ph. Stefano Grasso/LGCT
The feature class of Friday’s Longines Global Champions Tour of London, the Sapinda Prix, was won by Harrie Smolders (NED) and Regina Z who put in their usual unbeatably speedy performance to take the honours in this €90,500 class. Second went to McLain Ward (USA) with Rothchild, winners of the Longines GCT Antwerp Grand Prix at the start of the season, and 3rd to leading lady rider Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) and Vagabond de la Pomme.
The first round of the Sapinda Prix welcomed some much-missed sunshine at Horse Guards Parade Ground this afternoon. VIP Guests and spectators enjoyed the grand, imposing backdrop of Horse Guards and the London Eye, as grey clouds parted and blue sky peeped through. Top names from the worlds of business and culture, including Roman Abramovich and Bruce Springsteen, savoured the world-class equestrian sport from their VIP tables.
Uliano Vezzani’s course was a cocktail of tricky distances and rider problems which needed some careful consideration. Many riders walked the course a number of times in order to choose their tactics between the selection of awkward distances. The bright Ruco Line Shoe upright to a water tray oxer in front of the bustling VIP area was the most troublesome fence of the competition, the front rail of the oxer ended up in the water below during many star riders’ rounds. The final Qatar oxer was also tough, as one of the biggest fences on the course off a tight line, it caused more than a few riders the disappointment of lowering the final fence.
There were no clears in the jump-off until Laura Kraut (USA), fifth to go, set the standard of clear in 34.26s, her round was quickly followed by another swift clear from Gudrun Patteet (BEL). But it was another top lady rider Pénélope Leprevost (FRA) who raced to first position on the leaderboard mid-way through the draw with 34.05s. With just one rider left to follow him, McLain Ward and his feisty mount shaved nearly a second off Leprevost’s time with 33.22s.
As of the fastest riders on the Tour, Harrie Smolders enjoyed the benefits of being last to go, pushing his reliable mare to turn tighter and gallop faster, crossing the line in 32.71s. Harrie was placed in his first LGCT Grand Prix last year in Vienna and will be chasing another podium finish tomorrow in the Longines Global Champions Tour of London Grand Prix presented by Qatar. With an LGCT Gold medal under his belt already this season, McLain Ward would be firm favourite for a strong performance tomorrow.
However, all eyes will be on the Championship Ranking top four – Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE), Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT). With just 40 points separating them, the leading pack could well see a shake up tomorrow following this crucial 11th round of the season, hosted by Horse Guards Parade Ground.