Smolders Powers to Win in Perfect Prelude to LGCT Grand Prix of Hamburg
Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Harrie Smolders (NED) and Cas 2 took a turbo-charged win in the Prestige Italia Cup during the Longines Global Champions Tour of Hamburg. Smolders sizzled in the hotly contested speed class, taking top honours ahead of home star Marco Kutscher (GER) with Casallvano and Denis Lynch (IRL) with Hector van d’Abdijhoeve.
In the perfect prelude to Saturday’s GCL Hamburg and Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg, the 1.50m CSI5* offered the field of international riders a chance to flex their muscles and build form ahead of tomorrow’s big day.
A smiling Harrie said: “Cas was jumping really, really well which is why we tried to win today. He has a big step and we have a partnership of over two years, so know each other inside out and he’s a competitive horse. I had a very good shot at the last two [fences], and I kept moving up to the last."
Nestled in the heart of Derby-Park Klein Flottbeck, families filled the grassy banks to watch the top show jumpers in the world compete in the popular German venue. Earlier in the day home hero Christian Ahlmann (GER) revealed he would be retiring top stallion Codex One ahead of Saturday’s LGCT Grand Prix of Hamburg, the German star emotional as he said: "So many dreams came true with him, he is a fantastic horse and I am very thankful for what he has done for me. It is now time to say goodbye, a sad moment but I am grateful he is retiring so fit, healthy and enjoying life."
In today’s CSI5* speed class, German course designer Frank Rothenberger once again made full use of the galloping grass arena, giving the riders plenty of options as they contested the fast and furious competition. His design featured a huge Longines double, a delicate Mercedes-Benz vertical, a tricky double flanked by brightly coloured sunflowers before a related distance to another fast-approaching double, and a galloping curving line with a Prestige Italia oxer to finish.
First to go Abdel Saïd (EGY) was the pathfinder with Arpege du Ru, the speedy duo watched on by the rest of the international field. With a consistent tempo the pair covered the ground, with Saïd stopping the clock in 77.57s - a steady pace considering the challengers yet to come.
René Lopez (COL) and the fiery Con Dios III immediately proved the time could be demolished, knocking over 10 seconds off the clock but also dropping themselves out of contention after they rolled a pole, putting them on four faults.
Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) and Seringat shot to the top of the leaderboard after a clean round - stopping the clock in 70s exactly, but leaving room for improvement with some serious contenders yet to come. But both Aznar and Saïd had made the course look deceptively simple, with plenty of riders unable to keep all the fences up.
It quickly became clear that the yellow and white double lined with sunflowers was to be the bogey fence of the course, with Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) and Cigaret JVH Z also falling victim to the first element, the pair drawn in deep to the fence. Many followed suit, including the likes of Michael G Duffy (IRL) with Chappo Chey, Jennifer Gates (USA) with Pumped Up Kicks, Lauren Hough (USA) with Paloma, Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) with Vino d’Espinet and previous class winner Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA) with Kingston van het Eikenhof tripped up by the combination.
But it proved no problem for home hero Christian Ahlmann (GER), who recently announced he would be retiring top stallion Codex One on Saturday just before the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg. Today he tackled the speed course with Ciao Conni ST, and powered around the arena clear, much to the delight of the watching crowd, slotting in just behind Aznar with a time of 70.33s.
Overall LGCT ranking leader Pieter Devos (BEL) piloted top gelding Apart for this competition, the flashy chestnut horse turning heads with his white face and legs. The yellow and white sunflower double caused heartache again, the back rail of the oxer tumbling after a jink in the cup as Apart just clipped it with his hind hoof.
Local hopes were again dashed after Daniel Deusser (GER) and Killer Queen VDM clipped an early pole, the DKB blue vertical toppling after they took the turn a little tight, with Daniel having to push to make the fence.
Emily Moffitt (GBR) and the stunning black stallion Copain du Perchet CH looked on phenomenal form, the dark horse skipping and bucking his way around the arena fresh and full of energy. But the Idee Kaffe fence came down, dropping them out of the running for a top five result today.
There was edge-of-the-seat drama after yesterday’s Mercedes-Benz Championat winner Peder Fredricson (SWE) and Zacramento slid to a sudden stop at the red and white fence, with the pair retiring after popping over it a second time. Ben Maher (GBR) and Don Vito’s attempt at speed class glory also came undone at the first fence, the chestnut stopping dramatically and unseating his rider causing elimination, however both calmly walked out of the arena to try again another day.
The crowd roared their approval however after local rider Marco Kutscher (GER) and Casallvano cruised around the arena clear, the large striding horse powering around the course to set a new time to beat of 68.51s. He was immediately followed by Bart Bles (NED) who picked up the pace through the second half of the track with Gran Canyon van HD, galloping down the final line to challenge Kutscher’s time. But it wasn’t quite enough, the Dutchman slotting behind in 69.46s.
Home rider U25 Laura Klaphake (GER) and the eight year old Carmina put in a strong performance, the relatively new combination delivering a steady, confidence-building clear to come home in 74.78s. Irishman Mark McAuley (IRL) picked up the pace with Miebello, the 15 year old grey gelding flashing his tail in response to McAuley’s request as he galloped eagerly to the last. But they couldn’t better the time, slotting in behind in 70.31s. Philipp Weishaupt (GER) and Asathir delivered a steady clear, but it too fell short of the time to beat.
Harrie Smolders (NED) and Cas 2 had looked on strong form in yesterday’s jump-off class, the flying Dutchman always a danger when the pressure was on. And the pair didn’t disappoint, with Smolders taking every daring turn and the gelding responding beautifully at every moment. They kept cool heads but managed to shave milliseconds off the time to beat, stopping the clock in 67.91s and adding pressure to the shoulders of those yet to come - rocketing the competition up a gear.
Denis Lynch (IRL) and Hector van d’Abdijhoeve gave it their best shot, but couldn’t better Smolders’ time, finishing clear but in 68.59s.
Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello M’Lord set off at a gallop, the deep bay stallion powering around the first half of the course with his ears pricked forwards in anticipation. Brash took some brave turns, with the stallion reactive and responsive at every moment, but the delicate GC vertical fell after they took the turn too tight, giving them four faults, despite the blindingly quick time of 67.23s.
The final rider to go Julien Epaillard (FRA), the French rider known for his quickness and agility with an impressive number of speed class wins against his name. This time he piloted Indago around the course, but the same GC vertical fell, dropping them out of contention and handing the win to Smolders.
It will be a case of all eyes on Saturday's showdown, as GCL Hamburg kicks off at 12:15 local time, with the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg taking place at 15:15 local time, all streamed live on GC TV.