The Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Miami Beach came to an end as Jérôme Guery (BEL) and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg galloped to a gallant victory on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in a high drama Grand Prix. Speaking about the significance of the result Jerome said: “The Global is the biggest show in the world, the best riders in the world, the best riders are here and to have a victory here - every rider wants to win one time in his life a victory like today.”
Having qualified from the Global Champions League earlier in the day, twenty-five top riders attempted the tough track set by Italy’s skilled course designer Uliano Vezzani. As fans packed the grandstand and lined the edge of the arena, the likes of Lauren Hough (USA), Ben Maher (GBR), Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and 2015 LGCT Miami Beach winner Scott Brash (GBR) took center stage for what turned out to be a high-octane and high-drama Grand Prix.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose daughter Georgina was competing, joined other VIP guests over the weekend including Martina Navratilova, US Senator Marco Rubio and Anthony Shriver, nephew of John F Kennedy and former Boeing chairman Jim McNerney. Speaking about the show, US Senator Marco Rubio said: “It is a truly wonderful event.”
The tough first round saw top riders fail to make it through, with poles rolling and the expectant crowd gasping as riders picked up faults all over the course. The local fans’ hopes were dashed when home hero Kent Farrington (USA) - who had looked so strong in the previous class with a win - retired Creedance, after the combination picked up an unusual 12 faults. Belgian star Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) was first to go clear after a flawless round with his young nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion Chilli Willi, with the popular rider clearly delighted with their performance.
Other riders tried, and failed to join the young star, but could not keep the poles up until fellow young star, Italian Alberto Zorzi rode a masterful clear with his dark bay or Cornetto K. Lauren Hough (USA), Jack Hardin Towell (USA), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Eric Lamaze (CAN) all had shock exits, and LGCT Ranking leader Martin Fuchs (SUI) and recent success story Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) both left the arena with faults. With less than a sixth of the class returning for the jump-off, the fastest four fault rides earned the fifth through tenth spots in the final classification.
Representing three countries, four riders planned their strategies to finish on the top of the podium. First to go, Nicola Phillippaerts (BEL) and Chilli Willi set the scene riding a smooth and stylish jump-off track clear in 39.50s. Alberto Zorzi (ITA) took over the lead and topped it, galloping Cornetto K to the final Longines oxer fault-free in 37.96s. Notably the eleven-year-old gelding by Cornet Obolensky didn’t touch a rail in two rounds and a jump-off today. Harrie Smolders (NED) was on the hunt when his lovely stallion Emerald lost his footing around the corner and couldn’t regain balance quickly enough for the turn back to the double. Harrie circled the stallion and calmly resumed their round, with the glistening chestnut bucking exuberantly at the finish.
Last to go proved best, as Jérôme Guery and Grand Cru van de Rozenberg knew exactly what they had to do to take the win. Picking up a strong pace from start, the pair didn’t slow for a second around the fast-paced twisting track. Keeping the fans on the edge of their seats until their last stride through the timers, they stopped the clock in 37.39s, an amazing half a second faster than Alberto, and to the roar of the crowd who leapt to their feet in appreciation.
In response to the cheers that ensued, Guery removed his helmet and celebrated a well-earned win, punching the air with delight. Winning the lion’s share of the €300,000 ($318,400) in prize money as well as world-ranking and LGCT ranking points, the exuberant winner received high-fives all the way around as he exited the ring, preparing to lead the victory gallop. It was a strong weekend for Jérôme, as the Belgian rider also took home significant prize money from the Global Champions League class, after he and teammate Simon Delestre (FRA) took a strong second for the St Tropez Pirates.
After the stops in Mexico City and Miami Beach, youth reigns in the Longines Global Champions Tour 2017. Twenty-four-year-old Swiss rider Martin Fuchs tops the leaderboard with 66 points, earning 40 in Mexico City and 26 here in Miami Beach. Second to Fuchs is Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca who at just six points behind has a total of 60 points overall. And just six point shy of Lorenzo sits Colombian rider Carlos Lopez with 54 points, to name the top three. As the Tour prepares to leave this continent and head to the sparkling city of Shanghai, the scene is certainly set for some superior show jumping in the thirteen remaining stops that take the world’s best show jumpers around the world.