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Diamonds dazzle as GCL race takes a thrilling turn

Friday, 11 August 2017
CSI5* LGCT Valkenswaard 2017

Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso. Harrie Smolders for Hamburg Diamonds. Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso.

The battle for the Global Champions League title balances on a knife-edge this evening after the Hamburg Diamonds caused major upset for current leaders Valkenswaard United on their home turf.

With just three points separating the top two teams, the formidable duo of Harrie Smolders and Jos Verlooy pulled the only double clear of the evening out of the bag for the Diamonds, putting them in pole position and the best possible place for a strong result in tomorrow’s final. Home favourites Valkenswaard United fielded the impressive combination of Alberto Zorzi and Marcus Ehning, but a costly four faults dropped the blue and orange team to fourth, but still with a chance at keeping their overall lead.

A delighted Jos Verlooy of the Hamburg Diamonds said; "I’m very happy with my horse, he made my job very easy - he’s green but he rode like he’s been doing this for years. I’m delighted with the result.” His teammate Harrie Smolders agreed but was cautious about their result, knowing how quickly the order can change. "We’re only halfway - we’re focused on tomorrow and ourselves and we’ll see where we end up.”

But the team would keep their strategy close to their chest, with Jos revealing; "We have a team meeting after the class, so we’ll see what we decide [who rides and which horses will take part in the GCL Valkenswaard final]."

Uliano Vezzani set a flowing course for the first Global Champions League, making full use of the expansive sand arena. With colourful fences featuring windmills, tulips and colourful designs showcasing the spectacular venue, the teams took to the huge sand arena as the day turned to dusk. Fences fell all over the arena, the treble combination taking out a few with a short distance to the middle element and the penultimate GCL oxer falling as riders decided whether to take four or five strides to the skinny bicycle vertical to finish.

First to go Jos Verlooy of the Hamburg Diamonds had everything to do, with the unenviable task of pioneering the way for the field yet to come. Despite the pressure on the U25 rider’s shoulders, Verlooy pulled a phenomenal clear out of the bag with his young chestnut Igor (Emerald van't Ruytershof x Nabab de Reve), flying clear and passing the baton back to teammate Harrie Smolders. But the home hero showcased a masterclass of a round with Capital Colnardo (Colman x Coronado) putting in a foot-perfect clear and keeping the Diamonds in with a chance of regaining the title.

With the League-race on a knife-edge, Tops International Arena based rider Alberto Zorzi of Valkenswaard United knew he would need to go clear to match Verlooy’s result. The pressure was on overall leaders Valkenswaard United, but Zorzi kept it clean with Fair Light van't Heike (Vigo d'Arsouilles x Darco) visibly relieved as the spotlight turned to teammate Marcus Ehning.

All eyes turned to Marcus Ehning of Valkenswaard United as he cantered into the ring with Gin Chin van het Lindenhof (Chin Chin x Calido I). The pressure was on the experienced German’s riders shoulders but the square oxer, with a fill of box hedges, would prove their downfall. With one eye on the oxer, they clipped a pole, dropping them down to four faults and ensuring the battle would commence tomorrow.

So it would be the Diamonds who shoot to pole once again, with the only clean score from the GCL today. Berlin Lions have once again shot up the order after Max Kühner and Anna Kellnerova finished on one time fault to take second, and the talented team of Carlos Lopez and Andreas Kreuzer for the Cascais Charms were the fastest of the four faulters to finish in third.

Source: Press release from the GCL / Picture © Stefano Grasso/GCL

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