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The Championship Race: A Thrilling season so far...

Release date: 04/09/2017

Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso

The 12th season of the Longines Global Champions Tour is turning out to be a high-octane, rollercoaster of a Championship battle, with the world's best fighting nail and tooth for the prestigious Champion of Champions title. With the very best riders and horses in the world at every event, the competition is consistently at the highest level, with the overall rankings in constant turmoil and the leader changing at almost every leg.

As the Tour gallops towards it's grand finale, catch up on the story of the season so far...

Mexico City

The 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour season kicked off with a phenomenal victory in Mexico City for the young Swiss star, Martin Fuchs, and his formidable stallion Chaplin– for whom this was his first CSI5* outdoor Grand Prix. The curtain went up on the hotly-anticipated championship series and the action was electrifying with fans on the edge of their seats as world class sport played out. A delighted Martin hailed his Grand Prix victory as “amazing” and said: “My horse Chaplin gave his heart for me and I’m very happy.”

Thousands of passionate fans lined the vast grass arena cheering wildly as the world’s top riders went into battle in Mexico City. The event receives strong support from the Mexico Government and is an important demonstration of the City’s ability to stage high level sports events. The show was even more popular in its second year attracting a big crowd, thrilled to watch top-level equestrian sport. Mexican dancers added a colourful national flourish to the vibrant event with great entertainment and corporate hospitality.

The 24-year-old rider demonstrated nerves of steel as he powered to a stunning win - his first Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix triumph - in Mexico City giving him a great advantage at the top of the new ranking for 2017.

Miami Beach

It was a dream come true at the LGCT Grand Prix of Miami Beach as Jérôme Guery and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg galloped to a gallant victory on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in a high drama Grand Prix. Set against the backdrop of the breath-taking turquoise ocean, the world’s best wowed the crowds in a stunning display of top sport and entertainment, with the grandstand at full capacity to witness the Belgian rider achieve his dream of winning an LGCT Grand Prix. Jerome said: “The Global is the biggest show in the world, the best riders in the world, the best riders are here - every rider wants to win one time in his life a victory like today.”

Holidaymakers, new to the sport, were delighted to see show jumping for the first time on such a spectacular stage with the world’s top equine athletes delivering thrilling competition. Hundreds of guests enjoyed world class hospitality in the beautiful VIP Lounge which offered breathtaking views across to the Atlantic Ocean. 24-year-old Swiss rider Martin Fuchs kept hold of the leaderboard with 66 points. Second to Fuchs is Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca who at just six points behind had a total of 60 points overall. And just six point shy of Lorenzo sat Colombian rider Carlos Lopez with 54 points.

Shanghai

As the Tour headed east, the tables were turned as Italy's Lorenzo de Luca rocketed to the top of the LGCT Rankings, after a stunning Grand Prix win at the Shanghai Longines Global Champions Tour - his debut victory on the Tour.

The Italian star collected a tally of 100 points overall, knocking Martin Fuchs from the lead and revving up the Championship fight. Maikel van der Vleuten shot up to second, with another podium contributing to his score of 89 points. Scott Brash's solid consistency throughout the first three legs of the season was rewarded with a jump up to third place, where he sat on 75 points.

Dynamic Shanghai was again a spectacular stage for show jumping for the fourth year running, growing in popularity with the Chinese audience and developing into a glamorous highlight on the city social calendar. The weekend belonged to de Luca, who put in a flawless performance with his horse Ensor de Litrange LXII, to take home to coveted win, a popular win infront of pack-out crowds.

Madrid

World Number 1 Kent Farrington thrilled thousands of spectators as 9 out of the top 10 riders in the world locked horns in Madrid for the fourth LGCT Grand Prix of the 2017 circuit. Fans were kept on the edge of their seats as the top American rider and his Champion horse Gazelle triumphed against a heavy-weight field, nailing the win by only 5 tenths of a second.

Thrilled Kent admitted he “won by a whisker”, as he paid respect to the extraordinary calibre of riders and horses that turned the competition into a power play of precision, bravery and pin-point timing in the Spanish capital.

Lorenzo de Luca continued his reign of the LGCT Ranking lead, with the Italian star once again in an electric jump-off and keeping his points tally high. With a score of 133 overall, Lorenzo had one eye over his shoulder, as Maikel van der Vlueten closed the gap to the top now sitting just 9 points behind on 124 overall after his third podium this season. Compatriot Harrie Smolders meanwhile leapfrogged up to third, with a collection of 86 points as the Championship race continues throughout Europe.

Hamburg

In a moment of pure sporting magic, the legendary stallion Casall ASK retired with a phenomenal Grand Prix win at the LGCT in Hamburg.

