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Smolders risks it all to win the Longines FEI World Cup of Mechelen

Saturday, 30 December 2017
CSI5*-W Mechelen 2017

Photo (c) World of Showjumping.
Harrie Smolders, Axel Verlooy and Zinius celebrate the win in the Longines FEI World Cup in Mechelen. Photo (c) World of Showjumping.

The 9th leg of the Longines FEI World Cup in Western European League took place in Mechelen, Belgium, on Saturday afternoon. Presented by Land Rover, the 1.60m class turned out to offer edge-of-the-seat action to the fully packed Nekkerhall. Belgian course designer Eddy Geysemans had put up a demanding course for the first round, that counted 13 obstacles and 16 efforts. With 40 of the best horse-and-rider-combinations in the world lining up for the challenge, only seven pairs kept a clean score and joined the jump-off. 

Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) on the 11-year-old mare Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland L) took an early lead with a time of 38,74 seconds. However, the Swedish rider – who won his first ever World Cup at the very same venue exactly five years ago – had to bury his hopes of another win in Mechelen when Harrie Smolders (NED) on the 13-year-old gelding Zinius (Nabab de Reve x Kannan) shaved fractions off his time, taking home the win with a time of 38,19 seconds. 

Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) on the 10-year-old stallion Halifax van het Kluizebos (Heartbreaker x Fetiche du Pas) clocked a time of 39,97 seconds, that in the end left the pair on the third spot, while Daniel Deusser (GER) on the 14-year-old gelding Cornet D'Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) had to settle for the fourth place with a time of 40,51. Keeping all the fences intact, Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) on the 11-year-old mare Sangria du Coty (Quaprice Bois Margot x Muguet du Manoir) secured the fifth spot with a time of 42,17 seconds in the jump-off, while Christian Ahlmann (GER) on the 17-year-old stallion Taloubet Z ( Galoubet A x Polydor) and Leopold van Asten (NED) on the 13-year-old gelding VDL Groep Zidane (Heartbreaker x Calando) both saw a pole fall, ending sixth and seventh respectively.

Harrie Smolders has been the man of the year and now finished 2017 with another showcase of his consistency. "I did come here with a goal," he told the press after the class. "I have never won the World Cup here in Mechelen and I wanted to do that. Even though the feeling with Zinius has been great in the past few months, and I thought I had a good chance, I am still a bit surprised that it went all the way today," he said.

"In the jump-off I had a feeling that I was a bit behind Henrik's time when I jumped into the double, so I had to risk it to the last fence," he continued. "But I was ready to risk it all today, I was not going to ride for a second place finish." Being constantly on the road, winning in Belgium with his family present was a special occasion for Smolders. "My kids, my wife and my parents are all here. I think maybe they should follow me more, since it always seems to go well when they are around," he smiled. "And with Axel Verlooy as an employer and the owner of the horse, winning here in Mechelen is really something special." 

"It would be nice to win something sometime," the runner-up von Eckermann commented. "My horse is not doing anything wrong, so maybe there is some fault in the rider," he laughed. "But I am very happy to be second today, and am happy that I now have some points, because I will only do two more World Cup qualifiers this season. The plan for the next few weeks is to compete in the United Arab Emirates and come back to Europe for Zürich and Gothenburg." 

Third placed De Luca also praised his horse. "Harrie is the best rider there is," he smiled. "But I have the best horse. He has had a little break now and this was actually his first World Cup class that he has done after this break, so I am very happy with him today," he continued. "I could not have done more in the jump-off." 


Text and picture © World of Showjumping

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