GCT Hamburg: Smolders Celebrates Ticket to Play Offs; St Tropez Pirates Ride Wave of GCL Success

Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Hamburg, GER – May 12, 2018 – Harrie Smolders (NED) secured his place in the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix after a spectacular win in Hamburg, Germany. Packed grandstands witnessed the 2017 LGCT Champion and World Number 1 take a brilliant LGCT Grand Prix win with top stallion Don VHP Z, finishing just ahead of young German talent Maurice Tebbel (GER) on Chacco Boy and Swiss star Martin Fuchs (SUI) with Chaplin.

Thousands of passionate and knowledgeable spectators headed to the sun-bathed grass arena provided the perfect backdrop for the thrilling finish to the LGCT Hamburg weekend, with families and fans treated to a sensational showdown featuring the very best horses and riders in the world at this, the fifth leg of the Championship race.

Coming into this class, only Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), ranked third, and Pieter Devos (BEL) in fifth overall could dethrone the current series leaders, British riders Scott Brash and Ben Maher. But neither Tops-Alexander nor Devos could qualify for the jump-off today to overtake the lead, meaning Brash would keep hold of reins in the LGCT Championship race.

However, Tops-Alexander’s performances in Hamburg were good enough to boost her up into second, now just 12 points behind Brash, with both hungry for a historic third LGCT Championship title to add to their accolades.

Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z. Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Aside from Dutchman Harrie Smolders’ superb performances, the only other rider who managed a double clear was last-to-go Germany’s Maurice Tebbel and the Westfalian stallion Chacco’s Son, by Chacco-Blue, who finished in second after he was unable to catch the deceptively fast leading pair who posted a time of 37.97 seconds to Tebbel’s 39.14 seconds. Third went to the fastest four-faulter in the jump-off, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs (SUI) with Chaplin, who clocked the quickest time of all — 37.69 seconds — but knocked out the second part of the double.

Seven combinations qualified through to the jump-off with clears inside the time from the 35 starters over another inspired Frank Rothenberger-designed course. Smolders’ ride, the 14-year-old Don VHP Z, has been a regular podium placer and is arguably one of most consistent showjumping horses in the world. The alchemy of the superb 14-year-old Zangersheide stallion son of Diamant De Semilly and the 2017 series winner Smolders was unbeatable today.

Second to jump of the seven in the second round, Smolders took his time from the first to the second fence, allowing him to turn back super-tightly to the third — a tricky orange plank fence by the arena’s edge that caused problems in both rounds. Once Don VHP Z was safely over it, Smolders galloped the rest of the course, trusting the horse to clear the enormous fences at top speed, with the incredible round watched by delighted owners, Jim and Penny Coulter.

On his tactics, Smolders said: “I wanted to catch my strides in the next turn, from two to three, so I went really wide from one to two so I could do six forward strides to the next — that’s where I caught my time.

“We knew that Don VHP Z would like this ring very much — he always jumps very well here and we are happy he showed his great form today. We also had a jump-off that suited him very well. He normally doesn’t win so many classes, but I knew I had a shot. He’s a very efficient jumper and I have to be aware that I use his energy efficiently, but he’s so consistent and he keeps jumping clears in 1.60m classes.”

First to tackle the jump-off track was Jos Verlooy whose mount Caracas, who is a son of Casall, touched the planks but then punched out the penultimate fence, a big blue oxer to finish on four faults. It was then Smolders’ clear that put major pressure on the remaining five riders and caused forced errors all over the course.

But it would be Smolders’ day, with the flying Dutchman sealing the victory and a golden ticket to the GC Prague Play Offs where he will contest the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix. Alongside him is an already stellar line-up of Scott Brash (GBR), Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Ben Maher (GBR), with all eyes looking to Round 6 of the Championship race – Ramatuelle, St Tropez.


Jan Tops – President LGCT

On the event:
“It was an amazing jump off especially how Harrie [Smolders] rode, with his jump off so smooth. From two to three he does one or two strides less than everyone else, he is amazingly consistent. Also it is now good to see Harried qualified for the (Longines Global Champions) Super Grand Prix in Prague. Every winner of each leg qualifies for the Super Grand Prix. It is a very prestigious class and now he is part of it with four other great riders that are qualified. We are only in the 5th leg, another 11 to go and anything can happen, but we have fantastic combinations and they all want to win the Title.”

Martin Fuchs (SUI) – third place

On his plan:
“I had a good starting position being second last in the Grand Prix so I got to watch the riders before me. I saw that Harrie was very quick and my horse is naturally very fast but I knew that I had to take all the risks and maybe I came a bit too fast into the combination – it got very short in between and he had a light touch in front, but I am still very happy with third place. It’s just the second big show back for Chaplin after an injury, and he is as great as he was before and I’m really happy that he is back.”

