After weeks of anticipation, the curtain raised on the glittering finale to the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour with a fast-paced thriller in Thursday’s 1.45m two-phase competition. Victory went to Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) with a sensational round on the 13-year-old Extra Van Essene.
“It was fantastic, I’m very happy with my horse,” said Zanotelli, who finished just 0.3s ahead of 2017 overall LGCT champion Harrie Smolders (NED) on Zinius, with Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden taking third on Cantinero.
“I watched Maikel van der Vleuten, sixth and he went fast. My wife said there was one less stride to the last and luckily it worked for me. He’s a fantastic horse, very kind and he’s always fighting for me. It’s a fantastic facility here in Doha and all the support we have here from the crowd is very nice.”
As the sun set behind the vast Al Shaqab arena in the Qatar capital, Doha, a magnificent field of elite riders, including 17 of the world’s top 20 riders, lined up for this opening CSI5* class.
With a full three days of competition ahead of them, several riders enjoyed a quiet spin round, but a nail-biting battle ensued as a field of 45 tackled Uliano Vezzani’s welcoming course with a Middle Eastern vibe. Such was the standard that 32 combinations remained clear through the first phase and 18 remained faultless against the clock, where a series of slalom turns and some inviting opportunities for a gallop required accurate riding, while a blind turn to the final oxer required utmost trust between horse and rider.
This proved an exhilarating class from the outset, with the leading time being smashed in quick succession.
Great Britain’s Ben Maher took an early advantage with some deadly accurate turns on MTF Madame X in a time of 27.12s, but the leader board immediately reshuffled as the new European champion Peder Frericson (SWE) and H&M Zaloubet rocketed home in 26.48s before Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Quatro showed all their agility at high speed to take the lead in 25.60s.
The foundations were set for a thrilling competition and Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and the long-striding and athletic 13-year-old son of Diamant De Semilly, Extra Van Essene, showed tremendous team work to absolutely smash the time, scorching home clear in 24.35s.
After this pivotal round, there followed some spectacular attempts to beat it, but it wasn’t until 26th drawn rider, the Swedish maestro Henrik von Eckermann and Cantinero, that Zanotelli’s lead looked in real danger. But despite some brave manoeuvres, the clock stopped at 24.83s for eventual third.
Riding on the crest of the wave Harrie Smolders, who made history this season by winning the 2017 tour outright at the penultimate leg in Rome, blazed round on Zinius but even he fell 0.3s short of the target of 24.65s for the runner-up spot.
World number three Kevin Staut and the eight-year-old Vendome D’Anchat HDC produced a sublimely smooth attempt with a dramatic flier to the last to post a time of 24.91s, good enough for fourth.
Source: Press Release by LGCT – Longines Global Champions Tour
Photos: © LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Categories: Global Champions Tour