Marlon Zanotelli and Celena VDL. ph: LGCT/Stefano Grasso
In the first round of the Global Champions League of Rome, the race for the championship title was left wide open after teammates Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Marcus Ehning (GER) of the Valkenswaard United produced the sole team double clear of the day.
The 14th leg of the championship race kicked off on Friday, September 22, 2017, with Italy’s Uliano Vezzani designing the 13-obstacle-course. The round doubled as a qualifier for the jump off that immediately followed.
All season long, the battle between the Hamburg Diamonds and Valkenswaard United took extraordinary twists, with today’s result being no exception in the high-stakes race to the finish. While the Diamonds remain 11 points ahead of team United in the overall standings, an unsettling eight faults were accumulated by teammates Harrie Smolders (NED) and Eric Lamaze (CAN), placing the team in 6th place going into Saturday’s final round.
United’s formidable duo of Zori and Ehning produced masterful, clear rounds aboard Fair Light van T Heike and Comme I1 Faut, respectively.
On home turf, the Rome Gladiators drew the first position in the order, with Brazil’s Marlon Zanotelli and Celena VDL putting in a clear, pioneering round. Teammate Abdel Saïd and S I E C Captain Future Z picked up an unusual 17 faults, which dropped the team down to 14th place on the days scoreboard.
The St. Tropez Pirates will enter round two in 2nd place behind the United, with teammates Julien Epaillard and Simon Delestre taking four faults into tomorrow’s competition. Emily Moffitt and Ben Maher of the London Nights finished in 3rd position behind the St. Tropez pirates, and they will enter Saturday’s final round on four faults.
Seven riders qualified for the jump-off, with Zanotelli returning to win the class, finishing in a final time of 37.86s.
“This mare is unbelievable – I must thank my whole team at home and VDL stud who gave me the opportunity to ride this special horse,” said Zanotelli. “She’s so clever and so careful – she fights and gives her all in the ring. She won her last CSI5* class in Valkenswaard, and now she wins her first class here, so I’m really happy.”
First to go in the order, Zanotelli had the tough task of laying down the gauntlet for the rest of the world-class field yet to come. “It’s not easy going first, but I made my plan and it worked out. I didn’t think I’d win, but I rode a clean round, putting the pressure on the others.”
Leopold van Asten (NED) and VDL Groep Miss Untouchable finished in 2nd, with Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Usual Suspect d’Auge taking 3rd.
Tomorrow will see the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Rome kick off at 16:00 local time, with the Global Champions League of Rome taking place at 12:30. The top 25 individual riders from the GCL class will qualify for the Grand Prix, and with the Championship title still open, the best riders in the world will be fighting hard to finish with the maximum number of points tomorrow.