Maurice Tebbel (GER) – second place

On his plan:
“I was thinking about the fact that there was only one clear round, so I took a lot of risk and I knew Harrie was very fast — he’s a very fast rider — so I am happy about the second place. I knew that there was only one clear so I tried to be clear to get second for sure. It was an unbelievable day for me today. To win the first class with my nine-year-old stallion and then I changed my horse and he jumped amazing, so it was a very good day for me today. I was lucky that I changed.”

Harrie Smolders (NED) – Longines Global Champion Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg winner

On his plan:
“[Don VHP Z] is very consistent on this level. When I walked the course for the first round it looked tough so that was in our advantage at the moment. And I know he loves this place — he was second the last two years — and with seven in the jump-off I had a good shot and with this jump-off it suited him. I could make the right angles and his scope made the difference today. For sure it’s always possible to go faster, like Martin showed, and with Maurice at the end I knew there were very fast combinations who are young and hungry still to come so I was definitely not sure, but I thought a podium place was possible.”

On qualifying for the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix:
“I’m very pleased that I am qualified [for the Longines Global Champions Super Grand Prix]. My horses are probably not the real winners, but they are very consistent and today was one of the few chances for me to win one [of the qualifiers] and I had that feeling and the scenario went like I wanted. I am very pleased with that. I only did two Globals so far, but we will for sure be there at St Tropez and Cannes and hopefully we can climb up the leaderboard.”


Longines Global Champion Tour Grand Prix of Hamburg
Place / Rider / Horse / R1 Faults / R2 Faults | Time
1. Harrie Smolders / Don VHP Z / 0 / 0 | 37.97
2. Maurice Tebbel / Chaccos’ Son / 0 / 0 | 39.14
3. Martin Fuchs / Chaplin / 0 / 4 | 37.69
4. Jos Verlooy / Caracas / 0 / 4 | 39.12
5. Christian Ahlmann / Tokyo / 0 / 4 | 40.95
6. Piergiorgio Bucci / Diesel Gp du Bois Madame / 0 / 4 | 43.52
7. Julien Epaillard / Giovani de la Pomme / 0 / 8 | 38.81
8. Marc Houtzager / Sterrehof’s Baccarat / 1 | 84.45
9. Evelina Tovek / Dalila de la Pomme / 1 | 84.90
10. Shane Breen / Ipswich van de Wolfsakker / 1 | 86.89
11. Marcus Ehning / Pret a Tout / 4 | 78.05
12. Danielle Goldstein / Lizziemary / 4 | 81.30

For full results, click here.

St Tropez Pirates Ride Wave of Success at GCL Hamburg

St Tropez Pirates team of Pieter Devos and Laura Klaphake. Photo: Mario Grassia/GCL
St Tropez Pirates team of Pieter Devos and Laura Klaphake. Photo: Mario Grassia/GCL

Excitement flowed to the final fence as the St Tropez Pirates duo of Laura Klaphake and Pieter Devos held off enormous pressure to sail to the team’s first win of the season at GCL Hamburg.

U25 German star Klaphake and Devos of the Pirates jumped fluid, fast rounds, with a single back rail of an oxer late on the course falling during Klaphake’s round, failing to dent their prowess. They claimed the top step of the podium in Germany, as the top four teams all finished within one fence of each other in a nail-biting showdown, keeping the packed grandstand on the edge of their seats.

By putting just four penalties on the board across their two riders, Jur Vrieling and Marcus Ehning, Valkenswaard United shot up the leaderboard from overnight fourth to finish second. The Shanghai Swans (Pius Schwizer and Shane Sweetnam) held onto their overnight third spot.

Setbacks make the best comebacks, and the current GCL Ranking leaders, the London Knights, finished fifth after posting the only double clear of the day — a staggering rise up from 16th place overnight after a strategic horse and rider change to field Nicola Philippaerts (Chilli Willi) and Martin Fuchs (Chaplin). They remain at the top of the championship, with Valkenswaard United in second and the St Tropez Pirates rising to third after their untouchable performances in Hamburg. But there is still all to play for ahead of the season finale where 16 teams will qualify for the GCL Super Cup at the GC Play Offs in December.

Only 17 horses of the 56 starters jumped clear over Frank Rotheberger’s testing course, which contained three doubles and a tricky line to the last where riders had to choose whether to go for five for six strides from the Mercedes 1.70m wide spread to the tricky brown upright at the last. Time was influential too, as riders taking too much time to set up for the short doubles were caught out by the clock.

Pieter Devos and Apart. Photo: Stefano Grasso/GCL
Pieter Devos and Apart. Photo: Stefano Grasso/GCL

In Hamburg, it all came down to the wire in the climax of the GCL team contest. It was only a clear round from Belgian rider Pieter Devos of the St Tropez Pirates that could ensure his team stayed atop the leaderboard. Having changed horses from the first round, his partner was the bright chestnut Apart, and the 13-year-old Dutch gelding responded to every question asked of him in fine style.

