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Diamonds shoot to League lead in knife-edge GCL Valkenswaard

Sunday, 13 August 2017
CSI5* LGCT Valkenswaard 2017

Photo (c) GCL / Stefano Grasso. Harrie Smolders for Hamburg Diamonds. Photo (c) GCL / Stefano Grasso.

There was major upset at the Global Champions League of Valkenswaard after the heavyweight Hamburg Diamonds knocked home city team Valkenswaard United off their League lead with a phenomenal win.

Harrie Smolders and Jos Verlooy delivered a formidable two rounds to take the top spot for the Diamonds, with the team collecting a tally of 265 points – eight points clear of nearest rivals Valkenswaard United who sit on 257 points. Second went to Madrid in Motion after home heroes Leopold van Asten and Maikel van der Vleuten jumped the only team double clear in a difficult, technical course. Third went to the Cascais Charms, featuring in-form Carlos Lopez and young German talent Andreas Kreuzer.

Course designer Uliano Vezzani ramped up the challenges for the riders, producing a technical course set to test the best and leaving little room for error as they battled for valuable ranking points. The biggest troublemaker was the final line, with a big oxer off a turn before the option of four or five strides – many were caught out as they pushed too hard, or checked and lost power. Other poles rolled at the Global Champions League combination as riders came in too deep to the second part, as well as the tulip double set down the length of the VIP. Another wide oxer down the longside of the arena where spectators stood watching the action required full focus from both horse and rider, and the skinny bicycle fence made a return with its gappy poles, and bright blue colour catching the eye of many horses.

The crowd roared in approval after Leopold van Asten of the Madrid in Motion team went clear with VDL Beauty (For Pleasure x Contender), with the local rider punching the air in delight after they tackled the tricky final line. Extra pressure was heaped onto the shoulders of compatriot and teammate Maikel van der Vleuten who needed a strong result to keep the team up the order. 

Drama came as Valkenswaard United’s Alberto Zorzi took out the GCL combination with Fair Light van't Heike (Vigo d'Arsouilles x Darco), adding another four faults to their four carried over from yesterday. But their hopes of keeping hold of the League title was not lost, after Jos Verlooy of the Hamburg Diamonds rolled a pole at the very same oxer, leaving just a fence in hand for the final two team riders to battle with.

Cheers rang out once more after Maikel van der Vleuten of Madrid in Motion went clear on top stallion VDL Groep Verdi TN (Qudiam de Revel x Landgraf I), matching his teammate’s clean score to shoot the team up the results to second overall – a popular podium with the local spectators.

Further drama came for the home team after Marcus Ehning picked up another four faults with Funky Fred (For Pleasure x Pilot) for Valkenswaard United meaning the team would fall further down the order. All eyes would be on Dutch hero Harrie Smolders and Emerald as they entered the ring with potential to take over the League lead resting heavily on their shoulders. The crowd watched with baited breath as Smolders cruised around the arena, the scopey Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago Z) making easy work of the course before taking the turn for the final, challenging line. The crowd were on the edge of their seat as Emerald came a little deep to the oxer, but recovered jumping cleanly and on through the final fences. Cheers and whistles went up as the popular rider went clear, with teammate Jos celebrating from the kiss n’ cry. The clear would mean the Hamburg Diamonds would take the win, as well as move back up to the overall rankings where they now take back the lead.

“I think our horse power is good at the moment – to have them all in the right shape at the right moment is not so easy," said Harrie Smolders after the win. "Emerald is on a flow the last few weeks, we wanted to save him a little bit yesterday as we were hoping we could do well in both the GCL and GCT. He did fantastic – the first round of the GCL was very difficult, with only five clears. But it’s fantastic when a plan comes together! Uliano put a really technical course together with a difficult end – it makes the sport exciting to see just a few clears, and the pressure was full on. With Madrid in Motion I had to go clean and faster, so I knew what I had to do!"


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

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