Danielle Goldstein won the Shanghai leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour for the world’s top showjumpers in a nail-biter.
The colorful Israeli rider and her powerful, big-striding 13-year-old chestnut mare Lizziemary edged Ireland’s Darragh Kenny and Balou Du Reventon by just 0.08 seconds in the jump-off.
Dutch veteran Jur Vrieling and VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest finished third, 2.65 seconds back.
“This is one that everybody really wants to win,” Goldstein told LGCT television. “The money is huge here, and the crowd is unbelievable, so this is amazing. We’ve come a long way, and we’ve made it worthwhile.”
In the Global Champions League team competition, the Monaco Aces of Frenchman Julian Epaillard and Belgium’s Jerome Guery triumphed ahead of the Paris Panthers.
It was the second LGCT triumph for Goldstein, who also won in Estoril two years ago.
“She is like a rocketship underneath you, you have just so much raw power, she tries her heart out for me,” Goldstein said about the horse she has been riding since 2016. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Watched by a cosmopolitan crowd at the China Art Palace in Shanghai, with many spectators donning hats and designer outfits, the lone Asian stop of the Tour saw nine riders qualify for the jump-off, on a sandy course over 1.60-meter jumps set by Uliano Vezzani.
Ireland’s Kenny had set the pace as the third rider in the jump-off, finishing in a time of 38.06 seconds as he stepped up the pace in the second part of the course to beat the previous leader, Vrieling.
“Dani did one less stride to the last fence and that made a huge difference,” Kenny said afterwards. “I’ve been aiming my horse for this for two months now and it’s a great show.”
The sixth rider, Belgium’s Pieter Devos, the winner of Miami Beach two weeks ago, put down the fastest time (37.49 seconds) in the jump-off, but dropped a pole at the penultimate fence.
Another Belgian, Niels Bruynseels, and his big striding horse Delux Van T&L, were equally unlucky, dropping a pole at the last fence as they finished in a time of 38.21 seconds.
With just two more riders to go, Goldstein guided Lizziemary round the course in a clear round in 37.98 seconds, as Kenny looked on from the sidelines and showed his frustration after getting beaten by such a thin margin.
Could the last rider, LGCT rookie Titouan Schumacher and Atome Z, produce a masterpiece in front of the China Art Palace?
It wasn’t meant to be for the 164th-ranked Frenchman, as his horse dropped a pole, and they finished in eighth place in a time of 39.12 seconds.
Head-to-head television pictures comparing Kenny and Goldstein’s rides showed Lizziemary won the jump-off in the final few strides.
“Today worked out,” said Goldstein. “Some days it doesn’t, but it was really our day and she jumped amazing the whole day. I didn’t nail the first line the way I would have liked, but I made it up somewhere else…I couldn’t be happier.”
Devos remains overall leader
The Global Champions Tour, show jumping’s richest circuit, is held at a record 20 venues in 2019, including new stops in New York, Montreal and Stockholm. It was staged in Shanghai for the sixth straight year.
Her victory earned Goldstein a place in the lucrative GC Prague Playoffs November 21-24, which will see all individual LGCT winners compete against each other in the season finale.
After stops in Doha, Mexico City, Miami Beach and Shanghai, Devos remained atop the overall leaderboard with 120 points, following his fifth-place finish in Shanghai. Bruynseels, who was sixth in Shanghai, is second in the overall standings with 94 points, followed by Germany’s Daniel Deusser with 83 points.
Global Champions League
The Monaco Aces, who had been lying in pole position after the first round, made a tactical horse-rider switch to clinch the Global Champions League (GCL) for teams Sunday as they finished on a total of four penalties and in a combined time of 156.3 seconds.
The Paris Panthers were second, with the same penalties as the Aces, but at four seconds back. Kenny put down two clear rounds with two different horses, while his Belgian team mate Gregory Wathelet had four penalties in the second round.
The Prague Lions, with Holland’s Marc Houtzager and Bruynseels, were third, on a total of eight penalties.
The two-day GCL had been re-scheduled to Saturday and Sunday after one of two specially chartered horse flights from Europe was delayed. The team event normally finishes before the start of the Longines Global Champions Tour, which concluded on Saturday.
“It was decided with FEI [International Equestrian Federation] approval to change the earlier team competition to ensure the horses were well rested and fresh for the weekend with horse welfare the top priority,” the GCL said on its website.
The Monaco Aces had taken the lead in Shanghai after the first round, which saw five teams producing double clears on a technical course over 15 jumps, which included three sets of double combinations.
“I was super happy — It’s only half of the job done, but a good day for the team,” said Epaillard of the Aces, after guiding Virtuose Champeix to the team’s first clear in just over 74 seconds.
His Brazilian team-mate Marlon Modolo Zanotelli also had a perfect first round with VDL Edgar M: “He’s a fantastic horse and just gets better and better — I’m very lucky to have him,” the Brazilian said.
Although Epaillard said on Saturday the Aces were unlikely to make a horse-rider change overnight, the team switched Modolo Zanotelli for Guery and Garfield de Tiji Des Templiers for the second round on Sunday.
Although Guery, the winner of the opening LGCT in Doha, had a pole down on the penultimate fence, Epaillard and Virtuose Champeix delivered once more with another clear round to clinch the first GCL victory for the Aces.
“We fight a little bit today, it was really a team victory,” said Guery on Sunday. “They did a super job the first day, and we changed a little bit the plan for today.”
Epaillard said he had felt “a lot of pressure” after the first round. “Very bad for our heart, but it was super,” he added.
It was tough weekend for Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and Germany’s Daniel Deusser of the Shangai Swans, the winners of the first two legs.
Although the team finished in 11th place in Shanghai, on a total of 29 penalties, they remain in the lead in the overall standings, with 90 points. Saint Tropez Pirates are second, with 79 points, followed by the Aces with 74 points.
After stops in the Middle East, the Americas and Asia, the LGCT and GCL series are headed to Europe for the next five months, with Madrid scheduled to open proceedings on May 17-19. Other venues include London, Rome, Saint Tropez, Monaco and Paris.