“That was amazing,” beamed the 24-year-old German rider Klaphake, who once again rode the Oldenburg gelding, Catch Me If You Can. “Pieter did an amazing job, he had so much pressure but he just did it. It was quite difficult the course, but I think it was good building because everyone had fences down in different places.”

Laura Klaphake and Catch Me If You Can. Photo: Stefano Grasso/GCL
Laura Klaphake and Catch Me If You Can. Photo: Stefano Grasso/GCL

The 32-year-old Belgian rider Devos added: “There were some options and we said from the beginning that Laura should take the option here to the yellow oxer and if she had one down then I would go around [the longer route] because I knew I had to be clear, so I wouldn’t take the risk any more. But always when you’re in there the pressure is on and its not so easy to take these decisions in that moment.”

The Berlin Eagles, who had been second overnight, had a tough day at the office. Ludger Beerbaum recorded an uncharacteristic 12 faults on Chiara and his team-mate Philipp Weishaupt also rolled two poles to see their team tumble down the rankings.

But it would be the Pirates’ day, keeping cool under pressure to take their first win of the season.

The GCL Championship race now looks to Ramatuelle, St Tropez, where the Pirates will be hoping to ride their wave of success with another strong result at their home event.


Jan Tops – Co-Founder GCL

On the event:
“You can’t afford to make a mistake. With the new system it is much easier to follow. London Knights are in the lead in the overall GCL ranking. They have a great young team, very good riders and horses and they are very determined all year – tactically planning where to send their riders and horses.”

Volker Wulff – LGCT Hamburg Event Director

On the event:
“We had a really good event and you could see the crowd was in the whole class. It is a good step to do it this way where you don’t know until the last rider who is the winner. It is a good innovation for the League.”

Pieter Devos – St Tropez Pirates (Winning Team)

On his win:
“That is what this is about, putting the pressure to the end. It was a super competition, it was really important to be clear. Laura did a super round, but had one down so I knew I had to go clear. It makes extra pressure, but makes everything more exciting. That’s what is is all about it was super sport today.”

Laura Klaphake – St Tropez Pirates (Winning Team)

On the team:
“To be honest I really enjoyed being part of the team. I really tried my best. My horse was amazing. It is a completely different thing to be part of the team, I really enjoyed it and I got some really good tips from Pieter and Edwina.”

Maurice Tebbel – Valkenswaard United (Second Place)

On his team:
“It is a really good team and a pleasure for me to be part of this team. Today was a bit unlucky for us, but second place is really good. I think it was really close and really interesting for the people here and for the new system (of the GCL) it is good for the people to understand and I am looking forward to the future. It was super interesting to ride for the first time in a team.”

Shane Sweetnam – Shanghai Swans (Third Place)

On the new GCL system:
“I think the new system (GCL) is a lot easier to understand. People are getting more involved, everyone is very positive and a lot of people are following. I got a lot of tweets and WhatsApp messages today saying it was very exciting and that just tells you there is a big following.”


Global Champions League of Hamburg
Place / Team / Rider / Horse / R1 Faults / R2 Faults | Time
1. St Tropez Pirates
Pieter Devos / Claire Z / 0 / –
Laura Klaphake / Catch Me If You Can / 0 / 4 | 75.39
Pieter Devos / Apart / – / 0 | 75.99
Team penalties | time / 4 | 151.38
2. Valkenswaard United
Maurice Tebbel / Chaccos’ Son / 0 / –
Jur Vrieling / VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest N.O.P. / 1 / 4 | 74.57
Marcus Ehning / Pret a Tout / – / 0 | 71.47
Team penalties | time / 5 | 146.04
3. Shanghai Swans
Shane Sweetnam / Indra van de Oude Heihoef / 0 / –
Pius Schwizer / Living The Dream / 1 / 4 | 79.87
Shane Sweetnam / Chaqui Z / – / 0 | 77.30
Team penalties | time / 5 | 157.17
4. Scandinavian Vikings
Evelina Tovek / Castello 194 / 1 / –
Christian Ahlmann / Clintrexo Z / 5 / –
Evelina Tovek / Dalila de la Pomme / – / 0 | 78.67
Christian Ahlmann / Tokyo / – / 1 | 80.57
Team penalties | time / 7 | 159.24
5. London Knights
Olivier Philippaerts / H&M Ikker / 8 / –
Martin Fuchs / Chaplin / 1 / 0 | 69.16
Nicola Philippaerts / H&M Chilli Willi / – / 0 | 72.93
Team penalties | time / 9 | 142.09

For full results, click here.


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