When 2nd Means You Are 1st- Harrie Smolders Takes LGCT Title

LGCT Champion Harrie Smolders (centre) with GP winner Evalina Tovek & Marcus Ehning
Credit : Stefano Grasso

Sunday 24 September - 09h59 | Lulu Kyriacou/ Jennifer Ward

When 2nd Means You Are 1st- Harrie Smolders Takes LGCT Title

Dutch star Harrie Smolders, yesterday claimed the overall Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) series title, even though he managed only 2nd place in the Longines Grand Prix of Rome behind rising Swedish Star Evalina Torek. To make his day even better, his Global Champions League team also won their Roman round, in which Smolders was ably partnered by Canadian legend Eric Lamaze.

This is the first time since the LCGT revised the rules, that the winner of the overall title has been decided before the last round was run.  Usually there is an exciting finish to the series in Doha with probably two or three riders in with a chance of winning but on this occasion, Smolders can travel to Qatar knowing he has already bagged the lions share of the prize fund. The winner of the series gets 50% of the series prize fund so added to the €90'000 Smolders won for his second place in the Grand Prix, yesterday's result earns him a cool quarter of a million Euro payday. Although Smolders has contested almost every round of this year's Tour, missing out only in Mexico and Monaco, to win so early is a testamant to his consistency which he put down to the briliance of his two top horses, Emerald and Don VHP, who have put in out standing performances time and time again.

“My horse loves this venue, which is why I brought him out here again. It worked out fantastic today - I was not expecting to win [the Championship] today. It’s been an incredible season for me with my top horses Don and Emerald - it’s also thanks to my partners Copernicus and Eurohorse behind me. Our goal was not to be the fastest today, but I wanted to keep clear.
“It feels great to be Champion. You see the previous winners, the horses and riders are exceptional - so to see my name on the trophy is [special]. It’s a big achievement for all my owners, our staff and everyone who works in our stable, from flat riders to the grooms - it’s also for them. In the end I have to finish but they all achieve this with me. The flexibility [of horses] is my strength - we have so many shows, but that’s why I can sometimes use Don VHP Z and sometimes use Emerald. They did an unbelievable job."

A new name on the LGCT Honour Roll

A new name on the LGCT Honour Roll - When 2nd Means You Are 1st- Harrie Smolders Takes LGCT Title

Evalina Tovek
Credit : Stefano Grasso

In the GP class itself, there was a three horse jump off between Harrie Smolders, Marcus Ehning and a new name on the LGCT roster,  Evalina Tovek.  When Ehning had a rail on Funky Fred, 'all' the young Swedish rider  had to do was jump clear on her grey horse Casallo Z and go faster than the flying Dutchman!  The pressure clearly did not go to Tovek's head as she showed admirable scaninavian cool to do exactly that. Trained by Henrik Von Eckerman, she is certainly a name to watch out for.

“It’s the biggest win of my career - it’s amazing. I know my horse is not so fast but has big strides, so I asked a lot from the canter and in the end it worked! [Henrik von Eckermann, my trainer] said “just have fun” before I went in. For me Casello is the perfect horse, no fence is a problem, and I’m really happy to have him."

Jan Tops, President and Founder Longines Global Champions Tour said "It is amazing to see new faces, building young riders. If you watched Evelina since the opening of the year doing quite well but still inexperienced at this level and then every event getting better and better and more confident. It is a great achievement in these difficult classes competing against the best riders in the world, this is a great success for Evelina. That is what the Tour is about. If you want to compete at the highest level you can only do that competing in these difficult classes. Many young riders start like this getting their confidence, riding with great riders and then performing well in championships.
"With Uliano (Vezzani, course designer) he is always consistent. You don’t see any bad things for the horses. It was a difficult class but to win these prestigious classes you have to be very strong. It is our horses which are important to have them at this level and to keep them at this level.
"I think Harrie had an incredible year. He was six or seven times on the podium. Second in the European Championships. That is what it is about jumping these clear round. He is one of the great winners like Scott. It is really well deserved. It is the first time it is not decided in the last leg. Doha is a fantastic event, amazing place and the best riders and horses will be there and for the GCL there is big pressure on to win the championship."

lLamaze Leads To League Win

lLamaze Leads To League Win - When 2nd Means You Are 1st- Harrie Smolders Takes LGCT Title

Eric Lamaze, Chacco Kid
Credit : Stefano Grasso

Canada’s Eric Lamaze led the Hamburg Diamonds to victory and also claimed individual honours riding Chacco Kid in the €155,000 Global Champions League team event.

Lamaze and his team, the Hamburg Diamonds, were at the top of the leaderboard coming into Rome, which acted as the penultimate competition prior to the Global Champions League Final in Doha, Qatar, from November 9 to 11.  Held over two days, Lamaze and teammate, Harrie Smolders of The Netherlands riding Don VHP Z, both incurred four faults in Friday’s opening round of competition.  Coming back for Saturday’s second round, both riders produced clear efforts to give the Hamburg Diamonds the overall win and increase its lead in the Global Champions League standings to 295 points over Valkenswaard United with 278 points.
Individually, Lamaze and Chacco Kid produced the fastest clear round to top the leaderboard, with their time of 68.61 seconds holding off 2012 Olympic team gold medalist Scott Brash of Great Britain riding Hello Forever, who stopped the clock in 69.40 seconds.  Roger-Yves Bost of France took third individually with a time of 71.55 seconds riding Pegase du Murier.
For the win with Chacco Kid, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chacco Blue x Come On), Lamaze collected €51,150 in prize money for the Chacco Kid Group.
“It was a great win for the Hamburg Diamonds, and the win for Chacco Kid was exciting!” said Lamaze, who won individual gold and team silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Hickstead, followed by an individual bronze with Fine Lady 5 at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  “What he accomplished shows great maturity.  Last year, he was an inexperienced horse.  Now, coming here from the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament, he was ready to go full speed over a 1.60m course against the best horses and riders in the world.
“It was a great win for the Chacco Kid Group!” continued Lamaze, 49, of the horse’s owners, namely himself, Andy and Carlene Ziegler, Rick and Sara Mershad, and Carol and Ludi Sollak.  “He is a horse that had to fill in for Fine Lady last year in order for her to get to the Rio Olympics in top form, and he ended up doing a few things that maybe weren’t ideal for a young horse, like the Nations’ Cup in Aachen, but he managed.  Last year, I would not run him in any classes as I wanted to give him the best experience that I could but, this year, he is ready to take some risks and compete against the best

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