emerald – it’s also thanks to my partners Copernicus and Eurohorse [for supporting me]. Our goal wasn’t to be the fastest today, but I wanted to keep clear.”
First in the jump off order, Marcus Ehning (GER) and Funky Fred finished on four faults in a time of 47.90s. The do finished in an eventual 3rd place.
“I was first in the jump-off, with a very fast horse, and I could put some pressure on the other two,” said Ehning. “In the end I was too deep and had one down – I think the time would have been enough though! It’s not my first time in the jump-off, I like this pressure, it’s great motivation, but it didn’t work out this time.”
Smolders returned to the ring, stopping the clock in 52.43s to secure 2nd place. Last in the order, Tovek and Castello 194 galloped to the final fences to finish in 1st with a time of 50.71s.
The full results can be viewed here.