Marlon Módolo Zanotelli (BRA) powered to a phenomenal second win with Extra van Essene at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Doha. In an evening of enthralling competition Zanotelli fought off stiff competition to take the win from Harrie Smolders (NED) and Lauren Hough (USA) who finished in third.
A delighted Zanotelli said: “The horse is jumping amazing – he’s fantastic and so careful, and he can really gallop. He makes my life easier! Harrie is one of the fastest riders in the world – to see him go was a chance for me to watch, and then I just hoped for the best!”
The 1.45/150m CSI5* class proved to be a real riders’ competition: Uliano Vezzani’s course was technical with time a key factor, the Italian maestro providing some options on the lines to get the world’s best thinking. The trickiest of the combinations was the final line, featuring two huge oxers along the grandstand, and a gappy vertical to finish. Unusually the course also featured two doubles, one after another, and the galloping track made full use of the AL SHAQAB’S magnificent sand arena.
Of the 40-strong field Germany’s Daniel Deusser was the first to go clear with Tobago Z, after the time allowed was extended to 87 seconds. He was soon followed by Janika Sprunger (SUI) with the expressive 12 year old stallion Aris CMS who delighted the crowd, clearing the final fence with a flick of his tail.
The last line took a lot of riding. Both Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) with Ironman and Jerome Guery (BEL) with Garfield de Tiji des Templiers took out the back rail of the oxer, with the test too much for even some of the most experienced combinations. Kevin Staut (FRA) was also caught out – with Vendome d’Anchat HDC’s catching the final pole with his hind legs, despite his best efforts.
The threat of time faults came true, with a few miscalculating the time. Cindy van der Straten-Marie (BEL) and Chacco R were the first to pick up one agonising penalty, as did young rider Nicola Pohl (GER) with Copain HD – the pair pulling out all the stops to deliver a clear round. Joining them would be Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Coco Bongo who picked up two faults – a steady but careful round, with tomorrow’s final clearly in mind.
One man who looked to be on flying form after his win yesterday was Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) who delightedly punched their air as he and VDL Groep Quatro went clear. Speaking afterwards, van der Vleuten said:
“Quatro is always a horse who really gives all his heart and it’s nice to ride that kind of horse. It was hard work today but we made it! It’s an impressive arena for many horses, the light is very good but a few horses can be spooky so experience is welcome here. I’ll give the jump off a try! They are quite big fences today, so we’ll see.”
Joining those clear would be Longines Ambassador of Elegance Jane Richard Philips (SUI) with Dieudonne de Guldenboom, Marlon Módolo Zanotelli (BRA) with Extra van Essene, Christian Kukuk (GER) with Limonchello NT and Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Leicester.
As the floodlights beamed, the tension rose in the vast arena as the crowd waited for the first rider to enter the jump off. Daniel Deusser (GER) had the unenviable task of laying the gauntlet, however lit up the track with the small but mighty Tobago Z to set the time to beat at 54.87s.
The pressure was on for the field to come, and Janika Sprunger (SUI) responded by setting off like a rocket. But Deusser’s time forced errors, and Sprunger had two down despite her blindingly fast time of 50.51s, showing there was space for bravery and improvement on Deusser. Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) put together a beautiful round with the elastic Inca Boy van T Vianahof, but kept it cool to jump double clear, picking up time faults but saving her 9 year old gelding who is undoubtably one to watch.
Dutch talent Kevin Jochems (NED) turned up the heat, picking up the pace with Captain Cooper towards the second half of the fast-paced course.
All eyes turned to LGCT Champion Harrie Smolders (NED) with his speedy mount Zinius who set off at a Formula 1 pace. Daring Zinius to the last, Smolders took a second and a half off the top, with the bar raised to 50.75s to beat and the crowd on the edge of their seats to see if his time could be bettered.
Compatriot Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) had the potential to take a second win of the weekend, however Smolders’ pace was too much – van der Vleuten and Verdi took out the first part of the double, ruling them out of contention.
The final day of competition on the 2017 LGCT season will kick off Saturday 11th November with the Global Champions League taking place at 14:00. The final Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of the season will take place at 18:00 with the final rankings to be decided.