After six months of elite show jumping across 14 cities and three continents, Harrie Smolders has been crowned the overall winner of the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour.
The flying Dutchman placed second at Rome’s Stadio dei Marmi in Saturday’s penultimate leg of the competition, ensuring he cannot be caught when the riders travel to Doha in November.
Smolders, 37, guided his stallion Don VHP Z home in 52.43 seconds — a time bettered only by Sweden’s rising star Evelina Tovek on the day.
His nearest challenger, Lorenzo de Luca of Italy, could only finish in seventh.
It meant Smolders became the first rider in the competition’s history to wrap up the title before the season finale.
“Our goal was not to be the fastest today, but I wanted to keep clear,” he said. “It feels great to be champion.
“You see the previous winners, the horses and riders are exceptional. So to see my name on the trophy is special.
“It’s a big achievement for all my owners, our staff and everyone who works in our stable, from flat riders to the grooms. It’s also for them.”
Victorious in July’s Chantilly leg, Smolders has been the most consistent rider on the LGCT this season.
His reward is a place in the history books, alongside past winners such as Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, Luciana Diniz, Scott Brash, Edwina Tops Alexander and Ludo Philippaerts.
Global Champions League
It was double delight for Smolders in the Rome leg of the Global Champions League team competition, where the Hamburg Diamonds emerged victorious to extend their lead over title rivals Valkenswaard United.
Negotiating a highly technical course with great composure, the duo of Smolders and Eric Lamaze produced a double clear, beating their nearest challengers Marcus Ehning and Alberto Zorzi by 2.16 seconds.
Miami Glory’s Scott Brash and Denis Lynch placed third.
The final leg of the LGCT and GCL will take place from November 9-11 at the Al Shaqab Equestrian Center in Doha, Qatar.