The evening CSI5* 1.50m class at Longines Global Champions Tour of Valkenswaard was won by the master of faster Harrie Smolders (NED) and his feisty mare Regina Z, who raced to the top of the class from early in the draw finishing in an unbeatable time of 38.19s.
Second went to Constant van Paesschen (BEL) who is hitting form again this season having collected a 3rd this morning. This time the young star rode a neat round with Citizenguard Toscan de Sainte Hermelle to finish less than a second behind the Dutchman in 38.96s. Third went to a smiling Janika Sprunger (SUI) and Uptown Boy in a time of 40.24s.
In the beautiful Grand Prix grass arena of Stal Tops, Valkenswaard a selection of the world’s best riders went up against a testing but fair course from Uliano Vezzani. The first round took the competitors on a sweeping tour of the vast ring, including a few long related distances and a troublesome double of uprights into the treble combination. From the centre piece of the venue, the gorgeous VIP hospitality area between the two arenas, guests enjoyed the perfect vantage point to see all the action as the class unfolded in the evening sun.
Of the 42 starters, eleven jumped clear to proceed to the jump-off, including Christian Ahlmann (GER), Henrik von Eckermann (SWE), Kent Farrington (USA) and Jane Richard Philips (SUI). The jump-off course offered plenty of potential for daring turn-backs and hair raising gallops. The double across the middle caught a few out who approached at speed as did the final upright.
Harrie Smolders set the pace with Regina Z and looked from the start like he would never be beaten. Luciana Diniz and Lady Lindenhof did their best to catch the Dutchman, taking risks at every turn, but the Portuguese No1 was too brave to the last tall upright which the mare lowered with her hind legs, though she produced the fastest time. Van Paesschen and his handsome grey were deceptively quick, hugging the turns and keeping it neat. But they lacked Smolders’ speed across the ground and in the air.
Smolders always performs well in Valkenswaard and he has been on the podium of and LGCT Grand Prix a few times but never taken the top honours. Could this year be different as we look ahead to tomorrow's main event?