The stars of show jumping came out at Al Shaqab in a night of high drama, with Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Verdi Tn taking the win in the 1.50/1.55m CSI5* class. In a high-powered race to the finish, the Dutch star beat valiant attempts from Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Forlap and Eduardo Menezes (BRA) with Poden Farms’ Galip.
A delighted van der Vleuten said: “The first round Verdi jumped nice, we had a smooth round and it was quick enough to win the class today. At the moment Verdi feels very good, and very happy. I can use his big stride in a big arena like this so it suits him. We put our focus on Saturday for the Grand Prix.”
Uliano Vezzani set a deceptively lenient 13-fence 1.55m track for the 18 teams. A wide triple bar at fence two followed by a holding six strides to a light set of planks proved the first test as related distances were peppered round this huge arena. He offered the chance for riders to take a breather round the corners, but the 84s time allowed was a conscious reminder that there could be no let up for the riders. Faults were evenly spread with the width on some of the oxers just taking their toll and it was a long way home towards a 1.55m set of planks to finish. For the full first round report, please click here. It would be a seven rider jump off, with many opting to save their horses for Saturday’s competition.
Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fibonacci were the first to enter the ring, the beautiful grey trotting elegantly into the ring. The pair blasted the long distance to the last, stopping the clock at 39.94s – throwing down the gauntlet to the field to come.
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) picked up the revs to find the right tune with VDL Groep Verdi Tn. The Dutch rider took out strides, but put in a phenomenal hairpin turn back to the Longines vertical wowed the crowd and catapulted him right to the top of the timesheets, crossing the finish line in 37.73s. The pressure was on for the rest of the field, with Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (ESP) and Goriana van Klapscheut rolling the last, and Jerome Guery (BEL) who threw caution to the win at the last with Garfield de Tiji des Templiers.
The pressure rose again as Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Forlap quickly found top gear. But a slip on the turn back to the vertical – despite a quick recovery – would mean they would be a fraction behind, finishing on 37.85 and Wathelet ruing his hard luck.
Poden Farms’ Galip was under Brazilian rider and London Knights teammate Eduardo Menezes (BRA) with the new combination putting in a brilliant first round. Despite their new partnership, the duo put in another strong round, jumping clear but not quite quick enough to stop the clock on 38.99s.
Laura Kraut (USA) dared the dark bay Deauville S to the Longines vertical, but their hopes were dashed as it came tumbling down. There would be two riders left to go, with Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Bacardi VDL the penultimate combination. Sprunger kept the elastic-looking Bacardi beautifully together around the arena, but it cost them time, finishing clear in 40.48s. The final rider to go was Geir Gulliksen (NOR) and Edesa S Banjan, with the Norwegian rider giving his all, knowing he had to find something special to beat van der Vleuten’s time. But the pressure was too much, with the duo picking up faults and leaving the Dutch rider victorious.
Friday will see a further CSI5* competition kicking off at 18:30 local time (16:30 CET). Tune in via GCT TV and Facebook Live to watch the action unfold.
Source: Press Release by LGCT – Longines Global Champions Tour
Photos: © LGCT / Stefano Grasso
Categories: Global Champions Tour