The curtain came down on the final chapter in Casall ASK's incredible career in the most extraordinary way, as the 18-year-old bay stallion exited the stage with a true Hollywood-style ending. Tens of thousands of emotional fans watched Casall ASK win the LGCT Grand Prix in his home city of Hamburg before celebrating the horse's retirement from professional show jumping.

From last draw in a five-strong jump-off, the reigning LGCT Champion raced home to a crescendo of cheers to top the podium by a convincing 2.5s in the 18-year-old’s stallion final appearance before being retired.

Rolf said: "To make the retirement of a horse like Casall ASK and to pick the show at our home ground in front of his home crowd, is a dream come true and the horse more than deserves this and many will remember him for many years, including me!”

Staying at the helm in the overall LGCT rankings after the fifth leg in Germany is Lorenzo de Luca, with Maikel van der Vleuten still hot on his heels. Dutchman Harrie Smolders, who secured his second podium position in a row, finishing runner-up in Hamburg riding Don VHP Z, holds strong in third place on the leader board.

Cannes

Cannes rolled out the red carpet for Saturday night’s Grand Prix with all the sparkle associated with the iconic city on the French Riviera. Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and his 12-year-old bay gelding Arrayan took their first LGCT win in spectacular style, while Harrie Smolders rocketed to the top of LGCT Rankings as the battle for the Championship shot up a gear.

“Grand Prix are so hard to win. There were so many riders in the jump off today, but it turned out to be fantastic, especially for me.” Moya said, “I know my horse is very fast and flat over the jumps, and has a huge stride, so it was very hard for them to catch me. I didn’t have to fight much with him and he jumped his best. I couldn’t be happier.”

In the overall rankings, Harrie Smolders’ consistent results saw him overtake long-term leader Lorenzo de Luca, after the Italian had a shock result in the qualifier, failing to make the Grand Prix. Harrie now had 150 points overall, with Lorenzo just 17 points behind on 133 overall. Maikel van der Vleuten kept hold of his third place, with a tally of 124 points as the fight for the Championship race intensified.

Monaco

Just a hop and skip along the stunning French Riviera, the Tour headed to Monaco, where it would be the turn of rising Italian star Alberto Zorzi to take the spotlight. Watched on by royalty and celebrities including Princess Caroline of Hannover, Charlotte Casiraghi, Bruce and Patti Springsteen and Bill and Melinda Gates, Zorzi played the ace in Monaco with a spectacular Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix de Prince du Monaco Presented by Sapinda win. There was a shake up in the overall LGCT rankings after the competition result led to a re-shuffle at the top, putting top German rider Christian Ahlmann in the first spot.

Speaking after the win a modest Zorzi said he was “so happy for the result” and his horse had been “a super jumper”, but he admitted he had known between fences one and two that he had it, after taking one less stride.

In the overall rankings, second place in the Grand Prix for Ahlmann meant he leapt up to the top of the list with 154 points, nudging previous leader Harrie Smolders down to second with 150. The evening win contributed to a rise up the leaderboard for Zorzi also, taking him to 145 points in total and in third position overall as the Tour looked to Paris for round 8 of the Championship fight.

Paris

There was a huge buzz in Paris as home hero Julien Epaillard rode to a phenomenal Longines Global Champions Tour - Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping Grand Prix win, with his 9 year old stallion Usual Suspect D’auge.

An ecstatic Julien declared his win as “the greatest victory of [his] career” and spoke of the high quality competition and the boost from the home crowd: “It’s amazing here in Paris, here in this special place it’s fantastic. This is the first five star show for my horse and he was crazy good. It is my first time on the podium in the Global Tour, for me it is the best sport at the moment. All the best riders are here.”

Under perfect blue skies and overlooked by the world famous, 324-metre high Eiffel Tower, the world’s greatest show jumpers delivered world class equestrian action at the Longines Global Champions Tour - Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping. It was full house in the grandstands as excited fans cheered their favourite riders in one of the most unique settings for top-level show jumping.

In the overall LGCT Rankings the leaderboard took another twist, as Harrie Smolders regains the lead with 185 points overall. Christian Ahlmann is breathing down the flying Dutchman’s neck, as he sits just five points away on 180 overall. Alberto Zorzi kept hold of his third place with 161 points, as the Championship race gathers pace towards the second half of the season.

Cascais

One of the most popular events on the Tour amongst riders, the lively coastal town of Cascais near Estoril, Portugal, played host to the Longines Global Champions Tour for the 12th year running, as Danielle Goldstein and Lizziemary stormed to the Grand Prix win. Danielle sealed her first-ever Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix win. Danielle said she knew she had to go all out in the five-strong jump off and the win was “a dream” as "everyone wants to win a Global Champions Tour Grand Prix”.

