Flying Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his super-fast 15 year old bay mare Regina Z (Rex Z x Savoy Hannover) blazed to victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour of Shanghai. The pace was electric at the climax of the $485,000 Grand Prix as eight riders went through to the jump-off in the Chinese leg of the 2015 series.
Smolders beat off tough challenges from speed masters Pius Schwizer and Michael Whitaker to emerge victorious scooping $160,000 in prize money and 40 valuable ranking points as winner. It was his first ever Global Tour Grand Prix win and he said "It's a very special moment for me. To win at a Global Champions Tour Grand Prix with her is really great."
The jump-off also included last year’s Shanghai Grand Prix winner Pieter Devos, Olympic bronze medallist Kamal Bahamdan of Saudi Arabia, Taizo Sugitani of Japan and young Jessica Mendoza of Great Britain.
The first round by course designer Uliano Vezzani saw plenty of confident clear rounds, thirteen in total, with John Whitaker and Luca Moneta both missing out with one time penalty. Only the three fastest on four faults were able to squeeze into the second round with Daniel Deusser, Ludger Beerbaum, Steve Guerdat and Kent Farrington among the casualties.
The second round in front of packed grandstands raised the stakes and riders including Ben Maher, Sheikh Ali Al Thani and Gregory Wathelet unable to capitalise on their clear round status. Luciana Diniz had an agonising moment at the second to last fence with a rail down putting her out of the jump-off. Pius Schwizer and his mount Caretina de Joter (Caretino x Contender) proved an impressive combination with a double clear and young Jessica Mendoza on Spirit (Tornado x Carneval Drum) also pulled off a double clear.
There were excited cheers as Japanese rider Taizo Sugitani and his bay 16 year old gelding Avenzio 3 (Animo x Erdball XX) delivered an impressive double clear for Asia - and a few bucks and kicks to the delight of the fans. Pieter Devos, riding Candy (Nabab de Reve x Etretat), made sure of a place in the jump-off setting is sights on a Shanghai double.
Scott Brash remains on great form and pulled off a double clear on Hello M’Lady (Indoctro x Baloubet du Rouet/) along with fellow Brit Michael Whitaker on the trusty Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints) and Kamal Bahamdan on his Olympic star horse Noblesse des Tess (Cumano x Irak E).
The jump-off saw bitter disappointment for Pieter Devos who clocked up four faults. But the other seven riders all delivered triple clears. It came down to a ferocious speed battle after Swiss rider Pius Schwizer set a lead time of 34.20. Harrie Smolders was always going to be a threat with the lightning quick Regina Z and he didn’t disappoint stopping the clock at 33.57. Michael Whitaker and Viking were last to go but could not beat Harrie’s time.
“I have a fantastic partnership with my mare Regina as I have ridden her for five years already,” Harrie said of his winning mare after.
Pius Schwizer was also a happy man; “I’m delighted with my second place tonight. I knew that some very quick riders were coming after me. I want to congratulate Harrie Smolders and Michael Whitaker for their great performances and of course the Longines Global Champions Tour with Jan Tops for this fabulous event.”
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