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Valkenswaard United in pole position after first GCL round in Rome

Friday, 22 September 2017
CSI5* LGCT Rome 2017

Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL. Photo (c) Stefano Grasso/GCL.

The first round of the Global Champions League of Rome saw Valkenswaard United secure the pole position with the only team double clear of the day.

All season long, the battle between Hamburg Diamonds and Valkenswaard United has taken extraordinary twists, with today’s result no exception. While Hamburg Diamonds sit in the overall lead 11 points ahead of the United team, the experienced duo Harrie Smolders and Eric Lamaze picked up eight faults for the team today putting them 6th on the result list. 

Team tactics saw Valkenswaard United’s formidable duo of Marcus Ehning and Alberto Zorzi re-unite. The pair pulled out all the stops, with masterful clear rounds propelling them to the sharp end of the grid and putting them in the best possible position to leapfrog their closest rivals.

The home city team Rome Gladiators drew the proverbial short straw as first to go in the competition, however Brazilian star Marlon Zanotelli, rose to the occasion by putting in a brilliant pioneering round with Celena VDL (Mr. Blue x Chin Chin). Those early to go looked strong, lulling the crowd into a false sense of ease after Julien Epaillard of St Tropez Pirates with Usual Suspect d’Auge (Jarnac x Papillon Rouge), Emily Moffitt of London Knights with Hilfiger van de Olmenhoeve (Dulf van de Bisschop x Querlybet Hero) and Max Kühner of Berlin Lions with Chardonnay 79 (Clarimo x Corrado I) all jumped clear.

But it was anything but simple as Uliano Vezzani had put together an artfully designed course, testing the riders throughout. A tricky distance down the long side of the VIP hospitality caught out many of the riders, with the imposing fences coming up fast for the horses.

The stadium erupted in cheers after local star Alberto Zorzi proved why he is such a consistent Valkenswaard United anchor, after the Italian rider put in a foot-perfect clear with Fair Light van’t Heike (Vigo d'Arsouilles x Darco). The battle for the League-title soon reached a new level of intensity after leaders Hamburg Diamonds collected four faults as Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) rolled the pole on the oxer placed towards the in-gate.

The pressure was back on the shoulders of Valkenswaard United’s Marcus Ehning as he entered the arena with Comme Il Faut (Cornet Obolensky x Ramiro). A clear would put the team ahead of rivals Hamburg Diamonds, and in a strong position to take back the overall lead this weekend. 

The masterful Ehning pulled together a brilliant round, managing the hot stallion carefully to let him run and jump at his very best. Spectators held their breath until the final fence, before the pair crossed the finish to bring home the first team score of zero - the only team to do so today.

Second team rider Eric Lamaze took up the reins for Hamburg Diamonds, knowing he would need to go clear to keep their GCL lead alive and be in with a chance of keeping rivals Valkenswaard United off the top spot. But the pair were unlucky after Chacco Kid (Chacco-Blue x Come On) left his near fore down at the liverpool, adding another four faults to the team score to finish on 8.

So it would be Valkenswaard United who take the upper hand before tomorrow’s second round. Can the blue and orange team regain the lead, will Hamburg Diamonds make a strategic decision to swap in British legend John Whitaker, and which horses are in their best form for the Rome final where every point counts?

Source: Press release from GCL / Photo Stefano Grasso/GCL. 

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