Dutch champion Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Arera were pushed into second place over a full second behind Danielle. It was to be a night when young talent shone on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, as in form Martin Fuchs finished in third place on Clooney with Bertram Allen and Molly Malone in fourth and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy finished in fifth. The young guns, some of the sport’s biggest speed stars, pulled out all the stops but could not beat Danielle.

Danielle took the win under the spotlight in Cascais, as Harrie Smolders kept hold of his overall ranking lead. The Dutchman now sats on 207 points overall, with Maikel van der Vleuten leaping up to second with 185 points. Christian Ahlmann dropped to third place with 180 points, but with all three in action for LGCT Chantilly all eyes would be on the Championship battle as round 10 returns to France.

Chantilly

Harrie Smolders (NED) celebrated a “diamond day” in Chantilly after winning the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix and the Global Champions League team competition with his super stallion Emerald.

Dutchman Harrie dramatically extended his lead in the Tour championship race after beating a high-powered field including serious challenges from Scott Brash (GBR) and Philippe Rozier (FRA) who finished second and third on the podium. Earlier Harrie and Emerald seized victory for the Hamburg Diamonds in the GCL showdown.

Harrie, who enjoys a whopping 57 point lead over Alberto Zorzi (ITA) in the race for the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour title, described his day as “amazing”. There was a capacity crowd in the grandstand overlooking the vast grass arena with the fairytale Chateau de Chantilly providing another breathtaking backdrop for world class show jumping.

Berlin

Christian Ahlmann’s powerful home victory on Codex One in the Longines Global Champions Tour of Berlin Presented by Sapinda set German hearts racing and intensified the race to the finish line for the overall title.

The home hero had the crowd on their feet in ecstatic scenes as world class show jumping proved a huge hit in the German capital city. Their joy soared as 28-year-old German national rider Simone Blum held her nerve and galloped to second place on the podium leaving some of the world’s heavyweights in her wake. It was a career result she described as “unbelievable”.

Ahlmann’s über special win in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Berlin Presented by Sapinda capped a stunning weekend of top sport. He described Codex One as an “absolute talent” and delivered an unforgettable, turbo-charged lap of honour for the home fans. Following the result, he climbed to third place in the overall ranking on 220 points - only one point behind Alberto Zorzi (ITA) on 221 points. Harrie Smolders (NED) holds the lead on 252 points but with a smaller margin.

London

Great Britain’s Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Forever wowed a sell-out crowd with a phenomenal home win in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of London presented by Sapinda. Scott Brash and his London 2012 teammate Ben Maher took the top spots almost five years to the day since they won Olympic gold in the team jumping.

God save the Queen rang out over the jubilant crowd at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, as it was a British one-two in a breathtaking display of showjumping, featuring 9 out of the top 10 in the world. Ireland’s Denis Lynch finished third with Tour leader Harrie Smolders in fourth.

The patriotic atmosphere heightened even further in the prize giving as The Chelsea Pensioners joined the line-up next to the podium and were applauded by the crowd. It capped a stunning two days where thousands of passionate fans and international guests witnessed top sport in front of the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea with guests including double Olympic Gold medallist Victoria Pendleton and model Jodie Kidd, who declared the event as “amazing”.

Harrie Smolders remains at the top of the leaderboard on 263 points edging away from Alberto Zorzi in second on 245 points and Christian Ahlmann in third on 220 points.

Valkenswaard

Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) hailed his “fantastic” win at the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Valkenswaard presented by Sapinda as the race for the title crown narrowed sharply, setting up a thrilling sprint to the championship finish line.

Amidst stormy weather, the top 25 riders from the previous class - the Global Champions League of Valkenswaard - returned to the ring to try their hand at the prestigious LGCT Grand Prix of Valkenswaard presented by Sapinda. Spectators packed the grandstands and along the arena, treated to a thrilling display of top horsemanship as the world’s best took centre stage under the floodlights, and VIPs including Bruce and Patti Springsteen watched on from the state-of-the-art hospitality.

The Italian star obliterated the opposition with a super fast jump-off victory, while there was drama for home heroes Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and LGCT Ranking leader Harrie Smolders (NED) in the edge-of-the-seat competition. Smolders (NED) keeps hold of his Championship lead, with 268 points overall, however Christian Ahlmann (GER) has kept his title hopes alive with a strong second today, to move up behind the Dutchman with a score of 257 points. Just two points behind is Alberto Zorzi (ITA), with 255 overall, meaning the high-octane race to the finish will be all the more intense as the final two Championship rounds play out.